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11 Commandments For Writing A First Draft

Welcome to WEEK 6 of

52 Weeks of 52 Kick Ass Writing Tools.  Today we are talking about writing your first draft - and the essential mindset you will need for success.

Some clients have printed these out and put them next to their computers while they wrote the first draft.  Feel Free to do so!

Q:  What are the 11 Commandments for writing a first draft?

A:  So glad you asked.  Here they are:

The 11 Commandments for Writing a First Draft

1. Have realistic expectations.  Understand what a first draft is.  It’s a skeleton.  It’s THE FRAME of a house - the wooden beams and concrete floor - no tiled roof or pretty painted windows.  Just the basics.  If you get any more than that - great.  But expect to get the frame of your story and be happy with that, damn it.

2. Write Daily. Writing daily keeps you in shape, keeps you moving, discovering and working toward your goal.  Judy Reeves, Author of A Writer’s Book of Days states, “If you will practice every day, and be gentle with yourself, you will be amazed.  Your writing will be fresher, livelier, and more spontaneous.  You will take more risks, write more passionately, and reach into places you didn’t know existed.”

3. Take care of your body and mind.  Do your best to eat well, sleep well, exercise regularly and care for your soul.  Care for your body translates into a more flexible, more creative mind.

4. Don’t talk about the project you are working on much (if at all). I prefer to tell one or two people because it helps me to remain accountable.  Other than that I keep my mouth shut during the first draft phase.  Some writers do not talk about their writing until they have a readable draft.  Why?  Because talking about it seems to take some of the energy out of you that you might use for writing.  Also, you risk getting discouraged by some person’s misguided opinions.  Think of yourself as entering a nest of creation - limit the amount of opinions that enter this nest.

“I think it’s bad to talk about one’s present work, for it spoils something at the root of the creative act.   It discharges the tension.”  ~Norman Mailer

5. Keep your muse well fed.  Discover what inspires you and keep it handy.  I love to read, The Art of Dramatic Writing by Lajos Egri and The Art and Craft of Playwriting by Jeffrey Hatcher.  In my mind both are classics and they always feed me ideas for my own writing practice.  I also like Calvin and Hobbs and Green Eggs and Ham.

6. Learn how to manage poisonous thoughts and moods.  The inner critic, self-defeating thoughts, the anti-writer - whatever you call it, every writer experiences thoughts and moods that work against their productivity.  Each writer is able to work through their poisonous thoughts differently.  But you MUST, I repeat MUST find out how to manage them.

7. Commit to finishing.  As you will learn, this tenacious attitude is vital for the entire process.

8. Incorporate play into your writing routine.  It will make the first draft more of a lighthearted adventure.  You will beat yourself up less and your ideas will be fresher and more plentiful.

9. Expect incomplete-ness, un-brilliance, awkwardness and fat.  A first draft comes out with many holes, with uninspired moments, with sentences that don’t make sense and tons of over-writing.  Is it still a successful first draft?  YES!

10. Do the pre-writing work.  Just do it.  You will want to skip the planning and just start putting words on the page.   I know you.  But don’t do it.  Make a map first.  There is a reason for so much planning.  You will thank me when you get to the mid-point and you are not inexplicably stuck, or when you go to re-write and you are not staring at a confusing jumbled mess of words.

11. Reward yourself for the small moments.  So many people curtail their writing because - “It’s just not coming out perfectly brilliant.”  Learn to reward yourself in small ways for staying committed, focused and the words flowing.  Reward yourself for the words coming out un-brilliant (my word) and imperfect and writing the next day anyway!



Disclaimer:  By writing this post I am in no way mocking the ten commandments - I find them highly useful as well.  😉

Photo Credit:  Copyright: <a href=’’>domdeen / 123RF Stock Photo</a>

Copyright: <a href=’’>albund / 123RF Stock Photo</a>



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