Finishing the first draft of your novel

There are many people in this world who want to write a book. They have an idea (or ten) running through their heads and they just KNOW their story could be the next best seller. Wanting to write a book doesn’t make you special, but actually DOING it does. 

The first big hurdle to writing a book is getting through that first, messy draft. You set a word count goal and might even have an outline. You stick with it for a few days and might even get a good chunk written. But then you lose motivation, or decide to focus on a new idea, or maybe you find out that what you thought was a really great idea is also really freaking hard to write. So your document gets abandoned until the next time you regain motivation (at best) or even forever (at worst).

So how do you avoid falling into this cycle of having an idea, outlining, starting a draft, and then giving up for whatever reason?

There isn’t an easy answer, but there are a few things you can try that may make you more successful. 

  1. The first thing to try is to create a writing schedule. If you carve out time to consistently write, you are more likely to finish a full draft. This will look different for everyone, but the first step in establishing a consistent writing practice is to get really honest about the amount of time you have to write. For some it might be early in the morning before their kids get up, and for others it will be after work, and for some it might even be in small 10-15 minute chunks of time that they can carve out during their work breaks. The amount of time doesn’t matter. Evaluate what you have available and what you can commit to, and then stick to that schedule. Even if you can only get a few hundred words down per day, that’s better than zero words. 
  1.  You can also try to completely eliminate what you have already written from your mind. The first draft is allowed to be horrible. It’s allowed to not make total sense, and have a zillion typos, and to be cobbled together like some makeshift quilt that doesn’t really create a cohesive vibe. Just keep moving forward. Don’t read what you have already written because that can get you trapped in a cycle of revising the same little pieces you have written over and over again and then you aren’t actually making progress toward getting your book written. 
  1. Focus on one story, and see it through to the end before writing anything else. Many writers have a million ideas and when one story gets hard, they jump ship and work on something new. It’s shiny object syndrome at its finest. Don’t get caught in the trap of that new story idea. Make a note in your phone or notebook – that new idea isn’t going anywhere.
  1. Another fantastic option is to use word count trackers. If you have a set goal and every time you write you can see the required words decrease, it can be motivating to keep going. For me, checking off a box each day provides motivation and a sense of accomplishment when I do get to make that check mark.
  1. The biggest game-changer in my writing life was making my writing a game. The first book I wrote I used a google doc and just forced myself to get it done. All the rest have been written in an online, fantasy, writing game called 4theWords. This pushes me to write around 500 words per day to maintain my streak, and as you write you get to defeat monsters, go on quests, and get rewards. It has made writing one of my favorite times of the day and everyone should check it out. (It’s only four dollars a month, and no, this isn’t sponsored).

Writing a book is hard, but if you put your head down and do the work, it’s very rewarding. Use the tips above to push through the hard parts and get that finished daft feeling.

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