The first draft is about getting a good grip on your plot, developing your characters and their interactions in broad strokes and identifying any gaping plot holes, inconsistencies or impossibilities.
Writing a first draft is never easy. Whether it’s a novel or a script, you’ll come face to face with numerous hurdles.
You may get writer’s block or a complete mental block. Your end-goal may seem so far out of sight that you want to give up. But: ‘if you fail to plan, you plan to fail’.
It can be tempting to redraft the first few chapters several times before you have even written a first draft but this isn’t going to get you any closer to completion.
Preparation is key.
It’s always best to just get your ideas out there, manifest them and bring them into existence. From there, you can add detail and form bigger ideas within your story. Creating storyboards, timelines and mood boards are also great stepping-stones to bringing your ideas to life.
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The length of the first draft
A typical fiction or non-fiction novel is between 50,000-70,000 words but it’s completely up to you. Your first draft should ideally be your story in full – perhaps half of your end result. You may find your scenes and chapters become longer or shorter than you’d originally planned and new ideas will form, giving your manuscript new shape, when you go back to ‘colour the flowers’.
How long spend on a first draft depends on a few things
1. The length of your story.
2. How much you plan on writing per day.
3. Whether you’re going to write three days a week, five or seven.
Stephen King once said that ‘a first draft should take no longer than three months’ but that’s not always feasible for those who don’t have the luxury of writing every day. Spend as long as you need on a first draft. It doesn’t have to be perfect.
How to know when your draft is finished
When it comes to your first draft, you’ll be tempted to edit it as you write but by doing this you’ll only slow yourself down. Get your first draft finished – your story fully written – then go back to edit and make amends.
Set a realistic goal
Plan how much you want to write per day. Be reasonable, don’t overwork yourself or set your goals too high. Setting an unrealistic target can make you feel deflated and uninspired. Be practical with your time and reasonable about what you want to achieve in your time frame.
Remove distraction to gain inspiration. Most writers find it best to switch off from the world around them and get rid of any distraction in order to stay focused. Roald Dahl had a shed at the bottom of his garden that he’d use solely to write. Find your quiet place, a place where you feel most comfortable and confident – this is where your inspiration and ideas will grow and where your story will become something special.
You don’t necessarily have to start with page 1
Start wherever feels right – this could be halfway through a chapter or halfway through a sentence. Starting at the very beginning can be daunting but starting with an idea can make it that little bit easier. Try starting your sentence with ‘and’ or ‘then’ or ‘suddenly’ and see where the paragraph takes you.
Don’t overthink it
Spelling and grammar can wait…for now. Allow your draft to be messy, scribble on your words, switch things up. You’re probably going to have many more drafts after this one, so don’t get too attached to it.
“Linda has published sixteen books. She blogs about the publishing world, posts useful tips on the challenges a writer faces, including marketing and promoting your work, how to build your online platform, how to get reviews and how to self-publish.”