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Fiction Writing Tips: Writing the First Draft

June 12, 2008 6 comments

Now that you’ve completed your character and novel outlines let’s move on to the next step in the fiction writing process: writing the first draft. The first draft is not the perfect version. Instead, the first draft is where you let your mind run free. As you’re writing your first draft, here are a few things to consider:

Eliminate Distractions Around You

Before you begin writing your first draft, pick a quiet place -- a place where you won’t be distracted by the things and people around you. Distractions consist of screaming kids, ringing phones and a rambling spouse. If you’re the only one there for your children and they have to be supervised, hire a babysitter for a few hours. Turn off the phone. Gently let your spouse know you’re going to another room to write on your novel and would appreciate no distractions; unless, of course, it’s a dire emergency.

Dialogue Keeps the Reader Entertained

Don’t bore your readers with paragraph after paragraph of description and details. If your novel is filled with details instead of lively conversation (aka, dialogue) between the characters, you’ll risk losing your readers. Include as much dialogue as you possibly can, but don't over do it. Break up your dialogue with some description, action or other details so that your entire novel isn’t just dialogue.

While writing your dialogue, keep your characters realistic. Listen to people around you talk. Everyone has their own way of speaking. For example, teenagers use words like awesome, cool, rock on, whatever and etc., and not everyone speaks perfect grammar. Keep your dialogue real and your characters will come to life on page.

Stay Consistent With Voice, Person and Tense

Decide what voice, person (first, second or third) and tense (past or present) you’ll be writing in and stick to it throughout your entire fiction novel.

Write Without Editing

Write, don’t edit! I’ve found that when I have the auto spell and grammar checker feature turned on in Microsoft Word, I tend to want to edit what it underlines. To keep myself from stopping to make those edits, I turn off the auto spell and grammar checker before I begin writing the first draft of my fiction novel.

Later, once you’ve written your entire fiction novel, you can worry about spelling, grammar, rewording, eliminating and etc. The only thing you really do when you stop to make changes is create distractions, which could lead to writer’s block.

Take Breaks

When the words don’t seem to be flowing anymore and you’re spending too much time thinking instead of writing, save your work and return to it the next day.

Once you’ve written the last word for your fiction novel, your first draft will be completed. After writing the first draft, then you can go back and edit for spelling and grammar. In fact, next week we’ll cover editing your first draft. To ensure that you don’t miss next week’s post, subscribe for free to receive updates via e-mail. When you subscribe for free updates, you’ll earn an entry into the Mentoring Session Contest. Have you already received an entry into the contest another way? No problem, you can still subscribe and earn another entry, which will increase your chances of winning the free mentoring session with me.

Photo courtesy of Lapideo

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6 comments: to “ Fiction Writing Tips: Writing the First Draft so far...

  • Lillie Ammann 4:50 AM CDT

    I'm glad you advise writing the first draft without editing. I've written on my blog before what I learned from novel writing teacher Lary Crews: the first draft is supposed to be what Lary calls "pure green dreck." Some writers need to give themselves permission to write without editing; otherwise they work forever perfecting the first chapter and never get any further.

  • Misti Sandefur, Novelist/Freelance Writer 5:34 PM CDT


    I'll admit that sometimes it's hard to write a first draft without editing, but as you said, if you edit while writing you may never finish the novel.

    In the past, I've had to force myself not to write and edit when working on my first draft, but now it's not so hard. In fact, I love not stopping and just letting the words flow.

    By the way, I'd like to wish you luck in my Mentoring Session Contest. Since you commented on one of the posts in the Fiction Writing Tips series, you've earned one entry into the contest. The winner will be announced here on July 1, 2008 and will also be notified via e-mail.

    Again, good luck in the contest and thanks for commenting!

  • Anonymous 2:31 PM CDT

    I'd add to the list -- keep your momentum. Work on the project every day, even for a little while. If you keep putting it down until you "get around to it", you'll never finish. Unfinished projects drain creative energy.

  • Misti Sandefur, Christian Author/Freelance Writer 7:00 PM CDT


    Thanks for stopping by and commenting! Great tip, and it's so true! I've set a few books aside and they end up collecting dust. :(

    Your comment has earned you one entry into my Mentoring Session Contest. The winner's name will be announced here on July 1, and I'll also e-mail the winner. I need you to send me your first and last name as well as your e-mail, in case you're the winner. Send your information to info(at)mistisandefur(dot)com. If you do win, I'll also include a link to your blog in the announcement on this blog.

  • Anonymous 1:36 PM CDT

    I've also found that a good way to get a first draft (0-draft, in my mind) done and finished with is to set goals.

    I wrote my current book's draft during NaNoWriMo, and the competitive feel, the group-support, and the 1,667-word-a-day goal through November forced me to stay on task.

  • Misti Sandefur, Christian Author/Freelance Writer 6:47 PM CDT


    Thanks for commenting! Your comment has earned you a second entry into my Mentoring Session Contest. Please contact me at lifeofawriter(at)mistisandefur(dot)com so that I'll have your e-mail address. I must have your e-mail to notify you if you win the contest, and, or course, to mentor you -- again, if you're the winner. Please send me your e-mail before July 1, 2008 (the date the contest ends).

    Yes, setting goals for yourself helps as well. Moreover, rewarding yourself for completing goals is an inspiration to yourself. After all, we all deserve to reward ourselves in some way when we've accomplished the goal we set.