We all know the first draft is shit. (Hemingway said it, not me.) But does that make it any easier to put those stomach-churning sentences to the page? Sometimes it does, and sometimes it doesn’t. For those days when you can’t seem to do anything but stare at a blinking cursor, here are five ways to smash through the wall of self-doubt and convince yourself to write that first draft—in all its typo-riddled, repetitive, ambiguity-filled glory.
We’ve been told over and over how important the beginning is, so we find ourselves stuck on the first page, wondering if the opening we’ve chosen will hook readers. Guess what? It doesn’t matter! As an editor, I can tell you that most stories start in the wrong place anyway. That’s what the editing process is for. You’re going to change your opening scene, maybe even write a whole new one. So don’t worry about it. Just get going and see what happens. And if you’re still having a hard time fighting off those doubts, start somewhere you know won’t be the first scene. There’s no rule that says you have to write your story in order.
For anyone who’s participated in NaNoWriMo, this one will sound familiar! Set a timer for ten minutes, and tell yourself you cannot stop writing until time’s up. If you’re typing, the keys must be making noise. If you’re writing by hand, the pen must be moving. Some even set a no backspacing rule. The goal is to crank out as many words as you possibly can. Don’t think, and don’t worry if they’re complete and utter shit. This is a fantastic technique to get you across rough transitions or through scenes you’re nervous about writing. Set aside your fears and doubts, and just write.
Victoria Griffin is an author and editor based in East Tennessee. She provides developmental and line editing for traditionally and independently publishing authors. Her short fiction has appeared in more than 40 publications, and she is represented by Sandy Lu of L. Perkins Agency.
She is the author of the workbooks Edit Like a Pro and Craft Your Query. She is also the owner of Blue Pen Publishing Services, which provides book design and branding services for independent authors. Email Victoria.