A First Draft in Record Time


Record time for me, at least! Just this month, I finished the first draft of an upcoming standalone novel. I began outlining and writing only in April, so it took just four months to go from start to finish with a completed draft!

Let me be totally honest – this is highly atypical for me. My first draft of my first book took about 2 years. You don’t want to know how long it took me to finish the first draft of my third one, which I kept delaying and delaying because I couldn’t face the ending (I cried).

So to have a draft in full in only four months feels very strange. It is not in any sort of state to be published. It’s going to sit on my digital desk for a month before I even look at it again so I can come back to it with fresh eyes. Then the revision process begins.

But let me share a couple of things I learned in these four months:

Just Get It On The Page

Probably my biggest lesson with this manuscript is just get it on the page. I know already that I’ll have to make heavy revisions. I practically rewrote my second book in its entirety before I was happy with it. I always heavily revise, so I’m prepared for it and plan for it.

So just get it down. Can’t think of the right word? Choose what you can think of, flag it with a note/comment/sticky-note, and move on. Cringe-worthy dialogue? Have some idea of what you’re trying to say and move on.

You can do something with a completed draft. You can’t do anything with a manuscript that doesn’t exist. So if you’re like me and you’ve previously just gotten mired in the details when writing the first draft, you could try putting in placeholders and just moving on.

I found this really useful for this manuscript. I identified a couple of places where I hadn’t done quite enough research, or I wanted to include something that I hadn’t yet researched. If I wanted to keep the flow of my writing, I made a note to do more research in revisions and kept going. I think this is what made it possible to get a draft finished in such a short amount of time.

Just. Get. It. Written.

Outlining Is Super Helpful

I’d be lost without some kind of outline. I can’t write a book without having something outlined beforehand. Some of my outlines are super detailed, with dates, names, references, etc. All the details.

Other outlines are much more simple and might just be event, character, and what that event is following or leading to. Something to jog my brain when I sit down to write but not so huge that I get stuck in details.

For this manuscript, I absolutely needed an outline. I would have been lost without one. So I created an outline, referred to it throughout, and kept track of all the details I had intended to include.

Research Slows Everything To A Crawl

I enjoy research, but it really slows things down. However, research is often essential if I intend to do a scene, character, or setting justice. I don’t know everything, and I don’t know what I don’t know. So plan to do research, and plan for it to slow you down.

I think the only reason I didn’t get further slowed down by the research this time is because I already had some familiarity with the setting – it’s based on a real-world place and I have actually visited there, so I pulled some things from my memory rather than having to look up every minute detail.

Now, I don’t know that I’d be able to keep up or even duplicate this pace again. But I’m going to try! If I think of any more tips, I’ll be certain to write a follow-up to this post.

What are your best writing tips? How do you get that first draft written?

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