Tips for Getting A Rough Draft Done

Currently, I'm in the middle of finishing my first draft of Vampire Snow White with the goal of having it completed by the end of February. Let me tell you - it certainly is rough!

As of late, the drafting part of writing has been more challenging than usual. It's when I realize that perhaps I didn't plan my novel as well as I thought I did, I'm noticing where all of the holes in my plot/characters/world are, and I'm anxiously waiting to get it done so I can get into editing and revising to make everything all pretty the way I imagined it. 

But, drafting is also a fun part of the writing process. All of the brainstorming and outlining has been happening and now it'll all start to come together and become an actual story - not just ideas in your head. Here are my tips for getting that draft finally done.

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Just Start Writing

A lot of writers talk about writing, but never actually put words to the page. They make excuses of needing inspiration to hit, or they have to figure out a certain aspect of the book first, or their computer doesn't have the program they want, etc.

While sometimes these are all valid, there comes a point where you just have to stop making excuses, sit your ass in the chair, and put words on the page. You don't need to have a fancy writing program or wait for inspiration to hit. Experienced writers who have been doing this for awhile know that you don't wait for your muse to arrive. 

You train your muse to come to you. 

Use your computer, a notebook, a tablet, your phone, ANYTHING. Just sit down and get to work. Sometimes, you have to write a bunch of nonsense or even simply "I don't know what to write" over and over again but eventually the words will come. (Full disclosure:  it's about half way through January and I've barely written a word. Clearly, I need to take my own advice.) Which, brings me to my next point.

The Rough Draft is Going to be Bad

This is one of the biggest hurdles to overcome. Writers will get discouraged that scenes aren't coming out the way they want them to, there's plot holes, and the words don't sound as pretty as they thought they would. But at this point, it's okay.

That's why it's called a ROUGH draft. 

It's supposed to be terrible. 

One of my favorite quotes about writing is from Terry Pratchett. At least according to something I saw on Pinterest, he says, "The first draft is just you telling yourself the story."

The purpose of the rough draft isn't to show it off to people and have others read it. The purpose is to get words on the page and letting yourself discover the story. When you get to editing and revising, you can worry about having it ready for others to read. 

Create a Routine

This is hard for me sometimes, because my work schedule changes from week to week. But, I try to create a routine for myself as best as I can. This is how you train your muse to come to you. Your brain will start to recognize the cues for when you're getting ready to sit and write. And a routine doesn't always have to be a specific time and place. 

Sometimes, your routine is that you always go for a walk before going to write. I've heard Brandon Sanderson say this is what he does, and it helps to clear his mind and get his focus where it needs to be when it's time to sit at the computer. 

Or maybe you have a specific writing playlist you have to listen to when you write. Your mind will start to associate that music with your writing and your muse will wake up upon hearing it. 

Maybe you have a cup of coffee or tea each time you write and that's what helps to get your mind going. 

Whatever it takes, find that sweet spot that helps you get into your writing mode.

Be Flexible

For all of my talk about routine, I'm also a firm believer in being flexible. In an ideal world, I'd have specific days and times I could sit at my computer for hours with a cup of coffee and I could fall into the world and characters for as long as I like.

I don't know about you - but my life isn't like that. Even when I have a day off there's distractions and other things to do. 

Which is why I've trained myself to be flexible. I have Scrivener downloaded on my phone so when I have an idea, or when I'm interrupted in the middle of a scene, I can go ahead and jot it down on the go. Is it ideal? Nope. But it gets the job done.

A lot of times I also end up using Google Docs to get some drafting done because I can get to it anywhere there's a computer and get my word count in for the day. 

A friend of mine who is a new mom had to adjust her routine as well, and train herself to know that when the baby is napping, it's time to write. 

Writing isn't a perfect, ideal, clean, clear-cut, process. As much as I would love it to be, it just isn't.  Being flexible I've found to be essential.

Set a Deadline

There's a reason why National Novel Writing Month works so well for so many people. It has a set deadline. Get 50,000 words done by this date. The end. A deadline is an incredible motivator.

People always say "someday I'll..." but it never happens because "someday" is an obscure time frame. If you say "On this date I'll have 'x' amount done" that's much more concrete and attainable. It's an actual goal, and not just a dream. 

But be sure it's a goal you can attain, or is realistic. For me, if I set a goal to write 100,000 words in one month, I'd get overwhelmed and quit. But, I was able to do 50,000 in November, and I know I'll need roughly another 40-50,000 to finish Vampire Snow White. This means getting that done within two months, is very much a doable goal. 

It can be hard to stick to a deadline you set for yourself if there aren't any consequences. So, I always suggest giving yourself rewards when you reach milestones. "When I have 'x' amount done, I'll get to buy a new book or take myself out to eat somewhere I usually wouldn't go." Or even a small goal like "If I get this chapter done, I can binge watch something on Netflix the rest of the day."

Whatever it takes to get it done, do it!


Those are my suggestions for getting a rough draft completed. What tips and tricks do you have to get a task done? 

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