By Signe Pike
“I’m working on a novel”
If you’ve ever uttered these words you are most likely acquainted with the particular horrors of trying to complete a first draft. So many things rear up to challenge a writer in this fragile but crucial stage. Without a first draft you complete nothing – there is nothing to revise, submit, and hopefully publish. As a former book editor turned author, I’ve witnessed war stories from both sides of the desk. But when it came time to write my first historical novel, The Lost Queen, I found myself up against the beast in a new way. Here’s what worked for me. I hope it may also work for you.
Create a Room of Your Own
Whether it’s a coffee shop, a designated office, a cleared out closet or a privacy screen that separates a space, just like you eat at your kitchen table or workout at a gym, having a designated writing place is hugely important in creating a habit. When you sit and settle into your space routinely, you’ll find it’s much easier to plug in and pick up where you left off in your project.
Schedule Your Time
Make a commitment to touch the keys or put pen to paper daily. This helps keep your head in your book and helps you hit your word count (see below). Schedule and protect your writing time like a dragon protects its treasure. You may have to wake up early or stay up late, but when you’re committed to completing a book, you have to create and protect your time. Yes it’s hard. Depending on the demands of your life, it can seem damn near impossible. But if you don’t learn to do this, your writing will always be a periphery priority and you may languish in first draft purgatory for eternity.
Commit to a Word Count and Track Your Words
In Stephen King’s book On Writing he recommends writers try to hit 2,000 words a day. I made that my goal and then tracked my progress in a word document with columns containing the date, the word count I began with and the word count I finished with. I tally them up after each session and also record how many pages I have in total. Some dismal days I only manage 100 words. But the days I hit my word count I feel incredible. When I write daily and track my progress, I can see that I am indeed progressing. I can see I’m building a book.
Silence Your Inner Critic
Nothing this evil voice has to say (rising as it does from the depth of your inner gloom, pain or insecurities) is going to help you complete a first draft. In fact, your inner critic would be quite happy if you never finished the manuscript at all, because then you wouldn’t fail and you were never good enough anyway – STOP! Begin to recognize the voice of your inner critic as it surfaces. Your only job in building a first draft is to let the writing flow. If a sentence comes into your mind, obey it and write it down. This is the time for freedom and flow. Revision comes later.
Get to know Signe Pike over at The Bright Side at Kobo.com!
Signe Pike is the author of the travel memoir Faery Tale and has researched and written about Celtic history and folklore for more than a decade. A former book editor, she lives in Charleston, South Carolina where she writes full time. Visit her at SignePike.com
Great post. Simple steps, but crucial to getting the work done! The biggest game changer for me was designating space for my writing. Now, when I go to that spot, my brain responds with “muscle memory” and knows it’s time to get writing!