Tips for the first draft. [4/52]

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Writing the first draft is one of the best parts of the storytelling process (other than outlining, of course). It’s a time where anything can happen and spelling doesn’t matter. Your only job when sitting down to write a first draft is getting words on a page.

There are three rules I try to live by when writing the first draft of any story, regardless of medium. At this stage, it’s all about word count, and these rules help me stay on track toward that goal.

1. Don’t edit as you go.

This is up there among the best writing advice I’ve ever received. I think it comes from talking to other authors and from Anne Lamott’s book Bird by Bird.

Nothing will slow down your momentum faster than reworking every sentence multiple times (this comes later). It’s hard to write something you know is terrible and leave that mess on the page. You gotta do it, though. No one else will see this draft anyway. It’s just for you. Leave the mess. You’ve got more to make.

2. Use placeholders for names and places.

There will be times where a character makes their way into your story unexpectedly, and they need the perfect name. Instead of opening Google and typing (name that means awesome bread maker), just type (INSERT BREADMAKER NAME) and keep going.

You can use this with a variety of things too, not just characters. I’m working on a story now where the boat needs an awesome name, and, you guessed it, my first draft is full of (INSERT AWESOME BOAT NAME). Don’t let those things slow you down. Replacing names is one of the easiest things to edit in later drafts.

3. Have fun!

I know, cliche of cliches. But I’m serious. First drafting should be fun. Dive headfirst into your story and don’t come up for air until you’ve found your entire novel and have it written down (and saved and backed up).

It’s important to have fun at this stage, because second, third, fourth (tenth) drafts are less fun. Line edits are less fun. Most of the parts after the first draft are less fun, so be sure to enjoy your first draft.

Jump. Build, Fly.
F.C. Shultz