How to Write a First Draft

The last time I finished writing a novel (my third), I thought it’d be a good idea to record how I wrote the first draft. Except that I didn’t end up creating that crib sheet then. So now, as I’m about to start writing my fourth novel, here it comes, that crib sheet:

The Idea

Ideas, they’re tricky little things, aren’t they? I mean, how do you know whether you’re going to be able to stick with that idea over 300-plus pages?

A while back, I wrote a novel based on a good idea – a secret someone I worked with had confided in me once upon a time. I spent months (ahem, years) on that novel, but could never really arrive at a convincing motivation for my chief protagonist. I fell out of love with that book.

It’s not the first time I’ve rushed into an idea out of desperation. And all of those novels I abandoned. 

What I’ve learnt from this is to take my time with an idea, to sit with it awhile and mull it over before committing it to it fully. 

My third novel is an idea which I kept to myself for months, thinking it over, then telling only one author pal what it was about. I’m happy to say that I finished it recently and my fingers are firmly crossed for it.

And so onto my fourth novel. I had a list of ideas in my head, but none of them were grabbing me and then I came across a news story that intrigued me. Over a number of days, I started to think of its possibilities. I’m not ready to write, but I think this just may be the one.

The Blurb

When I’m fairly sure I’m committed to an idea, I start putting together a blurb. Cue piling loads of paperbacks on my desk and looking at the backs of them for inspiration. Yesterday, I wrote a couple of blurbs. I’m not sure which one I like best, but for now, it’s job done. 

The Story Outline

I’ve planned and plotted beforehand for novels and always find my writing ends up being too constricted by structure, so now I don’t bother writing a step-by-step scene guide before my first draft. Instead, I write a story outline with possibilities, but no clear leads. 

I research my subject too – basically, a lot of googling. If this doesn’t at first unearth anything mind-bending, have faith. Because just yesterday, I discovered a feature which made me feel even more inspired by this new idea of mine.

The Writing

I haven’t begun to write this novel yet, but one thing I do know is that for me writing the first chapter is way too intimidating to begin with. I start by writing random scenes to find the voice of the novel and try to figure out just who my main protagonist will turn out to be. 

It’s only when I hit about 50,000 words that I tend to write a plot plan. 

So, how do you write your first draft?   

Photo by Etienne Girardet on Unsplash


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