Fiction Tip #117: Writing the First Draft

I know from personal experience, reading tons of books and articles, and listening to other writers that the ability to finish the first draft is the key. When we fail to finish the first draft our story has little chance at publication and as a writer we end up feeling frustrated and like a failure. So with that in mind, I recommend that you finish that first draft no matter how contrived or awful the middle and end of your story might seem.  I have personally found myself stuck in a place where I couldn’t figure out how to move the story forward and in some cases I didn’t even know where the story was headed. This is not uncommon, especially if you write on the fly and with no pre-planning, but don’t let that stop you. Instead try using some of these options to move the story forward:

  1. Based on what you know about your character make him/her choose between what he/she wants in this moment/situation and what he/she needs in the moment/situation, if his/her wants and needs are the same, then add an obstacle that will put them in conflict
  2. Based on what you know about your character throw in a new and unexpected obstacle to their overall goal (be it a person, thing or situation) 
  3. Ask yourself what is the worst thing that could happen in this scene, then write that
  4. Ask yourself who or what would cause my character the most pain in this scene or stop them from reaching their current or overall goal 
  5. Ask yourself who or what would be the biggest distraction for my character in this scene or from their current or overall goal
  6. Ask yourself what it is your character is trying to achieve in this moment/situation and then add something to stop them from achieving it

When writing the first draft your goal is to get to the end of the story; by whatever means necessary. First drafts are not meant to be published. In fact you don’t need to share them with anyone. The goal of the first draft is to figure out exactly what the story is about, the entire story, from beginning to end. Which means you need to get to an end. The revision process will give you plenty of opportunities to slip in necessary details or fix earlier sections of the book to fit the ending you eventually found. So please, whatever you do, keep writing until you reach the end.

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