Nine Things I Learned Writing the First Draft of my First Novel

I finished my draft. Of a novel. For real.

*Insert screaming. Lots of screaming*

Nine months. It has been nine months since I first came up with this crazy idea and started spending all my time writing or researching about writing. So yes, basically my book is akin to a child.

I know a lot of you are aspiring writers—even if we’re all at varying stages in the writing process. Outlining, drafting, editing, querying, it can be a confusing sea that many get lost in. So today, I’m sharing the top  9 things I learned while writing my first draft.

  1. It’s impossible to write it perfectly the first time. You’ll drive yourself crazy if you obsess over getting all the details perfect immediately. The first draft is just to tell yourself the story. You can fix your prose and iron everything out during the revision stage. It took me awhile to learn this, but once I allowed myself to just move on when I would get stuck on a line that I didn’t like the sound of, I started to make some real progress. Your only goal for the first draft should be to create a rough but complete story that you can refine from there.
  2. It might be your book, but that doesn’t mean it won’t grow into a creature of its own. The plot will mature and grow whether you want it to or not. Ideas expand, characters become more complicated, your book might take some turns that you hadn’t originally expected. Don’t worry; forcing an outdated outline to happen won’t make the writing feel genuine. It’s best to accept that your characters are the drivers on this adventure and you’re just along for the ride.
  3. Don’t be disconcerted if some of your ideas feel like something you’ve read before. We’re all inspired by the things we read and see; as long as you can create a unique spin and stay true to your voice, it will feel like new. (This doesn’t mean that you can copy other people purposefully, but broad ideas like magic or mythical creatures have inevitably been featured in other books before. Make them your own.) I was so freaked out when I read the Young Elites because an element in that book felt like one of the major ‘game changers’ in my novel, but I took a breath and realized that they still read uniquely.
  4. Those ideas you love the most…they might not actually fit in your novel. This goes back to those damn protagonists hellbent on dictating their own plot line. You might have this incredible piece of dialogue that makes you feel witty and ingenious, but if the scene grows and becomes incompatible, it will just read flat. If you’ve ever heard the saying “Kill your Darlings”, it doesn’t actually refer to those horrible character deaths that leave you crying for months (Sarah J Maas I am looking at you). Kill your Darlings refers to cutting out lines during revisions; your precious words can’t all have their time in the spotlight.
  5. Keep a second word document for your ‘deleted scenes’. Those precious words you slaved over and I just told you to kill—yeah I lied, kind of. Don’t actually delete those huge chunks of text or those special little lines because later on in the writing or revising process, you might find you need them. ‘Tis better to have and not want than want and not have.” Don’t create extra work for yourself by rewriting when you could just copy and paste.
  6. Write what you love, not what’s on trend. Let’s be honest, we all secretly want to breach that bestseller list, but trying to copy the books that ‘made it’ isn’t the way to get there. By the time you finish editing and actually move towards publication, that trend you killed yourself trying to fit into will be over. Create an idea you love and let the rest fall where it will.
  7. Study your craft. Read books in your genre. Read books out of your genre. Watch videos on improving your writing. Treat it like the art it is and practice, practice, practice. Where I’m at as a writer compared to where I was 90,000 plus words ago is incredible. The more you write the better the result will be.
  8. It should never feel like work. Don’t force deadlines on yourself or miss out on experiences that could inspire you just to sit around rewriting the same paragraph fifteen times. Writing should be fun. Unless it’s your full time job, don’t turn it into something you’ll grow to dread.
  9. Just keep writing. 

Let me know what you’ve learned through your writing experience in the comments below.

5 thoughts on “Nine Things I Learned Writing the First Draft of my First Novel”

  1. Congrats on finishing your first draft! This is a very helpful and informative post, and your first point is especially reassuring as I am one of those people who likes what I write to be perfect the first time around.
    I have written non-fiction books and I guess it doesn’t matter so much with those, but if I was to turn my hand to fiction (I would really like to!), I might have to face up to it and admit I won’t get it perfect the first time.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. This was really helpful. I’m only 14000 words into my first draft but I hope to finish by the end of the summer. Editing will probably be the death of me because I usually don’t get that far.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you!! That’s a great start, I wish you the best in finishing it. I’ve already begun tearing apart my manuscript page by page, line by line, and although it’s challenging, I still love seeing everything shape into a more refined version of what’s in my head.


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