Write A Better Novel: First Draft

Advice for fiction writers on how to write the first draft of a novel. Tips on getting the end of you manuscript without stopping.

The secret to writing the first draft of any novel is to get it down as fast as possible. This is not the time to worry about grammar or prose - that will come in the second draft.

At this stage, you just want to get the words onto paper. Using your outline as a guide (every good novel starts with an outline) write everyday for a set number of pages or scenes. The reason I don't advise writing for a set amount of time is because you may end up just sitting there and producing nothing.

The point of the first draft is be as productive as possible and get to the end of your manuscript before you start to feel overwhelmed and want to quit. If you manage to write the whole first draft in a month - no matter how much of a mess it is - consider yourself a success.

Beware of the mid-point of the novel. This is where you will either have the urge to quit, or the urge to go back to the beginning and read over what you've written. Do neither! If you go back and start reading you will just get discouraged by how much work needs to be done and start to doubt if you'll ever be able to turn the thing into a finished, saleable manuscript.

Be disciplined and just write until you get to the end. Once you've finished the whole first draft, and have something concrete to look at, the work of re-writing won't seem as bad.

Some writers have trouble with writing without editing. They find that they're always going back and re-reading every sentence. If you're one of these writers then use the "blank screen" method.

Turn off your computer monitor and write without being able to see the words. If you can't see it - you can't edit it. (Though do be sure you go back and edit spelling). Do this for the whole manuscript if you have to.

One you've finished the last scene, and wrote the two magic word, "The End", lean back, smile, spend and minute being satisfied, and then get ready for the real work - the second draft.

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