How to Write a Book – 5 Tips for Completing your First Draft

National Novel Writing MonthThinking of writing your own book or short story?

For many people it’s a life goal, but completing the first draft can be the most challenging part of the job. With these 5 tips you’ll be well-equipped to write a book and pursue your dream.

1. Write the first draft as quickly as you can – Let the ideas and images flow. Discover where the story wants to go. If you do have an outline, work with it but accept that you may change direction along the way.

When first learning how to write fiction, I took to heart this quote from John Fowles:

I do not plan my fiction any more than I normally plan woodland walks; I follow the path that seems most promising at any given point, not some itinerary decided before entry.

2. Don’t stop to edit – You may end up trashing the chapter you’re working on. Write what first comes to mind then move on. When you’ve spent time editing work, it’s harder to let go of it, and at some point you may need to.

3. Put away your inner-critic. Whether you are physically editing your work as you go along or not, you can guarantee your inner critic will be. Anything you can do to shake off this familiar foe will help. Set yourself a target page count and don’t re-read until you reach it.

4. Accept that you may throw out much of what you have written. When learning how to write, you will inevitably write many pages of text that will later be cut.  This doesn’t make what you have written a waste of time; hold on to that work – it could be useful at a later date.

5. Don’t be afraid to go in a different direction. Perhaps you outlined your novel, perhaps not. Whatever your process, your novel is likely to change along the way as you learn more about your story and your characters. It’s a journey – go with it. By the time you reach your destination, it may look nothing like you thought it would.

What’s the most important part of this process? Getting the words on the page. Only when you have the frame can you begin to build the interior.

For more insight on this and related topics, visit our writing forums and learn from our community of writers.

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