Tuesday, August 31, 2010

10 Ways to Finish that Danged First Draft

10. Stop fixating on your word count. Just write your story.

9. Resist the urge to hit that shiny delete button.

8. Remind yourself it's your decision when to put your story in front of someone else's eyes. Until then, it's just you.

7. Have a daily goal. I usually write one or two scenes.

6. Don't compare your output to anyone else's.

5. Remember speed does not necessarily equal quality. On the other hand, slowness does not necessarily ensure quality either.

4. If you notice yourself smiling while you're writing, it's probably a good sign. Or...you're thinking about cookies.

3. Expect your characters to say and do things you're not expecting. They generally know best.

2. Ignore the lure of your colourful secondary characters. One or two will insist they need a larger role. They're usually wrong.

1. No one said it was easy. If it was, everyone who says "I'd like to be a writer" would actually be one. Screw your courage to the sticking point and persevere.


  1. Thanks for the list, Elspeth. All good information. I think I'll tattoo it on...

    Err..maybe I'll just print it off for reference.

  2. Mmmmmmm. Cooooookies....

    The only thing that's different for me is that I tend to have to swap 10 and 7 - word count usually (though not always) works better as a goal. I also find I need to listen to those secondary characters. Like the main characters, they often do know best.

  3. Alan; I glad you found it useful. Avoid tattoos. It's just one more thing to regret in the morning.

    Daring Novelist; I find my secondary characters get spotlight hungry. They're fun, but they're just too colourful to be used too often. They are handy, though, for getting me out of tough spots.

  4. Haha, I so needed this list right now. My WIP been stagnant for two weeks because I've been thinking too much about getting it finished!

    PS: Ignore secondary characters. Too right. One of mine recently got a POV in my WIP. Naughty man ...

  5. Good list Elspeth! It's so important to just push on through!

  6. Great tips. I keep telling new writers the same thing! I hope they listen because you're so wise!


  7. AA; Don't kick yourself about thinking - it may send you time later because you've worked things out already! As for POVs, I've found they're tricky beasts. Everyone seems to want one and that's just not possible.

    Jemi; It is important, isn't it? But it's still a hard lesson to learn.

    Clarissa; I'm wise? Really? Did I mention I have a bridge for sale?

  8. All important points. Especially, I think, about comparing your output to someone else's. If you're a newbie, that could stop you from writing.

  9. I'm super glad I have cookies in the cookie jar because this post made me want some!

    I like #3 and #1. Spot on!

  10. Good advice. I particularly like #4, because I usually am thinking about cookies!)

  11. Elspeth - I love these lessons! Thank you : ). I needed to hear them; I really did. Especially the message all the way through about persevering. No matter what.

  12. Carol; I really try to avoid knowing how much others are writing each day or each week or whatever. I've found it a no-win situation.

    Laura; You have cookies? Lucky you.

    Jane; It's never a bad time to think about cookies. Cookies make for happy thoughts.

    Margot; I wish it was easier, don't you? Sooner or later you have to tell all those demons to shut up and just put words on the page.

  13. I use word count, but there's always the danger of 'padding' just to meet the goal. But that's what editing is for. My word count almost always goes down the next day when I fix the dreck I wrote the night before.

    Terry's Place
    Romance with a Twist--of Mystery

  14. All very good advice, but I find word count irresistible, especially with Word 7 which keeps the count visible at all times on the lower toolbar. I'll never be able to ignore that.


  15. Good advice - including the advice you gave to Alan. No telling where that tattoo would have shown up!

  16. Thanks for the list, Elspeth. These reminders are very helpful for me today :)

  17. These are wonderful tips! I'm getting to the end of a new book I'm writing, and I really needed to read all of the above, as it has been taking longer than I expected. Thanks for this post.


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