author, creative writing, writing

5 Tips For Writing the First Draft

It’s been an exciting week for writing! Perhaps the most exciting one of all…

…a huge factor for this was that I finished the first draft of my second novel; Vanishing Act. It’s a VERY rough first draft, that needs not only editing but re-writing. But it’s a first draft none the less.

When I finished the first draft of The City Breathes With Us, I spoke about the Do’s and Don’ts of finishing a first draft…but I wanted to talk about something different this time. I spent about a year writing the first draft of novel one, and less than two months writing novel two. I did things differently, and I’d like to share the tips that helped me below:

1. Don’t expect perfection
No first draft is ever perfect. Hell, no ANYTHING is ever perfect. But the very first draft is so extremely far from perfect that worrying about it only slows you down. Does it matter if the writing is weak in parts, if it lacks description or is full of plot holes? No, it doesn’t. This draft should be rough, messy and real…it’s yours and it’s ready to shape. Making it into something beautiful comes later.
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2. Don’t be worried to omit descriptions
This is one of the big differences that helped me reach the end of my first draft quicker. When I was in the flow of telling the story, and had ideas flowing for where to take it, the last thing I needed was to slow myself down with descriptions. I recommend you omit them too. Write DESCRIPTION HERE to prompt you on your first re-write. Because there’s nothing more important than getting the skeleton of your story on paper. You can flesh it out later on.

This isn’t to say you should leave out descriptions. If you’re inspired to write them, go for it. Get it down while it’s in your mind. But don’t get yourself caught in a writer’s slump because you’ve spent too long trying to describe something that you could come back to later.
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3. Focus on telling yourself the story
The first draft is for you. It’s all for you. It’s you telling yourself the story, finding out what works and what doesn’t. Getting the outline of a full story down is the end game. You can research later. Perhaps highlight things you aren’t sure are correct, so you remember to check back during edits. But don’t fret yourself with the fiddly little details at this stage. You’ll get those eventually, but first you need your story.
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4. Let the plot change direction
There’s no harm in changing direction part way through. In fact, if that’s what your heart, mind and soul are telling you then it’s probably the best thing for your story. Worried that the change will mean the first half of your story no longer makes sense? No problem. You can go back and re-write any areas that need to be bought up to date with your new plot twists, characters or ending. Follow your imagination, and fix the rest later. It’s the only way to keep your story exciting.
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5. Write out of order if you need to
I’ve spoken before about writing out of order. It’s not for everybody, but for some it works. If you’re stuck, or feeling writer’s block, skip ahead. Write the scene you’re most excited about, even if it doesn’t come until later on in the story. That excitement will rekindle your passion and spark your imagination and before you know it you’ll be back to where you got stumped, and ready to tackle it head on.
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What are your tips for first draft writing?
I’m always keen to hear your ideas, and apply them to my own practice so that I can improve, so do share below.

Until then,
Keep writing,
and have a lovely Christmas!

Enjoying fantastic writerly chat on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook – come join the fun!

20 thoughts on “5 Tips For Writing the First Draft”

  1. I finished the first draft of the third book of my WIP trilogy earlier this week so I know how great feeling it is – and can agree with most, if not all, you said. It really helped to skip some details and leave them for the second draft to get the story across. There are sections that might get severe rewrites, dialogues that will be reworked, random ideas I just hammered down that’ll need to be polished… but it’s there, ready for when I get to work on it. And I am glad the story is done in at least the early version.
    Plus, given the timing, it’s like early Christmas present.

    Liked by 3 people

  2. Congrats! 🙂

    My tips are: 500w minimum every day, and find the right amount of planning for you. My first attempts stalled from planning too much, I need to improvise with a loose idea of key points.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. I’ve heard nor read mention of ‘writing out of order’. Congrats on your first draft. I hope you had time to celebrate.

    I wrote the ending of a first novel first because it was the part I couldn’t get out of my head. Whether at work, during exercise or between cocktails at my favorite bar, it was as though the scenes were happening just beyond the periphery. And for writing out of order, I believe it works best if the chosen scene or timeline remains ‘frozen’, like a group of cells on an Excel spreadsheet. It needs to stay permanent until closely-related scenes have been written. Excellent tips. I’m glad I found this. Another win for WordPress cataloguing.

    Liked by 1 person

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