On Writing a Novel: How to Write the First Draft- It’s a Journey

As my Monday post states, I’ve been gone on vacation for a few days, and to get here, I had to drive 18 hours in an automobile filled with 5 people, a dog, and a heck-load of suitcases. I’m lucky I’m the youngest one in my family, because if there were any kids in the car, I’m sure we would never have heard the end of ‘are we there yet’ until our ears fell off. The boredom in the car wafted like car-stench, and I was in charge of my own enjoyment, and my tools were only this- books, mad-libs, and my manuscript. Otherwise, I was forced to stare out the window and watch trees roll by.

    That was when I thought- a novel is sort of like going on a trip. Although the publishing houses are not picnic tables, and surely one would get their head cut off for attempting to thing, the writing of the novel itself is a journey. It is a journey through a plot, a series of events that the character has gone through. Your character is going on a journey and learning and along the ride their hearts mold into what the story makes them to be, why can’t you?

    Just like trips, to write the first draft, one must:

  1. Take Time Off Work.

    Do remember, I am speaking metaphorically here when I say this. I surely cannot just take off and forget college work when I have a project due tomorrow and my friend is calling me to dinner. However, I do mean to try to find a portion of the day where writing is possible. Try to keep it at the same time each day, because humans are creatures of habit. We can learn to do things at certain times, and it’s very easy to forget when we don’t plan it.

    That means, unless every second counts for some activity, put down your briefcase, give the children a rubber chickens (children love rubber chickens), and find time to get to your writing. If you’re a teacher, then summer break might be your shot. Count how many words you want to have by the end of the summer, use a calculator to divide the amount of words you need each week to meet your goal, and try to stick to that. Try to count in vacation and times you know you won’t find the brain power to get to the desk.

  2. Pack your Bags

    Some can pull off a full-scale hike with only a backpack, but if you’re like me and love to have every possible thing you might need, then allow yourself to pack yourself with information. First Drafts do not jump out of thin air; however, they do like to go off-road and sometimes go in the opposite direction than where you originally intended. That’s okay, but you still need the bags. Make character charts; refresh yourself on the setting your characters are in, if you’re a fantasy nut and have a bunch of things about your world, then get some of those details down. You might not use it in the end, but you might.

    Remember the Bird by Bird review a few weeks ago? Well, I bring this book up again because it had a great point on this subject. She tells you, in your first draft, that it’s better to have a clutter of ideas than too little. That way, you can scavenge all the pretty shiny things out of the pile of crap you write. Sure, it’ll look like someone threw up on your page, but a cluttered room will have more of a trove of interesting things than a room with no furniture, rugs or anything.

  3. Get the Show on the Road

    Now you’re driving, you’re writing your novel now. Everything’s been set up, and now you head off, full speed ahead, and you feel you’re doing great. But, oh wait, Johnny’s got to go to the bathroom, and the car needs to be refueled, and of course, you’re going to need food along the way. Your characters and your plot end up being backseat drivers. You wanted to go to Florida, but oh, wait, Johnny would get killed if he went to Florida, so you’ve got to go to Georgia instead. Wait, Lucy needs a Popsicle, she needs to slow down and breathe the situation in.

    You get it, right? There are too many variables to take into account that won’t be planned. The big difference between writing a first draft and a road trip is that the destination is not set, and it’s more fun if you let it unfold itself. Have someone read the map wrong and take you on some deserted road, with the crusty gas station, but behind a curve unveils a beautiful mountain road. As someone famous said, if you, the write, are not enjoying your book, guess what, your readers won’t either.

  4. Just have fun

    If writing is a road trip, at least try to enjoy it. This is the first draft, so if you’re expecting this to be perfect, you’re going to have a bad time. That means, if you’re an extravert who loves parties, have a little party with this. Maybe even reward yourself with a party. If you’re an introvert who loves to read or play video games, do that. The thing about writing is that it doesn’t NEED to be published. If you want it published, that’s fine, but if you’re a writer who’s still unpublished, then let yourself have fun with it. A breakout novel shouldn’t be a meh, or a ‘oh well, I guess I have the time after I knit and go watch paint dry’. Actually enjoy the work, as sucky as the thing is, and let it be itself, just once.

    Like Anne Lamott said in Bird by Bird, she said to let the first draft romp around like a little child. If it would make your day to have one of your characters say ‘well, get over it poopy-head’, or ‘%$&*’, then you might as well let him say it in the first draft. No one is looking, as long as you don’t let them look. You can dress them up like little penguins later, but that is just for LATER. You will not have fun if you’re a perfectionist. If you are one of those, give yourself a hug in the mirror right now, then punch the perfectionist part of you out of your head, blindfold yourself if you have to, and then use your finger memory to write whatever the hell you want. Have fun.

    The first draft will not always be something that can drag you to your computer, but once you begin and the rush of adrenaline you get from actually WRITING is awesome. The first draft will probabl be the most fun draft you will write, so enjoy it.


    If there are any interested authors out there who would wish to be interviewed on their novel writing process, do feel free to message me/email me at rookswriter@gmail.com and you’ll be featured in next week’s blog.

    Though I’m a day late, Happy 4th of July! Hope the fireworks were awesome, and try not to breathe in too much smoke.

    See you next week America! The land of the (not really) free!


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