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First Draft: My writing journey part three

May 25, 2017

Pen to paper or fingers to keyboard. However you write, the message of this post is just to write.

I am not sure what else there is to say.

You can be a plotter or a pantser (I land somewhere in the middle), but if you want to get that first book, third book or twentieth book written you just have to sit down and GET IT DONE.

Personally… and I can only speak from experience… so take from it what you will, but personally, I start with a basic outline to get a general feel for where I am going. This might take a few days or a few weeks or might spring fully formed into my head after a dream or a conversations with friends. Either way, I generally know what is going to happen in each chapter… (I say generally because the goal posts will move as a write, they might swap ends of the field or turn into a swimming pool or a running track but I try to keep the end in sight). So I have a general idea how many chapters I will have.

Then I guess-timate how long I want each chapter to be… (In my handwriting on an A4 size note page I usually aim for 8-10 pages – or 1500-2000 words-ish)

So there is my basic math breakdown…

I work full time – so I find it a little hard to secure writing time. I write my first drafts by hand (I find this works for me). I aim for my train trip into work (about an hour), my lunch break (40 mins or so), and my train trip home. So – maybe about a chapter every two days? (Weekends are a little different. Depends on what is planned and how available I am). If I can get 1-2 chapters written per week I am pretty happy with my progress.

Weirdly I tend to flat line / stall around the 20k mark. It’s happened with each of my four manuscripts. When I stall, I find I move onto editing something else – a previous manuscript maybe, or I write something new – maybe a few short stories. I even start plotting out something new. I don’t try to force it (Luckily I don’t have any deadlines I have to meet, yet).

But when I come back to my first draft I seem to be able to focus until I reach the finish line.

I think working out what your writing style is, what you can focus on, what your limitations are and how your brain works are all good motivators to get your first draft completed.

Oh, and I never, ever edit my first draft until I finish it.


Nothing happens.

My first draft is a messy, hard to read, practically no grammar to speak of pile of %^&$ but I get it done. Complete. Kaput.

So get writing…


Other parts in the series

Part One – Queries

Part Two – Research

Part Four – Plotter or Pantser

Part Five – Short and Sweet

Part Six – Do or do not

Part Seven – The Importance of Reading

Part Eight – Redrafting

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  1. All good things to keep in mind. I would add the following. Don’t show anyone your work until the first draft is done. (You will only get discouraged since first drafts are usually kaka.)

  2. Thanks for sharing these helpful insights Laurie. I try to plot but then the story usually hijacks itself until i am left with no option but to chase it to its logical conclusion. But I do try to draft the last chapter it eases my stress levels. But I have to confess I havent published anything yet – at least not in fiction. Contrary to what John suggests I am posting my first drafts as chapters – if they make sense and if people (even if they are a handful), come back to read it week after week, it would be motivation and confidence to face rejection slips.

    • Oh yes, I understand writing to an audience. That motivates me too. As scary as it sounds I love feedback and especially first impressions. Though I usually write the first draft for no ones eyes than mine. Then I send chapters to select readers, alpha and beta readers, critique partners… people I trust that have a good eye for plot holes and characterisation. I find first drafts are fun. For me, they entertain me… make me laugh. Oh… ha ha and it makes my writing hand ache!

      • Oh I couldnt hand write! But I guess if you write on the train, writing is the best way. I too have a full time job so I usually get up an hour or two earlier just to write. I am quite irritated the days I dont manage to sneak in something or the other πŸ˜€

      • Oh yes, I feel it too when I lose out on my writing time. It’s funny isn’t it, how not writing can be as frustrating as writing can be! πŸ™‚

      • Haha – exactly πŸ˜€ Sometimes cannot decide which is worse!

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. Research: my writing journey part two | Rambles, writing and amusing musings
  2. Querying: my writing journey part one | Rambles, writing and amusing musings
  3. Plotter or Panster? The joy of a fight scene. My writing journey part four | Rambles, writing and amusing musings
  4. Short and Sweet: My writer journey part five | Rambles, writing and amusing musings
  5. Do or do not – My writer journey part six | Rambles, writing and amusing musings
  6. The importance of reading – My writer journey part seven | Rambles, writing and amusing musings
  7. My Writer Journey – part eight | Rambles, writing and amusing musings

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