Ah, rough drafts. The 60,000+ long work where you have to put all your ideas onto the page, and hope the word length reaches your goal.
To write that many words is intimidating, especially for the first time. Maybe you try to plan out how your story will go, or perhaps you like to figure it out as you go along. No matter how you are writing this first draft, however, there will most likely be a place where you will seem stuck and wonder how you will possibly make it through the middle to the end of this gigantic project.
This is a big feat to undertake, and sometimes our tries die out and we doubt we have the ability to reach writing ’The End.’ But I’m here to tell you that you can finish that first draft like I did. It is a big project, but it isn’t insurmountable. If you know how, you can beat it in less time than you think possible.
My first novel rough draft took about three years to finish. For a little over three years I made it about halfway to the end. I finished the rest in a month and a half.
What was different that month compared to the three years? I committed to write everyday until the draft was finished. The other times I said I would write everyday I would write when I had time or when I felt inspired. This time, I wrote everyday because I had made it a priority over everything that would take up my time before.
To finish your draft, you need to commit to writing everyday, or set a few days out of the week to write that you can manage. Whatever you feel works for you, do it. But you have to commit to writing even on the days when you don’t think you can manage it.
Now that you’ve set aside time to write, you need to make the most of that time. When you sit down to write, set aside your phone, close the social media windows and apps, and only focus on your writing.
When you’re not distracted you can get into the flow of writing and keep yourself there instead of being interrupted and having to repeat the hardest part of writing: Starting.
You’re off to a good start, and the next step is to set your goals.
The first question you need to ask is How long do you want this rough draft to take? Do you want to do it in a matter of months or in a year?
If you want to finish by a certain date, then the next step is to take the total word count you have to write and divide it by the number of days until you finish. Write that amount daily and you’re set.
If this strategy doesn’t work for you, however, do not fear, there are two more.
Set a timer for how long you will write a day, and stick to it. Start at just ten minutes a day and see how many words you can write.
Now ten minutes isn’t that much. You should be able to find ten free minutes in your day. Take ten minutes off of your social media time or from your show watching time and write instead.
The trick to time is that once you can get yourself to start, you often can go longer than you plan. Start with a small amount of time and see how you do, then work your way up to a larger time.
The other strategy is to just pick a word count, start from 100-200 words a day, and see where that takes you. Like the time strategy, you will probably find that you can write more than you think, and that you’ll want to. And if you only get 100 words done, than that is 100 words more than you had before. If you keep writing, you will make it to the end.
For me, my goal was 1,000 words a day, which was a rather ambitious goal to start with I’ve found out. Sometimes I didn’t make my goal, and sometimes I over-acheived it, but whatever I did I decided to be proud of myself for just getting words on the page.
Don’t get too caught up in the goals that they scare you, start them as manageable chunks that you can easily surmount, and move up from there.
It is not advised to use the time and word count strategies together, doing both can leave you with conflicting goals. Try both separately and see what works for you.
Finally, some of the most important advice I could give you is to write and not look back.
Do not give in to the temptation of rereading your work or editing it. This is the death of your progress.
The rough draft is just that: Rough. It is not meant to look polished, it may even look like you vomited words on the page, but that’s alright.
First drafts are for getting the idea out of your head and onto the page so that you can edit it into the story you want later. It is not pretty, and it isn’t supposed to be, so don’t get discouraged over it. Let it go, and write forward.
Call to action
Take ten minutes today and write on your novel work-in-progress. Then, spend ten minutes setting a writing goal for yourself. Set a time or word count to write to on a regular basis, and make that commitment to finish your book.
You will write that “The End” if you commit to writing. Now go start your journey and finish that rough draft!
What is the goal you’ve set for yourself? Share in the comments and make yourself accountable.
Related posts I recommend:
- “How to Maximize Your Writing Time Like a Pro (tips + tricks for every writer)” by Kristen Kieffer from her blog Well-Storied.