I am not a clean first drafter. I write fast and dirty. I don’t know what is going to happen at the end of the book when I begin. I only have a general idea of the story and the world and the main characters. So how do I do it?
1. I trust my subconscious. Even if there’s no reason to trust it. Just write and see if it works. I’m not saying it will every time, but a lot of the time, your subconscious is smarter than your conscious mind.
2. I don’t stop to look up facts unless I absolutely have to. You don’t usually need to spend ten hours researching something in a first draft. You have no idea if that part is going to stay in the book or not.
3. I remember a first draft is for broad strokes. That means I don’t worry about the small stuff. I don’t craft beautiful sentences. I don’t worry about great cliff hangers.
4. I don’t care about starting with the right first chapter. The book is going to change a lot, so don’t worry about what is the right, gripping first sentence. Don’t worry about attracting readers or editors or agents right now.
5. I spend some time trying to get to know my narrator. To me, the narrator matters the most in the book. This means that I will sometimes write a few chapters of back story (not meant to be included in the book) that are mostly for me so that I know what is at stake for the narrator. Yes, something big has to be at stake for your narrator.
6. I remind myself no one will ever see this draft. It’s just for me, not for other people.So if I don’t want to write description or dialog tags or stage movements, I don’t have to. Everything can happen with talking heads (it usually does for me) and that’s great.
7. I give myself permission to do it wrong. Wrong, wrong, wrong. Seriously, very wrong. I can’t be embarrassed because I already know how stupid I am. The one person I never try to fool is me.
8. I try things that I know I don’t have the skills to do. I push myself because I’m just playing around.
9. I don’t go back and reread or edit as I go. OK, yes, I will go back and swiftly reread the last few pages I wrote before, and I might spend 10 minutes fiddling, but no more than that. Just keep pushing through.
10. I don’t let anyone read my first drafts. If someone walks into the room, I close my computer or angle it away. This helps protect my fragile writer self who needs to be private.
This method may not work for you at all. I don’t mean to suggest that every writer should draft this way. But if you are someone who has been told to write outlines and that just doesn’t work for you or if it feels stifling (as it does to me), you might try some of these tips and adapt them to your own style of drafting to good effect.