How (Not) to Finish Writing a First Draft

Photo credit: Graham Binns on Flickr
Seeing how it's the end of November, and many of you are likely racing to the end of those 50,000 NaNoWriMo words (or at least, trying to get there), I thought it a particularly fitting to talk about first draft writing —specifically, finishing that first draft.

The first draft is the major building block of your novel —without it, you have little to work off of while attempting to write a cohesive and memorable story. But writing a first draft isn't always as simple as we writers might have hoped—and especially not when you're trying to complete the first 50,000 words in a month, as NaNoWriMo participants are.

So whether you're attempting to complete a NaNoWriMo novel this week or else just working on a first draft at your own pace, here are eight foolproof tips to completing the best first draft in the history of first drafts.

How to Absolutely, Positively Finish Writing that Fabulous First Draft (With or Without NaNoWriMo)*
  1. Write in front of the television. The television is the purest source of inspiration for writers in the universe. To truly harness those golden words for your masterpiece of a novel, make sure you always write while watching something on TV—the trashier, the better (Jersey Shore and Real Housewives of wherever are particularly effective). As an added bonus, when you inevitably hit writer's block, you already have something to distract you from the sorrows of not being able to write. 

  2. Only write when you feel like it. Because let's be honest—it's just not nearly as fun to write when you'd rather be doing other things. 

  3. Write only once a day (if that). I mean, you have other things you should be doing too, don't you? Plus you don't want to tire yourself out and risk writer burn-out. 

  4. Follow the shiny ideas! You know those magical, sparkly ideas that hit you while you're neck-deep in your novel? Those are direct downloads from the writing gods. Heed them or suffer their wrath. 

  5. Pants absolutely every detail. You should know absolutely nothing about what's coming next in your novel —even your next sentence should be a surprise to you. Even the slightest bit of pre-planning will turn your writing into a dull, dead experience. 

  6. Edit constantly. There's little point in writing a first draft if it's tens of thousands of words of complete and utter nonsense. Perfection is the goal in the first draft of every novel you write —no exceptions (not even NaNoWriMo). In fact... 

  7. Start every writing session by reading your full novel up to that point. Do this every single time you sit down to write, so that you have your story fresh in your mind while beginning to write. And if you run out of time while re-reading? Well, at least you know what's going on in your story, which is half the battle, right? Right. 

  8. When in doubt, make everything a dream and start over. Hey, if you do it enough times, it'll be like Inception. And that was massively popular, so why not? 

*Sarcasm alert! These are not actual tips, nor are they meant to be taken seriously. There is a parenthetical in the title of this post for a reason (and it's not just because it looks pretty).

Those are my "tips"—now it's your turn! What so-called tips would you add to the list?


Emily Mead said...

Definitely leave the interwebs connected. Twitter is such a great way to keep yourself writing!

Ava Jae said...

Yes, of course! In fact, you should check Twitter, tumblr, Facebook, Google+ and LinkedIn before you start your writing session every day (after you've re-read your WIP up to that point, that is).

Jeff Hargett said...

I love this site and your consistently awesome posts. Keep up the good work!

Ava Jae said...

Thank you so much, Jeff! I appreciate the kind words and encouragement. :)

Pauline said...

I do so many of the things on your list Vikki, that I'm in shock. Before I realized you were being sarcastic I felt really smug.

Ava Jae said...

While it's not impossible to complete a first draft while doing these things, it certainly makes the process unnecessarily long and difficult.

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