Monday, March 24, 2014

Three Ways To Defeat Your First Draft.

Whether you’re a seasoned novelist or writing the first blog post for your business, you’ve probably had to face this at one time or another. I know I have. It’s a nasty habit, a grumpy cousin of writer’s block, a vampire that sucks the blood out of your writing.

The First Draft Hang-Up.

You know what I’m talking about. “I’ve got a great idea for this story/article/poem/blog! It’s gonna be awesome! Here I go!” Then you stare at a blank computer screen, or notepad, or chalk board, for waaaaay too long. You might fidget a bit. Then you stare some more. If you’re really determined you fidget even more and spin around a few times on your twirly chair. Eventually you'll find some excuse about needing to clean the bathroom sink, and that's when you close up shop. Your project is nixed before it even begins! The worst part, of course, is you’re the one that nixes it. You don’t even give the poor thing a fighting chance. The First Draft Hang Up wants to destroy your beautiful baby of an idea. Sure, it’s just a baby—maybe it can’t walk or eat or clean up after its own poop yet. But that’s why it’s up to you to fight back. How, you say? Start with this. Here's three ways to arm yourself.


Some writers take their time with first draft and each sentence comes out crafted. If that works for you, great. But if that editor’s voice paralyzes you, it’s time to turn it off. Completely off. Force yourself to start writing and don’t stop—if you think it, you type it. Don’t worry about whether it’s good or bad. Don’t even re-read what you write. Write more than you think you have to, and keep writing. If you stray off topic, fine. If you misspell all your words, fine. That’s what the editing process is for, so save it. Editing is a lot easier when you actually have words to edit.


Maybe you just can’t figure out how you want to start. That’s fine! Skip that pesky opening. You won’t be the first writer who struggled with this. Start with the middle of your story, or the closing point of your article. Write and overwrite each section, then slowly move backwards until you find an opening you can get behind. Once you start getting words to paper, you'll be surprised how much easier things will start to flow.


If you’re working on a novel, start with a character study. Or work on your world creation for a while--separate from your draft. Create the frame from which you’ll operate. If it’s an article or blog, try researching your topic a little more. Write a review of a related post, or email a friend a list of ideas to get some feedback. If nothing seems to be working, try something completely different—choose a topic and free write. Do a journal entry. Write all about what just happened in the latest episode of New Girl. Try some flash fiction. Write and write and write some more until you’re enjoying it. Get your juices flowing and then get back to work.

No excuses.


  1. Very relevant, very timely. Thanks for this.

  2. My struggle is editing. The first drafts (once actually flowing) come easy, but going back and editing my own work--that's where I get caught up. I can come up with concepts and ideas, but struggle with which style to use--questioning: will people really want to read my first-person thoughts on a certain topic? is a poem too "fluffy" for this topic?

    I agree though, there are definitely times when the inner editor needs to be turned off. Too many "babies" have been killed because of it.

    Thanks for your thoughts!

    1. Thanks for reading, Katrina! Your comment inspired my latest blog post--some thoughts on editing! It's different for everyone, of course, but maybe it will help:)