Just write it. Get the story on the page and worry about the rest later. This is the advice many new (and old) writers read/hear when starting their first drafts. You’re told that everyone’s first draft is an unreadable mess – and it’s true. There are typos, inconsistencies, bulky prose and boring dialogue. And that’s okay. Your first draft will not be perfect.
Mine certainly isn’t.
What they don’t often mention, however, is that your first draft does not have to be 100% complete. There are many things that I recommend you don’t include in your first draft. Why? Because it helps you put the story on the page in as little time as possible.
Here are 5 things NOT to include in your first draft.
You know what needs to happen in the scene, but for some reason, you could not bring yourself to write it. Perhaps your mood didn’t align with the scene, or maybe you were just excited to skip ahead to the action. That’s fine. It’s normal. As long as you have made a note of the scene and what needs to happen in it, there’s nothing to stop you from coming back to it later.
Description is something that many writers get hung up on. Don’t get me wrong, description is a vital aspect of telling an immersive and rich story – but it isn’t essential in your first draft. So, if you find your characters, world, locations or scenes are lacking description, don’t panic. You can go back and add those wonderful, poetic and enchanting descriptions later.
Like much of what you write in your first draft, the dialogue is not going to be perfect – especially if you are writing accents or historic speech. The primary aim for dialogue in your first draft is to write the general things that your characters need to say in order to progress the story.
Stopping to research (or Google) every tiny detail as you write your first draft is an unnecessary distraction. You will likely fall into a research rabbit hole and waste precious writing time. Make a note of the things that you will need to research later, and add those details in later. Authors such as Brandon Sanderson and Mary Robinette Kowal are known for doing this.
You don’t need to have all your character names in your first draft. In fact, many writers often change the names they give their characters in later drafts. If you’re stuck and can’t think of a name that suits your character pick something simple. If I introduce a new character, or I simply forgot to name one, I will write in brackets (enter boss name) and move on.
The first draft is the bare bones of your story. The skeleton, if you will. some bones may be a bit broken, you may have a few missing ribs – but for the most part, your story is there. You have what you need to build something upon. You can fix those bones and flesh out the rest of your story in the other drafts.
‘The first draft is just you telling yourself the story.’ — Terry Pratchett