Suggestions from Someone Who’s Been There

Your goal is simple. A completed first draft of your story. The problem is some people spend more time worrying about writing than they spend writing. Let’s review some common worries and see how bad things really are.

Worry 1. Fear of putting pen to paper, or fingers to keyboard. Can you write a story? Should you? Well, why shouldn’t you? Make writing a daily routine and writing will move into your comfort zone. At that point, you’ll know you can do it.

It is better to write a bad first draft than to write no first draft at all. — Will Shetterly

Worry 2. The search for inspiration. Can’t find it! Don’t need it! It’s great when inspiration hits you over the head, but if you write every day – opening the door to inspiration – it will eventually walk in on its own… and that’s a great day. A steady writing habit is the single most important thing you can do to meet your goal of a first draft.

Inspiration is everywhere. Carry a notebook. —Victor Hugo

Worry 3. Research. Don’t wanna? You gotta. More analysis and investigation up front means fewer interruptions during writing. Identify locations and people, including basic descriptions. Name everything. You won’t believe what a time saver this is. Every story will require research. This step cannot be skipped. Once your first draft is completed additional research is almost always required. Be prepared for it.

If I say “First of all” run away because I have prepared charts, data, research and will destroy you. — Author Unknown

Worry 4. Where to begin? Always remember you’re writing for yourself. Don’t worry about who’s going to read your first draft or what they might think.

First drafts are for learning what your novel is about. — Bernard Malamud

Especially with fiction, your writing will take you in strange directions, but to take the journey, you must start the draft. There are many ways to do this. Everything from a complete outline of the entire story, to just writing it from the seat-of-your-pants, or something in between. Use whatever works for you. If you feel overwhelmed with a 90,000-word novel, start small with a short story. Write the scene that made you want to write the book.

Start writing, no matter what. The water does not flow until the faucet is turned on. — Louis L’Amour

Worry 5. Hitting a brick wall. At some point in the first draft, you will hit a wall, sometimes of your own making. Try these tips to get unstuck:

  • Write around the scene, describing the location or people.
  • Write what you don’t want to happen.
  • Change your physical location. Pick up your laptop, or pen and paper, and sit somewhere else.
  • If you’re really stuck, step away for 30 minutes. Go for a walk, play with the dog, read a chapter from your favorite book, clean the kitchen, or anything that takes your mind off your book, but the 30-minute limit is important. At the end of that time, you must return to writing.

Worry 6. Your character lacks depth. Write 10-20 things about the character that the reader will never be told. Even though you don’t share the details, the character will flesh out in your writing because you will think of the character in that way.

Worry 7. Finishing the story. Are you not willing to finish the first draft because you fear your novel is bad? Who cares? Your words can be edited.

Finish the book. The world is full of first chapters. — Julia Quinn

If you think you’re the only one having trouble writing the perfect first draft, Hemingway said it best…

The first draft of anything is shit. — Ernest Hemingway

So, sit down and finish that first draft. You have nothing to lose and so much to gain.

This post is one in a series of self-improvement for the guild. Information is complied from guild experiences and research. RWG Posts contain all posts of this nature.