Tips for Writing a First Draft

Starting to write a novel can be a daunting task, and many writers stress about first drafts. Here are a few reminders to keep in mind while writing.

Outline

Plotting is incredibly important! It will help you to stay inspired and motivated while writing a first draft, and let you know where the story is supposed to go next.

You can always write out of order but have an idea of where scenes need to go in the cohesive storyline.

An earlier post went over different methods of plotting—take a look if you’re interested.

Basic research

Before writing a first draft you should always have some research done. The exact amount will depend on what genre you’re writing; fantasy, historical fiction, mystery, and sci-fi tend to require more research, while realistic fiction and romance normally don’t need as much.

It’s okay to keep researching while writing, especially for basic facts you want to include but didn’t think about before, but try to keep it to a minimum. It’s easy to get sucked into a research rabbit hole instead of actually writing.

Stick to a schedule/word count if that’s what you’re used to

If you never write with a schedule or word count goal, completely disregard this step. If you’re not used to it, don’t try it out while writing a novel—save it for short stories or less serious works.

Some writers really like writing with a schedule, and word count goals can be extremely helpful. It doesn’t have to be 1,000 words a day. 500 or even 50 can be enough.

The purpose of this is to incentivize you to write more and reach a goal/certain time allotted to writing, not to stress you out! Remember, if you don’t write for the whole time or don’t reach your word count, that’s perfectly okay. You can always come back to it later.

Don’t edit!

This is key when writing a first draft. It’s easy to go back, read what you’ve written, and decide something needs to change.

Don’t do this! Make a note but don’t change anything—it will slow down your process for writing.

Rewriting is meant for second and third drafts, not your first.

Go easy on yourself

First drafts are firsts for a reason. It’s meant to be messy and disorganized and often terrible writing. You’re getting to know your story and the characters; it’s not supposed to be perfect.

Also, don’t compare your work to published works. Novels you read have been edited countless times and have gone through at least 2 drafts of writing.

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