5 Tips on Writing First Drafts

by Chuck Sambuchino

Having just completed the first draft of my second novel, I can attest to the fact that writing a first draft is still a lot better than oral surgery, but a good measure worse than folding laundry or even cleaning the bathrooms (which, full disclosure, my husband does). First drafts require starting from nothing and creating something only slightly better than nothing. At least, that’s how my first drafts feel to me. The good news? Now I have something to work with. Fresh from the trenches, here are a few tips on writing the first draft of your novel.

1. Make an outline. Then be willing to leave it behind. Writing an outline forces me to think through some big questions before I begin. But I follow it the way I travel with my husband sans kids: “Hey, Honey, look at this weird little mountain on the map. Wanna check it out?” And pretty soon the story has taken a turn. Sometimes the side trip changes everything, and I revise my outline. Sometimes it’s a dead end. Then I have my outline to get me back on track.

2. Think of your first draft as the clay, not the sculpture. Imagine that what you are doing is digging up clay, just a hunk of stuff from which you’ll create something later. Much of it will be messy and unrefined, but that’s not your problem now. Your job is simply to get from the beginning to the end. Keep digging! When it’s time to write a second draft, you will have your raw material.

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