The first step of writing a novel is always the rough draft.
This is why it’s so important to have a clear process to ensure you can get through the uncertain beginning, difficult middle and grand finale.
In this post, I break down the process for a rough draft into simple steps.
Before you read on- check out some of these posts that might be helpful:
You can jump to these sections if you’re looking for specific points in the drafting process:
Steps to Drafting
1… 2…. 3… Go!
The first step is always starting. Let go of any expectations you have of your first draft being perfect, or even *good*, and just put pen to paper. You can clean up everything later but you can’t edit a blank page!
Work on any scene you like
Some people like writing in a linear way, from start to finish, but for many, it can be helpful to work more randomly. If you’re feeling stuck on a particular scene, put it to the side and work on one that’s sparking more enjoyment. You can always come back later, and probably with much fresher eyes.
Focus on getting characters from a to b
For the first draft, you really don’t need to focus too much on character motivations or conflict. Instead, ensure you have the basics- character movement, a loose plotline and some worldbuilding- the rest will follow in subsequent drafts.
Don’t compare yourself
Everybody writes at a different pace– whilst someone might get out 10,000 words a day, 500 words might be great for someone else. Putting pressure on yourself to write is counter-intuitive and will cause you to view it as more of a chore than a fun activity.
Refill your creative well
Take breaks before you absolutely have to. If you write breaks into your writing schedule (this could be a couple of hours reading/ self-care, or a whole week away from writing), this will allow you to write much quicker and more efficiently when you do come back to the page.
The most important thing to remember:
Switch off your inner editor!
That niggling voice at the back of your head really if your worst enemy when it comes to drafting- you should try to draft your first draft as quickly as possible, whilst your motivation is high and the idea is fresh in your head.
This is a great way to not only write quickly, but also get into the minds of your characters. There are plenty of websites where you can find creative free-writing prompts.
Try to write without going back to edit- if needs be, dim your screen or change the text colour to white.
If you can’t think of a place, adjective, name, etc. instead of fixating on that, and losing the flow of your writing, choose a word (I sometimes use elephant) to use as a placeholder. When you come back to editing, you can work out the word without losing track of the scene you’re working on.
How long does it take to write a rough draft?
This depends on a lot of factors- how much time you have for writing, how quickly you write, how long your draft is, how extensive an outline you have. For some people it can take a month, for others it could take years, so don’t worry about your pace- just focus on the story.
What comes after the first draft?
The second…. then third… and a whole lot more. When you finish off the first draft, it can be helpful to take a few days or even a few weeks so that you can come back to the draft with fresh eyes. Then, you can start making broad edits of developmental issues (more of this to come in a later post) or character issues, ready for your second draft.
“There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.”Ernest hemingway
Are you currently in the drafting stage? Are these tips helpful for you? Let me hear your thoughts in the comments below or connect with me directly on any of my social medias.