Melissa Ford Lucken
Completing the first draft of a novel can be an exhilarating and challenging endeavor. While there is no one-size-fits-all approach, these ten steps can help you stay focused, motivated, and ultimately reach the finish line of your first novel draft. As always, if one of the steps doesn’t fit with your approach, skip it.
- Define your project: Clarify your novel’s genre, theme, and target audience. Develop a basic understanding of your story’s structure, main characters, and overarching plot. This initial planning will provide a foundation for your writing process.
- Set clear goals and deadlines: Break down the writing process into smaller, achievable goals. Establish a writing schedule that fits your lifestyle and commit to it. Set specific word count targets or allocate dedicated writing time each day or week to keep yourself accountable.
- Embrace the “Just Write” mentality: Silence your inner critic and give yourself permission to write a messy, imperfect first draft. Focus on getting your ideas and story onto the page without worrying about perfection or editing. Remember, the purpose of the first draft is to capture the essence of your story, characters, and plot.
- Develop a writing routine: Consistency is key. Create a writing routine that works for you, whether it’s writing at the same time each day, dedicating specific days of the week to writing, or finding pockets of time throughout your schedule. Treat writing as a priority and integrate it into your daily life.
- Minimize distractions: Find a quiet and conducive writing environment that helps you stay focused. Turn off notifications on your devices, close unnecessary tabs on your computer, and consider using productivity tools or apps that block distracting websites or apps during your writing sessions.
- Use outlines or storyboards: Consider creating an outline or storyboard that provides a roadmap for your story’s structure. Outlines can help you stay organized, maintain a clear narrative arc, and ensure consistency in your storytelling. However, if you’re more of a pantser (writing by the seat of your pants), allow yourself the freedom to deviate from the outline if inspiration strikes.
- Silence your inner editor: During the first draft, resist the urge to constantly edit or revise your work. Allow the ideas to flow and focus on completing the entire draft before diving into revisions. Editing can come later, during the revision process.
- Find a support system: Connect with fellow writers, join writing groups, or seek beta readers who can provide feedback, encouragement, and accountability. Sharing your progress, discussing challenges, and receiving constructive criticism can fuel your motivation and inspire you to keep pushing forward.
- Take breaks and practice self-care: Writing a novel is a marathon, not a sprint. Take regular breaks to rest, recharge, and prevent burnout. Engage in activities that nourish your mind and body, such as exercise, spending time in nature, or pursuing other hobbies. A healthy balance will keep your creativity flowing.
- Stay motivated and celebrate milestones: Celebrate small victories along the way—completing chapters, reaching word count milestones, or finishing sections of your novel. Reward yourself for achieving these milestones to maintain motivation and a positive mindset throughout the writing process.
Remember, every writer’s journey is unique, and finding the method that works best for you is crucial. Adjust and refine your approach as you go along, staying adaptable to your own creative process.