After finishing the first draft of my fifth novel, I can attest to the fact that it gets much easier with practice. The reason is that while most people understand the basics of how to write a book, we all have human tendencies that follow us when we first start writing. In short, we make things much more difficult than they have to be.
First drafts require us to start with a blank slate and create a work that’s only slightly better than that blank slate. The purpose of a first draft is to give yourself something to work with. With that in mind, let’s walk through some of the essentials of writing that intimidating first draft.
Always Start With an Outline
I’m sure you’ve heard this so often when trying to learn how to write a book that you’re thinking, ‘Great. Another blog post that tells me to have an outline.’ The real question here is whether or not you follow this advice. There’s a reason all professional writers preach this – because it’s absolutely necessary. Trying to write without an outline is like trying to travel without a map. You’re going to get lost, confused, and frustrated. You will waste fuel trying to find your next stop.
Does that mean that an outline is set in stone? Absolutely not! Plots can change on a whim because well-designed characters will do unexpected things. You still need an outline to keep you moving on the right track though.
First Drafts are the Clay Used to Mold your Masterpiece
You start with nothing but an idea so the goal of the first draft is to give you something to work with – nothing more and nothing less. That’s why trying to write a perfect first draft is such a huge mistake. It’s going to suck, regardless of how “perfect” you try to make it.
First drafts are messy and unrefined but that’s okay. All you want is something to work with when it’s time to start on that second draft. Basically, a first draft is just the raw material used to create the second draft.
Set a Deadline
As humans, we need deadlines to create a sense of urgency. Otherwise, we’ll just keep working on our draft indefinitely. If you don’t create a schedule, you run the risk of never finishing a single book. So many people will spend so much time working on a book that they don’t finish it in time for the next. So they end up with multiple half-finished drafts in their desk. Inspiration will only stick around for so long so it’s important to capitalize on it as quickly as possible. Do this by setting deadlines.
Research Ahead of Time
You don’t want to be forced to stop writing in order to research important facts so you should get as much research as possible done beforehand. If you happen to find a point when you need to research, make a note and continue writing. Research should be done separately. When you’re writing, you should focus solely on writing.
Those of us who know how to write a book understand that first drafts are a raw material that we use to create the final masterpiece.