Make a Solid First Draft

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Hello lovelies and welcome back to the blog.

Last week we started talking about revisions and how to get through your draft process. I gave you an overview of how to work through a revision in a way that makes sense so that you are not working against yourself the whole time. I gave you a free revision checklist and if you have not picked that up yet go ahead and grab that now. We are going to go in depth this week into the first item on that checklist which is making a solid first draft.


Answer any unanswered questions you had while writing

People say that they write super messy first drafts, but I write super messy first drafts.

When I’m drafting I am often trying to get through that draft as fast as I possibly can. That means that I will often leave out things that I am unsure of at the time in favor of just getting the draft written. If I am writing a draft and don’t know a street name I will skip it and just write in [INSERT STREET NAME HERE]. I may not have named my school or remembered a word. I may not have done something correctly and while I know that I didn’t do that right, I might not fix it right that instant.

If I have questions about anything or if I have things that I didn’t do or have figured out, I know already that those things need to be fixed before I can even say that my draft is complete. 

As you can see in the text snippet from above whenever I do something like this I indicate that I’ve done it in my manuscript by putting it in brackets. This makes it easily searchable. I go through my manuscript and just look for anything in brackets and address them all one by one. 

As you can see from this image, I tend to be pretty hard on myself sometimes and I would be very embarrassed to send this manuscript to someone with so many of these little snide remarks to myself still in my manuscript. However, when I make a pass of them all at once they make me laugh and it makes it easier to complete the pass as I read the snarky things that I have written to myself.

Finish any unfinished scenes

Sometimes as a writer I leave scenes unfinished. I don’t mean to of course, but it happens. I write linearly, but once in a while I will get stuck on something and skip it. Or alternately I might think that I finished a chapter or scene the night before, start on the next scene or chapter the next day and not realize that I didn’t actually finish the scene or chapter that I was working on. 

Often, if I’ve skipped a scene on purpose I tell myself that I will come back later and fix it. That I will link them up when I figure out how they link. This makes good sense to my brain because it keeps me from getting stuck for too long and my brain says, “It’s okay you’ll figure it out, don’t worry about it,” and I can proceed. However, as brains do, it forgets. So sometimes, I get to the end of the book and say to myself, “Heck yes! I’m done,” when really I still have multiple scenes left unfinished.

And if you think that’s incredible I have more than once convinced myself that I have written an entire draft of something, when in reality I only had part of a draft written.

I do a quick check for this by just looking at the end of paragraphs and scenes. If it seems like I’ve ended a sentence in the middle of a thought, or if I’ve left a huge gap in one scene instead of starting another scene in Scrivener, those can be indicators that I’ve left for myself that I skipped something here. I will often signpost this by writing in all caps or by bracketing it, but I don’t always do that, so a quick look over helps catch this type of thing in my draft.

Do a spelling and grammar check

Do yourself a favor and do a spelling and grammar check. It may seem small, and things are definitely going to change. But before you even think to print your manuscript, do yourself a favor and do a spelling and grammar check first. Your computer can catch plenty of things that you don’t need to have to worry about. 

While you’re at it, add all of your fantasy names, places, etc. to your word processor’s special dictionary. Make sure that you are spelling them correctly, and your word processor won’t flag them unless you have spelled them incorrectly in your manuscript. You can usually do this all at once by going into the dictionary, or by right-clicking something that is spelled correctly and telling it to add to the dictionary.

Print and celebrate

Congratulations! You have a pretty solid first draft. At this point if you wanted to, you could definitely print it out. Not everyone likes to do this but if you wanted to it would be worth printing now. 

At the very least, you have a first draft that’s worth celebrating. I personally am very food motivated and will often celebrate by making myself a luxurious meal, and something sweet to eat from scratch. I will often have this sweet item picked out before I even start my manuscript so that I can think about it and look at it while I am writing. And I generally pair it with something for dinner that is either expensive or difficult to make. Being food motivated means that if it is expensive or difficult that I don’t often make it and it is therefore a luxury to have.

My sweet treat for my vampire manuscript is a blueberry cheesecake. But other times I have made a dutch apple pie, lemon oreo pie, banana cream pie, gingerbread cookies. As far as luxury dinners, the first thing you probably think of would be steak, shrimp, sushi. But I have also in the past done things that are more difficult to make such as a homemade lasagna, or a fried chicken strip meal. If it takes a lot of time to make or to prepare, I generally don’t make it during the weekdays when I am busy. Having a meal that does take a lot of preparation feels to me like a true luxury when I sit down to eat it.

Really, I make whatever I feel like in the moment that will motivate me to get my manuscripts completed.

If you love these tips, I have this entire post as an easy to use printable checklist! If you want it, it’s totally free! 


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