The idea of finishing the first draft – or any draft, honestly – of your novel can be daunting sometimes.
Writing a novel isn’t ‘easy’. You have to go through a lot to make the best you can – several drafts, maybe some outlining, re-reading and editing, and so forth. When it comes down to really getting started on the first steps you’re taking other than thinking about it to getting it done – which could either be outlining or starting the first draft – it can be hard to get yourself motivated to begin.
I like to start off with a first draft that’s sort of just ‘winging it’. Pouring out the ideas and developments I’ve got in mind without really outlining it or following any sort of map for it – this will serve as that map later on. I won’t get my best work done in a first draft, anyways, and I’m much better at getting things down for the first time, I’ve found, if I’m not constricting myself to the limitations of an outline just yet. I like to get the story down and figure out the little things as I go, let myself and my characters lead the way through the story first, so instead of taking the time to create the outline before even starting the first draft, I like to reserve some time to create my mess of a first draft to get everything down beforehand as quickly and enjoyably as I can before going into the rest of the process.
Lately, I’ve been using events like NaNoWriMo, JuNoWriMo, Camp NaNoWriMo, Script Frenzy, and things of that nature to motivate myself to get the first draft done – I’ve only been participating for a short time, but thus far it’s helped me get down the first draft of a script for part of a graphic novel I’m working on developing the story for and the first draft of the first novel in a series I’ve been trying (and failing) to motivate myself to get a good first draft down for almost three years. Putting aside a month or so to get the first draft done helps me do just what I intend with the first draft – just get everything down, every development and idea I have for it, no matter how horrible it may seem, and not let myself go back and fix things as I go.
My several other attempts to start the first draft for this story didn’t work out because I kept distracting myself with editing and making every last thing perfect, second-guessing myself and stressing over making it perfect. That just doesn’t work for me, though – I need to be able to have fun with a first draft. I need to give myself a sort of playground to mess around with and figure out the nooks and crannies of my story in with my first draft. I use my first drafts of things to explore my imagination and my story, to just put down my ideas and give myself something to work from that isn’t an outline. My first draft is an attempt to let myself go wild and get every idea I have that I can get down on the story, well, down on paper (or in a document).
It helps me figure out what works and what doesn’t, and discover new things and ideas about my story that I hadn’t had before. Only then, after I’ve gotten them down in one big document with me and my ideas poured out onto it, will I go through and write an outline for the story, adding, subtracting, and changing what I need to that I can use for my next draft, one that I’ll take more time and thought for. My outlining and rewriting process are things that I will be writing posts on eventually as I tackle those things with my current projects.
The first draft definitely won’t be perfect, and I need an opportunity to let the story go wild on it’s own, to wing it and explore my ‘playground’ before I go into the rest of the process and take the time to put down a comprehensive outline. While I try to make it the best I can, I also try to make it as enjoyable and close to the ideas I have in my head as I go along with it as possible.
To get my first draft done, I remind myself frequently that it will not be perfect and is my way to get things down and have something to work from – you can’t edit a blank page, but that doesn’t mean that the page you edit has to be perfect – it just means you need to get everything down first.