7 problems that authors might face when writing a first draft
Writing a first draft can be exciting and fun, but there are also some pitfalls that might cause an author to rethink the whole thing. I know that I start out with hope, optimism and lots of energy when writing my own first drafts, but I also know how many pitfalls are out there.
Let’s start at the very top. Sometimes, we just don’t know where to start, even if we have a solid outline. Do we start mid-conversation? Do we start with action? Do we start with our character alone or with others? It can be very confusing. My advice? Don’t try to make it perfect. If you get hung up right at the beginning, you might never start. You can always fix things in the editing stage, but you can only fix words on paper.
Okay, you didn’t have any issues with the beginning, but now you’re smack in the middle of your outline and the pacing feels slow and the newness of the project is long gone. You’re getting bored and feeling less excitement over all. You might need a break! Step away for a day or two – not too long that you get out of the habit of writing, but long enough that you get to fill up your creative well in other ways. Watch your favorite movies, read a new book, or just do something completely unrelated to your project and get some rest.
You are moving and grooving and you are near the end of your outline, and just like the beginning you have no idea how to end this thing. Do you use the circle method and mirror your beginning? Do you leave on a cliffhanger? Set up your second book? You are confused, frustrated and ready to just chuck the whole thing in a drawer. Stop! Don’t do that, please. Again – don’t worry about being perfect – you can fix a bad ending later. It’s better to get over the finish line and start the next part of the process rather than totally abandoning your project.
For extra help, if you have any of the above issues – I suggest pulling 1-3 Tarot cards. The cards can give you insight into your character’s motivations and the best way to move forward when you feel stuck.
Speaking of characters, we all know they can cause havoc by doing their own thing and by not talking to us. We also might run into having under developed characters, where we have to stop and fix things we’ve missed or work on deepening their backstory. If this is you, may I suggest my free training – Novel Narrator – creating your book’s characters in 30 minutes using Tarot. It’s an easy, fun, and quick way to create compelling characters for your books!
Bunnies are cute and all, but not if they are leading us away from our outlines. You know that feeling, you have written pages and pages only to realize that you are so far from your original plot that you can’t even tell where you are anymore. First, decide if the new idea is worth exploring. If it is, take some time to redo your outline to make the new idea work. If it’s not working, then start writing from where you want to be and work backwards to make things fit. I’m not going to lie, these things can cause us to lose time and make a little more work, but in the long run it’s better to stop and fix now then have to comb through all that junk later.
Writing a book isn’t easy – as we’ve seen from the issues above. You can easily lose motivation, feel lonely, and start to hate sitting down at your computer. I suggest scheduling breaks throughout your writing schedule so you can fill your well, connect with other writers online, and give your brain some space. In addition to breaks, I also suggest creating mini goals and having rewards for reaching milestones. Did you finish half of your first draft? Great – celebrate by getting your nails done, calling an old friend, or having a fancy coffee at your favorite coffeehouse. These will keep you motivated to keep going and keep writing fun!
If you don’t schedule in breaks and mini celebrations, you might start feeling burnt out and stressed. To keep from cramming too much into your day, try writing down your due date and work backwards so you can have breaks, space, and time to write. Trying to do too much at once only leads to heartbreak, sickness, and crankiness – trust me, ask those you live with what it’s like when you’re on deadline and you still have way too much to do? It’s probably not going to be a nice answer. To keep that from happening, plan for all contingencies and add in extra buffer time so you can have space for emergencies. If you don’t need them – great, more time to celebrate and rest.
Which of these problems have plagued you during writing your first drafts? Which one of my suggestions will you be trying first? I’d love to know below.