Writing the first draft of your story is a magical time where writers learn what their book is truly about. No matter how much time you spend plotting your novel, you’ll never outline every detail—otherwise, you would be writing the first draft!
Now, you might think writing the initial manuscript is this huge, daunting task that you’ll never accomplish—and it is. But writing the first draft of your story is the first step toward writing your final draft and ultimately publishing your book.
So, how do you write the first draft?
Before we dive into my guide to writing the first draft of a novel, let’s define what “first draft” means. The purpose of writing the first draft is to get the story out of your head and onto paper. This initial manuscript is not what you will be sending to agents and it is not what you will be publishing.
Your first draft will navigate through several drafts and layers of revisions before developing into the final draft you either send to agents or self-publish.
This initial manuscript is simply the skeleton of the final product. The bare-bones and basic essentials of character, plot, themes, tone, and world building. Keeping that in mind, let’s talk about the steps to write a first draft.
Step #1 Dedicate time to write your first draft
There’s no way around the fact that writing a book takes time. Sometimes less time, sometimes more time, but it always takes time. With every word you write, you are exchanging minutes (or seconds) of your life to write them.
These writing sessions are focused moments of your day or week you dedicate to writing. It’s the specified time you focus on your writing goals and are able to withdraw from outside distractions, like family, friends, and other responsibilities. Without these other things distracting you from your writing, you are able to let your writing flow.
After a few weeks or months of consistently showing up for your writing, these dedicated writing times become a routine that allows you to chip away at an otherwise mammoth of a goal.
Step #2 Specify specific goals for each writing session
Showing up for your writing is important, but make sure you are striving for your aim of writing the first draft by creating specific writing goals for each writing session. Perhaps your aim is to write a specific amount of words or chapters. Whatever your unique goal is, make sure you keep that in mind as you enter each dedicated writing time.
Specifying this writing purpose before you step into your sessions or simply having a blanket aim for each session—this really only works if you dedicate the same time for each writing session—gives you a consistent plan of action.
Step #3 Stay consistent and show up for your writing
As with anything in life, consistency is key. You cannot expect to write an entire book if you don’t sit down and do the work.
If you’re still having trouble writing the words once you’ve dedicated time to write and are consistently showing up, you may consider going back to your outline and planning the order of events. Beyond that, do not be afraid to dive into world building and character development, as long as you aren’t procrastinating writing your initial draft and are being intentional with your time.
The thing about writing the first draft is that it’s a learning process. You are only first meeting your characters in-person and are getting to know them and the world they live in. And, if this is your first foray into writing an entire book, that learning process is compounded.
Writing the initial manuscript of your story is the most important step. Without a first draft, you are nowhere near your final draft. That’s why you must consistently showing up for your dedicated writing times if you want to finally finish writing the first draft of your story.
No matter what stakes of the writing process—or what stage in your personal writing journey—you are in, do not be afraid of the first draft. Every novel starts with a blank page until you fill it with an amazing story.