Writing the first draft of a novel can be a very rewarding experience. It can also be one of the most frustrating experiences of your life. These tips for writing the first draft of a novel won’t remove every possible frustration from the creative process, but they will give you a head-start on what you want to write about.
#1. Plot out your story before writing it.
Don’t think of this tip as an “outline.” Many writers hate the idea of creating an outline. It’s more of a worldview for your novel. What are your characters going to do? What will their names be? Is there something specific you want a reader to take from your book? When you take the time to plot out the ideas your novel’s world will cover, it creates a more consistent writing experience. That translates into a more consistent reading experience later on.
#2. Set a daily writing goal for yourself.
Make it a realistic goal. If you haven’t been writing professionally, then trying to get 5,000 words done in a single day is going to be a difficult goal to reach. On the other hand, if you only write 250 words per day, it will take months for your book to be written. A good goal to shoot for is about 1,500 words per day. If you can reach that goal for 30 days, then you’ll have most of your novel written in about a month’s time.
#3. Don’t be afraid to go past your writing goal.
If you’re still feeling creative and you’ve reached your daily word goal, then keep going. Don’t stop until you feel like your energy has been depleted.
#4. Focus on the writing instead of the editing.
When you write the first draft of a novel, it can be easy to fall into what is called the “perfection trap.” You’re trying to create the perfect story right away so that extra editing time doesn’t have to be taken. The only problem is that when writers attempt to be “too perfect,” more errors tend to be made. Correct obvious mistakes when they happen, of course, but let the second draft be the editing experience. The first draft should be focused on creativity only.
#5. Keep driving forward.
A good story keeps moving forward with every sentence. Descriptions that contribute to a scene should be included. Extraneous descriptions and dialogue that serve no real purpose other than to extend your word count should be eliminated. This way your plot becomes real, your characters become meaningful, and it will be easier to keep writing because you’re engaged in the narrative as the author.
#6. If you need to do research, do it before you start writing.
There will be times when a story takes an unexpected left turn and you’ll have to stop writing to do some research so the narrative remains realistic. Although you can’t avoid this from happening 100% of the time, you can do all of your expected research before you start writing the first draft of your novel. If you stop to do research, then write some more, then stop again, then start again – it creates choppiness that can be bothersome to the reader.
#7. Plan out the structure of your novel before you start as well.
Even free-writing authors follow certain industry standards when it comes to the structure of a novel. For example: most chapters are between 2,000-4,000 words in length. By making an attempt to follow this structure as you write, it will become a habit that will naturally bring your future stories to light in a more consistent manner.
A quick note. The structure of a novel does not include manuscript formatting. Your novel should be formatted to industry standards in terms of font, margins, spacing, and other needs, but this can wait until you reach your second draft.
#8. Don’t be afraid to rewrite something.
If you’re not satisfied with an introduction, then rewrite it. It is always better to start over early-on in the writing process than it is to make changes mid-novel and then need to filter those changes throughout the narrative that has already been written. Even then, however, it is always better to rewrite than it is to accept something that you feel is substandard. If you don’t like what you’ve written, why would your readers?
These tips for writing the first draft of a novel can help you find a creative zone and then stick to it. Keep writing and that first draft will be completed before you know.