Writing can be mildly terrifying…particularly if it’s a first draft.
It’s like going where no one has gone before. It’s like conquering a planet except you’re blindfolded and the planet is full of holes you could fall down and end up in Wonderland and rename yourself Mad Hatter for the rest of eternity BECAUSE WRITING HAS REDUCED YOU TO MUSH.[Deep breaths. Deep CALMING breaths, everyone.]
NaNoWriMo is coming and that means writing a 1st Draft. And it can be scary! Particularly if you’ve never done this before! Some of us are hardcore veterans and some of us are crying like wretched onions. But guess what? I’M HERE FOR YOU, MY ONION FRIEND. I have written 21 first-drafts so I would like to think this makes me
a genius relatively dependable when it comes to dishing out tips and advice.
Today I’ll list some top tips for how to write a successful 1st draft. These tips are FLAWLESS, since I invented them. Although I will remind you that: all writers have difference processes! So if you look at my list and wrinkle your little nose in heinous disgust and retreat back into the darkness hissing, “Noooo, noooo, that is not good for me” then THAT’S OKAY TOO. But maybe something in this post will help you! And if so: MY WORK HERE IS DONE.
And if nothing helps you, then hey, at least you got to spend time with me. And that’s the best thing ever obviously.
- When it comes to NaNoWriMo (or actually any novel I write of ever) I am pretty big on planning. Of course YOU DON’T “HAVE TO” PLAN. But I’m going to talk about planning because that’s who I am as a person.
- If I am a person?
- No one truly knows, to be honest.
- There are many different types of outlines and methods and you can GOOGLE THEM because I don’t know how they work. The important thing is just to figure out your (A) beginning, (B) middle, and (C) ending.
- That way you lower the risk of wandering aimlessly through the middle of November screaming “WHO AM I. WHAT AM I DOING. WHAT IS THIS BOOK. WHAT IS LIFE.”
- Existential crisis during NaNo? Not recommended.
- My outlines are bullet point lists…basically like a long synopsis. I plan the full book in my head before I outline, so I’m basically blurbing my own book! GO ME. FYI writing synopsises is so much easier before you write the book.
- You know what else is easier to do before you write the book? REMEMBER WHAT JOY AND SUNSHINE FEELS LIKE BECAUSE SOON THEY WILL BE GONE.
- I’m kidding, writing is fun. Totally fun. We’re having so much fun all the time.
- If you’ve never written a book before I definitely recommend trying some sort of outline. It makes things a little less overwhelming. You have a PLAN. You can DO THIS.
- Also planning helps if you have a horrid memory (like I) and end up writing 20,000 words that basically involve characters eating food and then saying “Okay but where was I going with this???”
- My tippiest toppiest advice for writing is this: GIVE YOURSELF PERMISSION TO BE THE WORST MULBERRY TO EVER FALL OFF THE TREE.
- Also realise that “tippiest and toppiest” are probably not even words, but whatever. Back to the mulberries. Focus on the mulberries because that’s what we’re talking about right now.
- Give yourself permission to write badly. To fail. To be imperfect.
- Oh don’t don’t dooon’t give me the “well I’m a perfectionist and it’s who I am to try and make it right” lecture because guess what? I’M A (RECOVERING) PERFECTIONIST TOO. I nearly quit writing altogether because I couldn’t get my first drafts “perfect” the first time. That’s ridiculous. The world would probably have decayed into fire and poisoned mushrooms without the glorious blessing that is my writing to the universe.
- I had to decided either: (A) I will write imperfect first-drafts and then edit/rewrite them to perfection later, or (B) I will not finish novels and I will be a sad potato.
- I chose (A).
- PLEASE CHOOSE OPTION (A) WITH ME.
- I firmly believe striving for perfection in first draft is the #2 cause writers fail. The first cause is, of course, getting distracted by twitter. DARN YOU TWITTER. IT’S ALL YOUR FAULT.
- The object of your first draft is to write a skeleton. An ugly skeleton. It’s to get all the scenes down and to get into your characters’ heads. It’s to actually have fun. Because there’s no pressure to write beautifully! There’s just writing wild words and being a horrible mulberry and enjoying getting to know your children.
