To light a fire under my bottom in composing the first draft of my next WIP, I've decided to sign up for the 300 Words in 30 Days challenge over at Go Teen Writers. Basically it is an event taking place through the month of March (which will be upon us just tomorrow already, wowzers!) where participants write 300 words every day for 30 days. Pretty straightforward, eh? I think so.
According to my calculations (which can be totally off because among the many things I suck at, math is one of them), I could come out of this with about 9,000 words written up for my work in progress. This would be HUGE, since I don't plan this book to be very big at all.
In any case, I signed up because a little accountability goes a long way for me. I do have a certain (small) amount of self-discipline, which I used to help me finish my 100,000 + word fantasy novel last summer. But it took me two long, slow years and I would like to get through some other first drafts a little speedier. So I would like to work on 'Faithless' this March, my WIP which you can read about under my "About My Writing" page. I got the idea for the story from a weird dream I had and have been pretty intrigued by it since. So tomorrow, March 1st, I am going to get started with it.
Completing a first draft is never an easy thing to do, it takes a lot of hard work and perseverance to produce a whole story onto a page. And that doesn't even mark the end of the process! There's second, third, fourth, fifth, etc drafts to get through after that. Then the querying, publishing, marketing...writing a book is hard, guys. :P
But obviously, the first step is the first draft. In all honesty, there isn't much more satisfying than having that work of your own finally completed and in front of you in all its glory. The ways to get to this place are as varied as the writers themselves and there are dozens of different methods that work for dozens of different people.
Today I've decided to share a few of my own methods for getting through a first draft, the ways that have worked for me and some of my tips and tricks. I mean, you gotta have some sort of plan to get through sixty chapters of complicated fantasy plot.
So, without further ado, here are Five of Emily's Ways to Get Through a First Draft...
1. Self-imposed Deadlines
I have found this to be the best way to get through the first draft of a manuscript. I don't have a lot of self-discipline, but I do have enough to manage this. While I was working on my fantasy novel, The Awakening, I made myself complete one chapter per week. For this story, it was a fantastic method. My chapters were just long and difficult enough to need that whole week's worth of attention and I generally met my deadline every time (so long as I didn't have a camp job or something to do). I have used this method of writing in various ways, from completing a novella for my boyfriend by Valentine's Day, or finishing a novel for a Christmas present. With a little motivation and determination, a self-imposed deadline is not unreachable.
2. Deadlines Enforced By Others
Sometimes though, you need the extra kick in the pants that a deadline imposed by someone else can give. Such as the 300 in 30 challenge I described above. The accountability of an outside source can really encourage and motivate you beyond what you thought you were capable of. It's not fun to fail, but it's even less fun when people know you did. So let some people into your life to watch over you. Let them know what you are working on, what your goals are, what you hope to accomplish. Open up your writing life so that others can ask, prod, encourage, reprimand, all those good things. You can do this by having a critique partner, submitting some of your manuscript to a writing club, signing up for challenges like the 300 in 30 and many, many more ways. The possibilities are endless.
3. Setting a Writing Time
Setting aside time to write is critical to the task of writing. I mean, you kind of need to be writing to actually finish your writing, ya know? While I was writing my fantasy novel I found what worked best for me was waking up an hour before the rest of my family, logging onto our big home computer rather than my laptop, and just writing for an hour there. Not letting myself be distracted by other things but simply focusing on the words before me and in me. I got a lot done in that time. Now I use my laptop and write whenever I have the time since I am a lot busier now and don't have a set manuscript in progress at the moment. But I definitely got some of my best writing done while working early in the morning alone. Of course not everyone will be able to write in the morning, for some it might work better to write in the evening, or the afternoon, or the middle of the night. Find what works for you and make it your time. Your book's time. If your novel is important to you then you owe it that much. If you're serious about writing, don't neglect it! Just do it!
4. Know Where You Are Going
Nothing kills a story faster than not actually knowing where to go next. Trust me, been there, done that. Not cool. It really helps a lot to give yourself some direction with your story. You need a little more than an idea once you get into the writing. You need to know where you are going and where you *hope* to end up. I say that lightly, because I know that stories are changeable and adaptable. They rarely, if ever, follow strictly the path you lay out at the beginning of your drafting. However, if you have absolutely no clue about what to do past chapter one, you are probably going to run into some problems. Even if you end up totally veering away from your outline, at least you had something to get you going, right?
And, on that note, I encourage people to plot out their stories before writing. Give yourself a little bit of help, you'll be thankful you did.
5. Be Consistent
Going hand-in-hand with the previous point, consistency is key. I know that - for me at least - the moment I lose momentum in my writing life and begin to falter in my commitment is when I start losing. I cannot stress how important it really is to remain loyal and determined in your writing, and how easy it is to stumble. How many great stories do you think never have seen the light of day or even their own end because a writer lost their desire to keep fighting for the finish line? Probably a lot. And that's pretty sad.
Don't give up! Be consistent! Persevere! You can do it!
So, there you have it, friends. Five ways to persevere through your first draft. What are some of your methods and what have you personally found to work best in your own writing life? Let me know in the comments! Cheers!