Writing & Blogging

Steps to Writing a Book: The First Draft

After the great response to my last post about pre-writing, I thought I would turn this into a little bit of a series. Basically, I want to help you answer the question, What are the steps to writing a book? After pre-writing comes the actual writing. Everyone has their own process for doing it, but unfortunately there’s only one “official” step: forcing yourself to write. So I thought that I would make things a little fun and write about the different things I tend to think about when I’m writing a first draft. I hope that this makes you laugh a little and helps to demystify the drafting process.

Steps to Writing a Book: Pre-Writing

There are multiple steps to writing a book, but one of the hardest is writing the first draft. It can take a lot out of you, but you can do it. I hope this slightly humorous explanation of what writing a first is actually like will help prepare you for your own first draft.

Okay, I’m going to write this book. I can do it. – This is when you’re sitting down to write and all of a sudden it’s a lot more nerve wracking than you thought and so you pump yourself up in order get this writing party started.

Wait … this is harder than I expected. – And then you realize just how hard writing a book really is. (The first 5,000 words are brutal, man.)

Why is it so hard to get these words out? – You’ve been writing for a little while and you’re still not very far into your outline or plan. How is that possible?

Okay, I can do it. I’m doing it. – You do it by forcing yourself to the keyboard or to the pen and paper. It’s hard, especially in the beginning of the novel when you’re not at the really good stuff yet, but you just have to make yourself write.

Yeah! I’m doing it! – But eventually you hit your groove and becoming a writing machine and it feels amazing.

This is great. I’m great. This book is great. – This might last for a few thousand words or ten thousand words; it depend on the book.

Aaaaaaaand now there are no more words. All the words are gone. – But eventually you hit writer’s block. When I was writing the first draft of Aureole, I hit major writer’s block at around 30,000 words. I just couldn’t make the words come any more.

I hate this book. – A part of writer’s block can often include hating your writing or the book itself, especially because your idea of what the book can be and what the first draft is often differ from each other. .

The words are back! This is hard again, but I can do it. – Pushing yourself through the other side of writer’s block is really hard, but it’s doable.

This book sucks. – At some point, you really hate your book. Possibly at multiple points. It’s hard to remember that editing is when you’ll make it as amazing as you think it could be and to try to hold back feeling angry with your book and your writing.

How am I only halfway through? – This is probably the hardest part for me. Aureole was over 80,000 words and (right now) TLM is on track to be equal with that if not longer. But 40,000 words is a LOT, and to put in that much work to be only halfway through is super frustrating.

I’m not happy with the words, but it’s a first draft. It’s okay. – At some point, you accept that first drafts are always terrible. It’s a hard thing to accept because generally a part of you thinks that this time will be different, but it’s not. All first drafts are terrible.

Actually, it’s terrible. But the words are still coming, so I won’t question it. – Once you’ve been through really bad writer’s block, you don’t care as much about the quality of the words if the words are still coming.

And the words are gone again. Goddammit. – And then you hit writer’s block again. I think everyone hits it at least twice over the course of a first draft, so once you accept that this happens to every one, you’ll be kinder to yourself when it happens.

(Swears) (Swears again) (Swears a third time) – I can’t tell you how many times I swore when writing the first draft of TLM. Let me just say that it was a lot. Just because you know that it’s natural to hit writer’s block doesn’t mean that you aren’t going to be annoyed about it.

Ever wonder what it's actually like to write a first draft of a novel? I'm breaking it down in what I hope is a humorous way to show you the rollercoaster of emotion that writing the first draft is.

The words are back, but this is painfully slow. – It’s really hard to motivate yourself to get through the painfully slow parts of the book, but you have to do it. You become a writer when you power through the tough parts of writing instead of giving up.

I just had a great idea of a plot addition! – At some point, you will have an amazing idea. Whether it actually is amazing or whether you just think it will be cool (but it isn’t) depends on each person and each book, but you will think about this at some point.

Why did I start this book? Why did I start writing in the first place? Who did I think I was? – But the self-doubt will hit you probably at multiple points in the writing process. Accept that it will happen and remind yourself not to listen to the self-doubt.

I can’t do this. – The self-doubt gets strongest right before it recedes.

I can do this! The words are working so well right now. – But then you become a master of your story again and it feels amazing.

The end is so close! – A really big motivator is knowing that you’re reaching the end. Things start to feel real and it’s exhilerating.

Wait … the thing I added makes this longer than originally planned. – And then you’re brought back down to earth. That awesome idea you added? It makes the novel longer. This isn’t a bad things; it can just annoy you when you think that you’re getting to the end.

Steps for Writing a Book: The First Draft Click To Tweet

Okay, now I’m getting close to the end. – You start feeling excited about getting to the end again.

How do I end this? What makes a good last line? – But then you get nervous. What’s the best way to end this? Am I doing this right?

I should probably get through the last 5,000 words, though. – It’s easy to overthink the ending in your head when you’re not actually at the ending. But don’t let that stop you from doing the work!

I think these are the hardest couple of thousand words of the entire thing. – There’s so much that you want to wrap up, and you want to do it right. It’s a lot harder than you think it will be, but you have to get through it.

How do I end this? – Now that you’re actually at the ending, you have to find out the way to do it. What exactly do you say? How do you make it sound good?

Wait – I’ve got it. – And then it hits you and …


What was writing a first draft like for you?

Like this post? Check out:

How To Build a World Like a Pro, How To Edit Your Novel without Hating Your Life, Why You Should Just Write Your Damn Book, Writing a Book: How To Power through the End

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