Okay, let’s face it, almost every writer out there hates getting through the first draft, or rough draft, of their manuscript.
It’s a process that a lot of emotions can go into. Some people feel severe anxiety as they write that rough draft out, afraid that what they are writing is the worst piece of cliche’d tripe that has ever been put on paper (or screen as the case may be). They might even have to fight themselves to keep from destroying it all many times in the process.
I know I have been through that, myself. I’ve even passed a through through the fires of the delete key and moved on to other projects because of it.
I have even known a few authors over the years that feel an almost constant state of nausea while they are writing the first draft. I could not imagine being that way, myself, but it shows how the emotional state of mine between authors runs the full gamut.
With all of this in mind, then, what can we, as writers, do to help solve the issue of getting through that rough draft and move on to the REALLY horrible stuff, like re-writes, editing, line editing and finding a publisher?
Here are a few things that I have found have helped me throughout the years, and maybe they will you, as well.
This one may sound strange to some, but for those authors out there that are seat-of-the-pantsers, you know where I am going with this.
Some people like to write by the seat of their pants; in other words, they use no outline, and may not even have an idea of their characters or end goal for the story.
I wrote this way for a time (you can see my article all about that here), but what I found was it ended up being very easy for me to lose track of, or even faith in, a project. I would run out of inspirational steam and just end up walking away, on to the next shiny thing.
There’s nothing wrong with Pantsing, if it works for you, but I would suggest doing a hybrid of the two processes.
Write a basic outline, and allow that to guide the flow of your pants, the flow of the story. (Scrivener is AMAZING for this!)
I would, though, go a step further and do as much of an outline as you can do for your stories. This not only will help guide you through the rough spots, but will also help break through writers block entirely.
All you need do is sit at the keys and start typing, based upon what you know is supposed to happen next.
Spend a Day Building Your World
Sometimes, when a story is going into difficult directions and I feel worn out from it, I will refresh things a bit by doing alternative things, while still remaining within the world or story I am creating.
As an example, with my Takiq Cycle books, there is more going on in the world than just the problems Aylen is encountering
There is a living, breathing, world happening around, with diverse characters, alien beings, and more all waiting to have stories told, as well.
If I am feeling bogged down, I will build up some of that world on the side, spending a few hours exploring characters that will never actually end up in the novels. Perhaps I will work on examining some of the technologies the Hokarg use, again even if I never plan on having them enter into the story.
This type of activity will keep you immersed into the world you are working with, while stepping away from the main story line. It’s refreshing to the mind, since it IS a break, of sorts, but you are still writing, still creating, still remaining a part of what is happening in the world.
You might find it not only gives your mind a rest, which can be key to pushing through the next day, but ALSO helps to make your story deeper, richer, with more diverse possibilities.
And, who knows, you might just find that you have an entirely new story waiting for you, once you have finished the draft of your first. It has happened to me, and many other writers, as well.
You could even create a short story, 1000-5000 words long, which has nothing to do with your main story, but adds to the whole experience, not only for yourself, but your readers as well. Share the story on your social media platforms and really help build up the steam for when that novel does come out.
Set Writing Goals
This one works for me quite well.
Every day, my writing goal is to put down at least 1500 words into the story I am writing. Sometimes I hit way more than that, if I get into a flow, and some days I just do that much and have to step away due to other commitments (being a full time radio host and station manager for a radio station takes a LOT of time).
Still, I can almost always find at least an hour of time to be able to write, especially since getting my Neo2. I can even take the thing to the bathroom if need be and write there.
Either way, though, setting writing goals for yourself can really be an impetus to get the words out, especially once your brain is trained to do it.
You could start with 1500 words written per day (and can even have those side projects count towards it, if need be), and, as you get better at meeting this goal consistently, push the bar forward,
Met the 1500 goal each day last week? This week, the new goal is 2000 words a day. It’s not that much more, and hey, that gets that novel written that much faster, right?
I have known people that can push out over 40000 words a day (insane!) and even more. Now, for me, that’s probably never going to happen. But I have had MANY 10-15k days and love when those happen.
Goals are important, and you’ll meet them, simply because you don’t want to fail yourself. Make it a contest and give yourself a treat each time you make it. Again, anything you can do to help train your brain to start writing as soon as you sit down at the keys, do.
I know, seems obvious, right?
It’s the simplest advice that I can give. Just write. Don’t worry that you are afraid. Don’t worry that the words that come out are not Charles Dickens or Ray Bradbury.
The words that came out on THEIR first drafts were not Ray Bradbury or Charles Dickens, either. That’s what the line-edits are for.
Just write, and don’t worry. You want to be a writer… Write.
I hope this helps you all out and, if you have ideas that I did not talk about here, I would love to hear them, as well!