- YOUR SMOL CHARACTER SONS AND DAUGHTERS. BLESS THEM.
- Plus you know how freeing it is to write badly?! It’s AWESOME. It’s fun and exciting and there is zero pressure. Enjoy this. (Editing is actual hell.)
- Sticking with a 1st draft can be abominably hard. Especially if you’re aware of how horrendous your writing is. Trust me: I knooooooow. My first drafts are AWFUL.
- The trick is to accept your first drafts are about as attractive as a moose — and to realise they’ll get better.
- You must believe me now. When have I ever lied to you? (I mean there was that one time I promised you cake and then ate it all myself, but you can’t hold that against me. Move on, fiend. Forgive and forget and all that.) I AM ALWAYS THE TRUTH.
- Good writing is rewriting.
- I think that’s a quote from a famous person, actually. Or you can pretend it’s a brand new though from me because that’d also be fun.
- There are several things I do to motivate myself. Which I’ll share with you, because I’m nice:
- I think about how much I want a career in writing and that ain’t happening UNLESS I SIT AND WRITE THIS BEAST. There’s no greater motivation for me than thinking that one day I could be an author.
- I remember that this book will be better after I rewrite it.
- I picture my book on the shelf and me being famous and all that stuff that will OBVIOUSLY HAPPEN.
- I excite myself by making pinterest storyboards. There is nothing like aesthetically pleasing conglomerations of pictures to make you think “WOAH MY BOOK IS ACTUALLY QUITE AWESOME.”
- I chat with a writing buddy while I draft. For some reason talking about it gets me more excited?!?
- I make sure I have epic scenes I’m specifically looking forward to: like an explosion or a huge plot twist reveal
or a super stabby scene. And I hype myself up for how fun they’re going to be to write.
- I REWARD MYSELF FOR ACHIEVING GOALS WITH FOOD, DANGIT, BECAUSE THAT’S WHAT YOU NEED TO DO SOMETIMES.
- Reward yourself! It’s a great motivator. Chocolate, for instance, or buying yourself a book or nice stationary, or conquering a small planet and crowning yourself Ruler Of All. Just go for the simple things that make you happy.
- Also focus on your writing strengths. For me that’s dialogue. I have soooo much fun writing dialogue in my first drafts. My description sucks. My action scenes are horrendous. My world building is like a bunch of yogurt tubs taped together. BUT HEY, THAT DOESN’T MATTER, BECAUSE I WRITE SOME GREAT DIALOGUE AND ENJOY MYSELF. The rest comes later.
- Sometimes it’s hard to remember writing can be enjoyable. But it can.
- OH STOP IT.
- There are fun parts about writing. Exploding doors. Riding dragons. Majestic hair flips.
- Find the parts that make you happy to write and FOCUS ON THEM.
- So much focus.
- And don’t think your writing strengths are insignificant. Pfft. Lemme let you in on a little secret: half of writing is just faking you have confidence until you get into the habit of being confident. It totally works.
- Also please don’t compare yourself to other writers. Is your name Mulgabill? No? Then don’t compare your process to Mulgabill’s.
- Trust me, when you get to be an old gnarled writer (like I) you stop caring about other writers’ journeys and you just become a self-absorbed pineapple frond who only cares about yourself and your journey and your process. As it should be. 10/10 would recommend being narcissistic when it comes to your writing journey. You’ll be happier, trust me. I have scientific evidence (myself) to confirm this theory (you’re welcome).
THERE. Now go forth and write a very successful first draft of your glorious novel for NaNoWriMo.
Also, FYI, “successful” means “a finished novel”. That’s the total definition. If you don’t believe me look it up in any dictionary ever. Just remember: PLAN (!) SILENCE YOUR PERFECTIONISM (!) BE A MULBERRY (!) ENJOY YOUR WRITING STRENGTHS NO MATTER HOW SMALL THEY MIGHT SEEM (!!!)
Be writing the writing queen. Because your story is important and deserves to be told. *
* OMG THAT WAS SO SAPPY AND MOTIVATIONAL! AHH!! Aaaaand…I just ruined the moment, didn’t I? #MyBad
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