Struggling to finish your first draft?
That’s okay. Writing a first draft is hard. Like really, really hard. You’re essentially creating a physical copy of the idea that’s rolling around in your head. It’s the bare bones of your story. The shovelled sand that you will later use to build castles.
If you are reading this, I’m guessing that you are in the process of writing your first draft. Maybe you are struggling to get those words of the page? Or, perhaps, the process is just taking longer than you expected? Don’t despair. I’ve been there before myself and I’ve got your back.
Here are three (possible) reasons why you haven’t finished your first draft + tips on what you can do to push to the finish line and finally feel the satisfaction that comes with typing those final two words: ‘The End’.
You’re Letting Doubt Creep In
Your fingers are dancing across the keyboard. You have found your groove. Things are going good. Then, out of nowhere, your inner critic will come to sit on your shoulder and begin whispering things in your ear.
“That sentence is a mess!”
“You think you can write?! Ha! Clearly, you don’t have it in you. Might as well save yourself the heartache and give in now.”
I get it! My inner critic says these things to me, too! And you know what I do? I put on some atmospheric music to drown out her voice and continue typing. I won’t lie. She has been known to get the better of my sometimes— if that happens to you, that’s okay! Just open up that document again tomorrow and try again.
Most writers listen to this voice. They let it crush their dreams and they stop writing.
I love using ambient mixer. It’s got a ton of free audio soundtracks to listen to, including mixes for the Gryffindor, Ravenclaw, Hufflepuff and Slytherin common rooms.
You’re Editing As You Go
I know it’s tempting to try re-writing that sentence. To quickly scan what you wrote for typos. Just, please, don’t do it. Don’t put yourself through that. Editing will only make this process longer, increasing your chances of becoming exhausted by your lack of progress and eventually abandoning your project.
When writing your first draft, your job is to put your story on paper. Editing is the responsibility of your future self. You wouldn’t pick up someone else’s work in your office and begin doing it, would you? No. Because that isn’t your job. The same rule applies here.
You’re Pushing Through Writer’s Block
You don’t want me to push through my writer’s block, Sam?! That doesn’t make any sense. I won’t get anything done if I don’t push.
I hear you. This sound crazy. But just let me explain…
Don’t get me wrong, I understand why we’re often told to push through the writer’s block. All too often writers allow themselves to get paralysed by it. I’m sure you have experienced it yourself at some point. You stare at a black screen for hours, just willing inspiration to strike.
In some cases, it is necessary to push through and write ‘rubbish’ until you find your flow again. But in most cases, this is the worst thing you can do. So how do you know when to push through and when to step back?
If you get stuck just once or twice when writing an act, I recommend that you push through the block and just write. If, however, you find that every time you sit down you feel like you have to battle getting the words out, I want you to go back to the drawing board.
When you keep getting stuck when writing your first draft, it’s a sign that something is wrong with an element of your story. So it’s your job to figure out what the element is before you continue writing.
Are you having trouble getting in your characters head? Pull out your character worksheets. Interview your character. Plot out how your world is influencing the person they are—and the person they will be by the end of your story.
You can download my FREE Character Development Workbook here.
Are you having difficulty deciding what your characters are going to do next? Sit down and plot your story scene by scene. Draw out a timeline for the big events in your story and then slot in scenes that will help build tension.
Learn how to outline your novel from beginning to end here.
Is your world feeling unrealistic or dull? Ask yourself what kind of world would challenge your protagonist to become a better person or think about the elements of your world that made them flawed in the first place.
When do you aim to finish writing your first draft? Let’s share our goals in the comments and motivate each other!
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