5 Tips On Writing The First Draft Of A Novel

A pulsing cursor on a blank screen. Fingers hovering over the keyboard. Ideas swilling around your head. Where. To. Start?

Starting off a novel is tricksy. But here's a few things I've learned as I plough into the first draft of my sixth novel.

1. YOU DON'T NEED TO START WRITING YOUR FIRST DRAFT AT THE BEGINNING. Start with the bit you feel like writing. Could be the end. Could be a scene in the middle. Could be a bit of dialogue. Just start writing.

2. SOD THE SPELLING. PAH TO PUNCTUATION. It's more important to get ideas down at this stage rather than have accurate spelling and beautiful punctuation. That can come later.

3. DON'T EXPECT MUCH OF THE FIRST DRAFT TO MAKE THE FINAL CUT: Writing is rewriting someone more talented than I once said. First drafts are there to be bettered, expanded upon, get the red pen treatment. It's the foundation of your novel. Sure, some of the story you write here will make the final draft, but you'll say it better in subsequent drafts. This is the skeleton. The first layer. Don't worry about how bad it is. It's a start.

4. IT'S GOING TO BE MESSY. All over the place. You might not know exactly how your story is going to pan out at this stage. You don't need to. This first draft isn't going to get published. You just need to know the sort of story you want to write, and an idea of how it should start and end. Whether this is how your story will actually start and end, well that's likely to change.

5. WRITE THE BLURB AFTER EVERY DRAFT. It's a great way to hone your story. Once, after I thought I'd finished writing my novel, I wrote a blurb that told a better story than the one I'd actually written. So I went back and rewrote the story to fit the blurb! The book was better for it. You're going to have to write a blurb at some point. Doing it as you go along is a really good exercise.

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