Finishing the first draft

Jan 4, 2023Blog

“The writing of a novel is taking life as it already exists, not to report it but to make an object, toward the end that the finished work might contain this life inside it and offer it to the reader. The essence will not be, of course, the same thing as the raw material; it is not even of the
same family of things. The novel is something that never was before and will not be again.”
– Eudora Welty, WD

First Draft- two words that are capable of sending shivers down an author’s spine. Any author will tell you that writing takes time and effort. Once you have brainstormed an idea and are ready to bring it to life, you must decide upon a deadline and create an outline. Once you pen down your imagination, you aim for flawless articulation, punctuation, rhythm, and description. You try to sound as perfect as possible. However, this can be frightening as you will be stuck repetitively writing and editing the first draft or even the opening sentence.

Let’s establish some rules to help you through writing the first draft.

What is the first draft?

The first draft is an imperfect, unfinished version of your manuscript that includes the critical plot points you need to connect coherently. Ensuring your story’s fundamental elements are included and the plot is well outlined is essential (with no story-breaking holes). The first draft can help determine whether your characters have enough backstory and an engaging roadmap. The first draft ultimately acts as a blueprint to follow as you direct your narrative toward your final draft.
First drafts allow you to get your story on paper quickly. Its goal is to facilitate the loose organisation of your thoughts so that you can write them down before adding more information later. A first draft is a vital step in the writing process that can help you envision your book as a whole.

How to write the first draft?

Although every writer has a unique writing process, there are a few things you can do to make starting your novel’s first draft less challenging:

Establish a goal.

Without getting bogged down in the details of word choice and sentence structure, you want to summarise the essential ideas of your story rapidly. You become more ambitious with your time and squander less of it, dallying around trivial minutiae if you set deadlines for finishing particular exercises or portions. Commit to completing a specific number of pages or writing for a certain number of hours each day. A writing schedule will ensure consistency, preventing you from losing steam and falling behind on your writing.

Write the outline.

Prewriting, which can involve completing writing exercises or prompts, is beneficial for getting started. Freewriting, for instance, enables writers to write freely and quickly without having to adhere to a set format, which helps ignite creativity when experiencing writer’s block.

Allow the flow of ideas.

A first draft is where your wildest ideas come out. Don’t be afraid to change topics or points of view, and don’t be scared to consider concepts that might be worthwhile. There’s no need to be embarrassed about what you write because this part of your work is solely intended for your own eyes.

Sketch it

Prewriting includes the process of outlining, which is where you begin to create the basic framework for your scenes. Before you put your novel together, lay out all the components to obtain the most precise idea of how to put it together and identify which parts are lacking (and which are useless).

Put editing aside

Don’t bother about punctuation, writing whole sentences, or grammar blunders like passive voice or inconsistent tenses when you’re spitting out plot elements; leave the entire editing process behind. What you write in your rough draft is private to you and your vision as long as you get your ideas down in a form that makes sense. Succinct sentences can be a concern in your second or third versions.

Start where you want

Not every story needs to start from the beginning and proceed step by step; instead, you want to start where you find the most interesting. Write the story’s climax first if you’re excited about it and don’t yet have a beginning or an ending. Avoid getting bogged down by plot points that you haven’t yet had a chance to develop. Writing a novel takes a lot of time, so you should try to enjoy the process as much as possible.

Take breaks

Before finishing your first draft, the last thing you need is to burn out. Your writing process may occasionally benefit from taking a break and returning to it later with a new perspective.

Finish it

The sooner you finish the document you’re working on before you begin the next, the better. Workable pages that you can eventually start shaping into a final draft of your novel will result from sticking to your goals and investing the necessary time.

Sticky notes on a storyboard

Sticky notes are a quick, filthy, and graphic solution. Write down scenes, then pin them on a wall or a pinboard. Large blocks of text can be moved around more quickly than sticky notes (plus, you can scrunch them up into little balls). Even the sections of your novel you haven’t yet written may flow to you far more rapidly. Consider each sticky note as a stepping stone to assist you in planning how you’ll get your protagonist to their destination. You already know you’ll send them on some journey (physical, mental, spiritual, etc.); use the notes to help you.

Take into account more character points of view (or fewer)

Even though you shouldn’t make things too complicated, occasionally a story doesn’t work because it’s only written from one viewpoint. Perhaps adding another would heighten the suspense and drama, give more alternatives, and open up new possibilities. On the other hand, having too many cooks or voices in a story might result in repetition. Love your fictitious characters unconditionally, but don’t be scared to remove their vocal cords.

Rediscover your motivations

It’s simple to get carried away while writing the first draft and produce something different from what you had in mind. Now that you’ve taken a break and finished reading the entire work, you are aware of your characters’ starting points and objectives.

Make sure you understand what inspires your characters to act, whether they have a clear objective or follow life’s lead. The reader should be able to infer from your writing the rationale behind any action.

Eliminate distractions

Eliminating distractions feels very difficult to do when writing the first draft. First drafts are painful, which makes it difficult to focus. You can put your phone on focus mode and keep it out of your reach. Another method is to set a timer for, say, 30 minutes and make a commitment to write for the entire allotted period. Increase the time incrementally till you reach an hour or so. Legs must eventually be stretched, after all!

What is the objective of this first draft?

Many authors feel that their first draft must be flawless. A finished work is prepared to be sent to editors before publication.
The first draft, however, is not intended for that.
Your first draft should be disorganised. It is meant to be imperfect. It is the first draft for that reason.

“The first draft is just you telling yourself the story.”  – Terry Pratchett

Perfectionism and writing an excellent novel should be the last things on your mind, especially if this is your first novel.
Your first draft needs to:

1. Be imperfect
2. Help you comprehend what the story is about
3. To help you become aware of your writing’s flaws so you can fix them
4. Have parts that need to be edited
5. Show that you can complete a novel
People read finished stories. Nobody reads a nearly perfect story that is saved on the hard drive. You must first write for yourself before sharing that story. Form the habit of writing. Despite your anxieties, persevere and complete. Polishing is done subsequently.

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