first draft

first draft

If you’re a first-time novelist, you may be swinging between thinking your work is the best thing ever, and not worth the paper it’s written on.

The truth is it’s probably both — which is true not just for first-time novelists, but for every writer.

Every writer experiences self-doubt, but self-doubt is just tension. If you don’t make too much meaning out of it, this tension can keep you connected to your work, and alleviate pretension and verbosity.

The biggest fear first-time novelists have is, “Am I doing this right?”

You can’t do it wrong. With every word, you are moving toward the most fully realized version of your story. Everything we write either belongs or is leading us to what ultimately belongs in our story. Even the detours are necessary in order to learn some lesson.

The secret is to give yourself permission to write poorly. Giving yourself permission to write poorly does not lead to poor writing. It opens up the channel and leads to the truth.

My process in writing a first draft involves setting a timer for fifteen minutes. I write longhand, and the goal is to fill the page before the timer goes off. I can usually do it in about twelve minutes, which means I get three minutes to go to the kitchen and enjoy a glass of water. And then, it’s back the timer. It becomes a game. My purpose is to fill the pages. The focus of the first draft is telling the story. I will worry about the quality of the prose in the rewrite.

Question: Do you have any tricks or tools to get the first draft down quickly?