Writers Helping Writers: Starting and Finishing the First Draft

Ok, you’ve got your characters, you’ve got your plot, you’ve got an outline. You are finally ready to start writing!

It’s going to go amazingly well for, oh, say the first chapter or two. You will marvel at how quickly and easily everything is coming to you. Your characters are sticking to the outline, there haven’t been any plot bunnies discovered, and the words are flowing like lava from a volcano.

Then it happens. Suddenly, one of your characters takes an abrupt left turn and refuses to stick to the script. Along with that, you realize that the whole pace of the story is floundering. Somewhere along the way, what had been going so well is all of a sudden the worst thing ever put to paper. The doubts trickle in. The words grind to a halt and you are stuck there, staring at the blank page before you with a sinking feeling in the pit of your stomach. The truth rears its ugly head; writing is freaking hard.

We’ve all been there. Getting the first draft on paper is one of the MOST challenging things you will experience as a writer. This is the make or break moment. Only 3% of writers actually complete a novel. If you want to be in that 3%, try some of the following techniques to get yourself out of the first draft rut.

1.      Keep putting words on the page. One method to dealing with a block is to keep writing. If you are at a loss of what to write next, start describing things in the scene. Go in depth with a character’s inner monologue to explain from their point of view what is happening. Explore the senses and paint the picture of what the scene is supposed to be. Remember, any of this can be edited out, but you can’t edit a blank page.

2.      Give yourself some time away from the project. Work on something else. Sometimes we get too close to the story and it’s hard to distinguish the good from the bad. If the story is all we are thinking about, it’s easy to lose sight of where you are. So, take a break. Go for a walk, read a short story, write something else, and then go back to it with fresh eyes.

3.      Resist the urge to edit or start over. Once you get into that mindset that everything is horrible, it’s mighty tempting to erase it all and start over. DON’T DO IT! Keep moving forward. If you fall into the trap of going back and editing things, the first draft will never be completed and you will effectively get yourself stuck in a never ending loop of revisions. Trust me, keep moving forward.

4.      Don’t give up. Writing is hard, but remember that adage; nothing worth doing was ever easy. Keep yourself motivated and moving forward. Whatever that means for you. Perhaps it’s a shopping reward for hitting the word count goal for the day. Maybe it’s promising yourself a free evening if you finish at least 30 minutes of writing. However you motivate yourself, do so.

A few other things to keep in mind: first drafts are supposed to be terrible. You are not going to write your masterpiece on the first go. That is OK! First drafts are getting it all out on paper and strung together. The polishing and fine-tuning comes later on. Writing is a process and first drafts is just one of the initial steps to a completed, published book. You do have what it takes to be a writer. Believe in yourself. I promise that the excitement and ease that the first chapter or so had will come back. You just have to have a little patience.

Keep Writing!

Kira

Writers Helping Writers: Cultivating Your Book Idea

There are you are, minding your own business, walking down the street when BAM! It comes out of nowhere. The best idea for a novel EVER! You have to get it written down somehow, there’s no way this idea would be bad! The world NEEDS this story!

We’ve all been there. We’ve all had that genius story idea that would be perfect. But how do you get from incredible lightning strike from your muse to published work? Well, this blog series is aimed at the tough in-between times of idea and publication. We will start where every novel starts and that is the idea.

Ideas, especially story ideas, as a general rule are not fully formed. Often times they come only in bits and parts and it is up to us to string those bits together to generate a decent full-blown novel idea. When you have that spark of an idea, write it down and don’t just stop there. Ask questions of it. What if scenarios. Who are the players? Keep a record of what you discover.

Sometimes not all the answers are apparent, either. This is where novel ideas require some patience. It takes time for an idea to evolve. It takes careful cultivation in an information dense pocket of your mind. The way to create such fertile ground that is to learn new things constantly. Always expand your horizon. You never know if what you are reading about is really an aspect of your story in disguise.

Keep adding to your idea over time. Don’t let it just sit in the corner, keep playing with it in your thoughts. It’ll tell you when it is done growing. Talk about it with people you trust. Sometimes someone else can give you a new perspective or ask the right question that will spark a growth spurt of this idea.

Don’t fret too much if your idea isn’t wholly original. With 7 billion people in the world, it’s almost a guarantee that there are no ideas that have not stemmed from somewhere. That doesn’t mean stealing someone else’s work and calling it your own though. It means to start with a common theme and then look for ways to make your version unique.

Save all of the things that don’t quite fit too. I keep a file of “story bits” on hand for all of the ideas and tangents that I manage to capture as I am daydreaming and thinking.  When I am working on a new idea, I will go through that file to see if anything fits. You never know what you will need for the next idea you have.

Happy Writing!

Kira