Notes on writing a First Draft

90% of Writing is Re-writing

The most productive process I have found for writing a novel is to crank out a first draft as quickly as possible. A first draft comes from the heart. It is in the rewriting, that a writer crafts the work. I spend a lot of time rewriting my first draft and crafting the work at this stage.

When writing a first draft, don’t wait for inspiration. Just write. Most of the time you won’t feel inspired. It is hard work. It’s as simple as that. Just get to it and keep writing. Even if you feel that it is terrible writing, just keep cranking out your first draft. Inspiration comes when you least expect it. Sometimes you will feel inspired when you first sit down to write. If that is the case, run with it. Write as much as you can, as fast as you can, in this wonderful moment of inspiration.

Sometimes you will sit down to write and you won’t feel inspired at all. Just write as much as you can anyway. It might feel like every single sentence is like moving a heavy log down the street by yourself. It is. Just keep hauling the log and eventually it will feel lighter. If you force yourself to write, when you are not inspired, you might find that a few minutes or a few hours later, inspiration will strike and you know exactly what your characters will say and do. This is a magical moment. Stick with it, and write as much as you can as fast as you can. In these moments of inspiration, it will feel like you are just typing and the characters are telling you what they want to say and do. Have fun with this time and remember it the next time you are writing without inspiration.

Sometimes you will write for an entire day and not feel inspired even for one moment. Don’t worry. Writing is just like that. There are good days and bad days. Just like you have good days and bad days at the gym, or on the ski slopes, or at the swimming pool. When you are having a “bad” writing day, just keep writing as much as you can, as fast as you can.

Some days, inspiration will be all over the place and you are in your element. The words and the stories are pouring out of you. You know in these moments you were born to be a writer, that you are writing a masterpiece, that with this work, the world will never be the same again. In these moments, write as much as you can, as fast as you can.

Are you starting to see a theme here? Writing a novel, or a short story, or a play or a screenplay is all about, well, writing it. Your masterpiece won’t get written if you don’t write it. If you can, write every day. If you can’t write every day, write as regularly as you can. It’s like playing the piano—the more often you play, the easier the music will flow. If you haven’t played for a while, you lose your chops.

If you want to keep your chops as a writer, keep writing. Sound simple? It’s not. Writing is hard. And some of us want to do it anyway.