Monday, 28 March 2011

Fearless first drafts

I’m an advocate for fast first drafts. Plot all you like, but when you get started on the writing part, build momentum and don’t stop until you’re done. I know people who keep going back to revise what they’ve already written and never actually finish the manuscript.

If you’re one of those people who can’t bear the thought of writing a first draft without stopping, but you've yet to finished a manuscript, maybe it’s time to write fearlessly.


You can change anything in later drafts.

I’m serious. I’ve proved over the years that every single aspect of a novel can be changed. Setting all wrong? Antagonist too corny? Plot looking wonky? Not a problem. But fix it later.

If you think something needs changing, make a note of it in a separate document then plough ahead. There are writing articles and books out there that will tell you that it’s impossible to change POV once you’ve written it.

This is a lie.

I can say this to you confidently, because I’ve changed the POV in a story before. Hell, I’ve even changed the protagonist before. And I’m not talking about changing my main gal from one character to another pre-existing character. I mean I’ve changed her personality to fit a completely different person. It took work, yes, but it’s definitely possible.

If you never get it done, you’ll never get it published.

Obvious, isn't it?

Even if your goal isn’t to get published, if you’re forever writing and never finishing anything, you’ll never feel that moment of satisfaction when you complete your first draft. Trust me, it’s a phenomenal feeling. Yes, the manuscript won’t be perfect. But at least you’ll have the foundation to build on.

Posting daily word counts is a great way to force yourself onwards. Be a cheerleader for others, so you have plenty of people cheering you in return. Wow them with your ability to stick with it, and your pure grit. It’s all about the act. Tell everyone you can do a certain amount of words a day, and you’ll have no choice but to prove it. The act becomes reality.

If you’re still revising your first draft without no real end in sight, make a vow to yourself now. How many NEW (not revised) words a day will you write until you’re finished? (A thousand is a good way to go – not as tricky as NaNoWriMo, but enough to make solid progress.) Need a cheerleader? I'm happy to help!

If you’ve completed a first draft already, what did you do to celebrate?

PS Please note I'm not telling you to change your writing habits. If editing as you go works for you, great! I'm merely suggesting an alternative if it's not working.


  1. I'm plowing my way through a first draft right now, and though I do edit a bit as I go, I've given myself permission to leave the holes and inconsistencies for the revision stage. You're right--it is quite freeing. I know I can go back, and I know that will be ok, and for now, I'm just putting words to page. Great post!

  2. Thanks, Sarah!

    I used to edit as I went, but I was crazy-determined to finish the first draft of my newest WiP, so I gave myself no allowances to go back. It meant a massive revision for the second draft, but it was worth it, and I got through it much quicker!

  3. I will complete my first draft. I will. I will. I will. ;_;

    Great post as always, Tamara!

  4. This is the motto I need to get drilled into my head. I'm so horrible with my stories - I give up on them too easily because things aren't working right. I need to write more fearlessly!

  5. Meg - YES YOU WILL!

    Amber d* - Don't let anything stop you. Pound that keyboard, and tweet those word counts daily!

  6. Great inspirational post, Tamara! And thanks for visiting my blog. ;-)

    I'm one of those revise as you go-ers so I tend to whip out very polished first drafts. But I know that's not very common. Out of the five girls in my crit group, only two of us write that way. The rest are more like you say ... shoot out that first draft then go back and fix things. BTW, I've had to change a POV before, too. And YES it's hard work. LOL!

  7. Thanks, Anita. Hey, if it works for you, go for it :D

    And I loved your blog! Can't wait for your next post!

  8. I know my way takes longer, but I like taking my time. If I pressure myself to write or make a certain quota per day, I freeze up and get blocked. I'd rather let it flow out naturally, however much it wants to. I know I SHOULD do higher counts to get done faster since I don't always have a lot of time to write AND I'm weird and can't write when other people are around, but I just...can't. It's one reason I don't outline, too. If I have to stick to that outline, I freeze b/c it feels like I've told the story--when I haven't. That also makes editing harder for me, so I try to get things the way I want them the first time out the gate, then revise for contradictions, etc. later.

    I think I'm abnormal in the way I write, but it's what works for me, so...

  9. True story! Even if the second draft needs a complete overhaul (been there, done that...), it will be much easier once you have that first-draft foundation to work off of.

    Full speed ahead!

  10. A Backwards Story - Like I said, if slow gets you finishing your manuscripts, then power to you! I don't really have a problem with flow, lol. As soon as my fingers start on the first words, I just go go go :D

    Marissa - like a hummingbird on steroids ;p

  11. Wow, I'm so glad I don't have this problem o.O We both know I procrastinate enough as it is! My problem is once the first draft is done, I feel I've lost sight of that 'end goal' and just can't plough my way through second (because that's as far as I've ever gotten) drafts :(


  12. Oh Emsy, I would, but second drafts are different for every story! There are lots of things that might need working on :(

  13. With me, it's liiiiiiiiiiike EVERYTHING? Ha. I am sending chapter3 to Teach today. I am waiting until this story is at it's least stupid before showing you and Jen!

  14. Hummingbirds on steroids, I like that analogy! <3

  15. Such a good post! I'm busting out a first draft right now and everything feels so awkward and so cheesy. I just keep telling myself, "class comes in draft two, class comes in draft two".

    I make extremely good use of my word processor's comment tool as well!

  16. Oh yes, the dear comment tool! What would I do without it?

    Hooray for classy draft twos! Let me know how you go :)