Completing My First Draft: Three Things I’ve Learned


Two weeks ago today, I had a fabulous evening.

Late on that Friday afternoon, I typed the last word of the last sentence of the last chapter of my Work In Progress. It felt wonderful! What a sense of satisfaction filled me as I raised my glass of Cabernet and toasted to my awesomeness. What an accomplishment! I spent the rest of the evening, and well into the night, celebrating, mentally patting myself on the back and grinning like an idiot.

My euphoria lasted about as long as the hangover. Over the next couple of days as planned, I reviewed a few of the writing tips and tricks I had bookmarked for my upcoming revision and editing process, and I crashed back to sober reality. I realized there was still plenty of work ahead, and instinctively I know certain areas have to be improved, rearranged, and completely rewritten, and then there’s my iPad with an app full of collected notes, jockeying to make it into the finished product as well.

But that’s okay. Every writer knows the first rough draft is exactly that: a first run, a rough copy, and yes, some of it is just plain shit. But in among the steaming heaps that stank, I knew there were jewels just waiting to be polished, the little jewels that make it all worthwhile.

Here are three chief concepts I believe every writer, who truly wants to be a writer, needs to remember.

1. No one wants to read about a Goody Two Shoes. If I expect readers to keep turning the pages, my characters have to be flawed. Whether that makes you like them, or love to hate them, depends on the types of flaws they embody – and maybe it depends on the sort of person you are, and what types of characters you are drawn to and like to read about. As important as plot may be, really, it’s all about the characters.

2. If you aren’t having any fun while you write, I don’t know how you will ever make it as a writer. A writer writes because she wants to, she has to, regardless of recognition or book sales. The fulfilment is in the process. And it’s a hard process. The best piece of advice I read about writer’s block was to put the manuscript aside and try penning a poem, or exploring another creative endeavor.

3. You have to want to write another book as soon as you’re finished the one you are now writing, The sweet possibility of a sequel keeps whispering in my ear, and that excites me. If I do write a sequel, however, it doesn’t mean the first one will depend on it. The novel I’m writing now will be able to stand alone in its own right. Then there are the flashes of inspiration for other book ideas that come during my writing, to which I can refer and develop when needed.

I’m waiting another couple of weeks to give myself more objectivity, before I start revisions. In the meantime there are plenty of good books and other reading material that beg for my attention.

Then on to the Second Draft!

Please share your thoughts with me about your Work in Progress. 🙂


The Creation of a Novel: a Progress Report

51 thoughts on “Completing My First Draft: Three Things I’ve Learned

  1. I started a novel some five years ago, and so far have not got past my first draft, so you have passed the first hurdle, by finishing the first write. Then the fun begins a re-write, and dialogue, where one can make it come alive…

    My problem is, I have attempted a novel before, but after first draft, editing and dialogue it end up as a novelette. This time will be different I hope, as it is based on fact and fiction with a little bit of history rolled in to give it that extra.

    So I hope you do better than I, and don’t edit it too much, and find it is too short when you have finished.


    1. Hi, thanks for your comment! The thought has crossed my mind, the possibility of my novel being too short after revision, but I also have copious notes kept, of ideas that never made it into the first draft. So even though I may be cutting some content, there will be a lot added to it as well.
      I wish you luck with your WIP. Please keep us posted as to your progress. 🙂


  2. I got a piece of writing advice a few months ago that has helped me tremendously: “Writing is like sex. If you’re not enjoying it, you’re doing something wrong.” I always think about that now as I’m writing/revising sections. If I’m not having fun with the scene I’m writing, I either turn it into something that IS fun to write, or I delete it.


  3. Bravo! I love your 3 steps — my WIP continues to idle as I engage in so many other creative processes — and the daily work that engages and inspires me.

    I’m thinking this winter will be a great time to sit down and finish my WIP!


    1. Thanks, Diana. Some people I know thought I was writing a biography or memoir of sorts, but no, it is realistic fiction, a coming of age in the early 90’s in St. John’s. That is all I will reveal right now. 😉


  4. Wonderful!

    This message is invaluable for writers. You’ve got to love the process. There is so much labor that goes into every single project. Especially a book! Congratulations on this feat. And keep going. As long as you love it, it will always be rewarding.


    1. Well done Jennifer you should be very proud of your achievements. The first level of work is done and now revision is the stuff that separates the faint hearted from the real deal. I am feeling your excitement, are you able to share the name of your book? I understand some publishers do not like when we publish exerts so keeping it under wraps is a must. I raise my glass and cheer you onwards my friend and can’t wait until you finish and I can buy it off the shelf.


      1. I am feeling proud on reaching this first level, Kath, and am eagerly looking forward to the next. I think I’m going to enjoy it. No final decision on the title yet; I’m thinking I should wait until I’m through with the second draft.
        Thank you for all the encouragement you give me, with my book and my blog. It means a lot. x


        1. Jennifer we can inspire each other to keep going, Im just about to send my book out to a publisher that this month is opening their submissions up to picture books, I know there will be plenty of keen people like me sending their books in and to be picked up would be a miracle, I need to start somewhere. Enjoy your next level.


            1. Jennifer thank you, the illustrations are taking some time but they only wanted to view a couple of pieces of artwork, so I thought what the hey, may as well show them what I have so far. Now thinking about my tween novels stored away. i thought if I start with something small I can learn the ropes along the way. Discovered a picture book is no easier to get finished if you are doing illustrations lol!


  5. It is fantastic that you have finished the first draft of your book. I am SO happy for you.
    You include excellent tips for anyone thinking of writing or in the process of writing.
    I too have a book idea (non-fiction) and before it is even finished I am thinking about the next.
    So I am not sure whether I would have the aptitude of the editing required to get either of them to the finished product.
    Only time (and a lot of writing and editing) will tell.


    1. I and your other followers know how well you can write, Elizabeth. You can always get help with the editing part of it. I’d be interested to know what your other book idea is. 🙂 Thank you so much for your continuing support!


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