Thursday, November 8, 2012

Five Tips for Surviving a First Draft

by Malena Lott

I love the idea of NaNoWriMo. Writers around the world pecking away at a keyboard, putting the stories in their minds on paper, many for the first time. And then there are writers like me who have attempted "NanoNovember" for seven years and only "won" two, which means I hit 50,000 word count. For a professional writer, writing 1900 words a day isn't a big stretch. But doing it every day to get to 50K can be a big challenge, even for the high-stamina daily writers among us. No matter how long that first draft takes us, it's tough. I'm trying to finish the last 50k of my first mystery/suspense story, so you can be sure I'm in the speed boat with you, writers. The pic to the right is me last week at Starbucks with my handy iPad (I use omm or iWriter) and fold up bluetooth keyboard. Here are my five tips for surviving the first draft. 

  1.  Auto program the coffee pot so you can plug that caffeine drip in as soon as you wake. No Facebookin' or tweeting before you get your word count in. Trust me on this. I have to have the pot of dark roast made before I get up at 6 a.m. I can't write more than this: hieooafhewnfanvzjod without a strong cup of java. 
  2. Have a plan of attack. You wouldn't go on a trip without deciding where you're going and how you're going to get there, right? And rearranging your schedule to make the trip possible? Same goes for your first draft. Know what you're story is about before you get started - at least the goal, motivation, big conflict and main characters - is key, and then invite your characters into your convertible with the top down and enjoy the ride! (And do not allow the naysayers in the backseat. They will try to get you to pull over and go back, and that's not conducive to First Draft Finish Line.)
  3. Go into hiding. You'll only survive your first draft by cozying up to your story. For me, that means to write in my studio in the garage where it's quiet and I can't hear the kids and hubby getting ready for school. Depending on your circumstances, it may mean keeping your novel-writing affair quiet. I mean, you and your first draft are intimate. You don't have to spill the beans of every base you get to. Besides, no one is going to understand why you are so infatuated with your story but you. You going ALL THE WAY is totally your business. They'll understand why you were so infatuated when it's all done and you get the book deal. 
  4. Be gentle on yourself. Be tough on yourself. So here's where the yin-yangy business comes into writing your first draft. You have to go easy on yourself in regards to not judging your writing at this leg of the journey and you have to be tough on yourself to see your story through to the end. You get to keep your butt on the seat even when you don't feel "in the mood" and honor that time with your story. If you're like me, the ahas may come when you are not in front of your computer, but you still need sit and write every day.
  5. Make writing a top priority. The first draft can't become a second or third or final draft until it's completed, which means you have to make writing an "inked" to-do, not a penciled in, if I get around to it. I'm living, breathing proof that you can still hold down a job and be a good mom while writing a novel. Just be selective of how you spend your time. For me, no (or a little) TV and working from home (owning my own business) helps keep fiction-writing a top priority, but I'm still a dance mom, den mom, homework helper and so on. What I'm NOT is a good cook, great housekeeper or social butterfly. I would choose work and writing over grocery shopping any day. But I know plenty of writers that keep the dust bunnies at bay. Just choose what works for you. Or who, if you can hire a maid and a cook. *I wish*


I also achieve word count by hopping around in the story if I need to. I try to keep things pretty linear, so often it's more about going back and filling in a scene because of a new plot point or twist or sub-plot versus skipping ahead. The truth is, you'll never know unless you try. Give yourself permission to experiment. You can always cut stuff later. 


Happy reading and writing, friends. 

GIVEAWAY:
Today I'm giving away a digital copy of any one of my ebooks gifted to your Kindle or Nook to one lucky commenter. Books to choose from: 
Novels: Fixer Upper, The Stork Reality or my new novel, Something New
Novellas: Life's a Beach or The Last Resort

I'm also running a November promo. If you buy Something New in the Kindle store, I'll gift you one of my short stories. Either "Snowflakes and Stones," or "The Pool Boy." Just email me your receipt to malenalott (at) me (dot) com before month's end.

Praise for Something New


“Something New is something wonderful! Malena Lott understands love…and knows that it’s ageless. This book is a treasure.”—Ellen Meister, author of The Other Life
“I am completely smitten with Something New: it’s endearing, romantic, and utterly satisfying, with characters so well-developed they feel like old friends. Highly recommended for mothers, daughters, granddaughters, and sisters.”
—Jess Riley, author of Driving Sideways
“Utterly charming, romantic, and beautifully written, Something New is the story of three generations of mothers and daughters struggling to define their relationships and to ultimately find their own place in the world. I absolutely loved it!” —Maria Geraci, author of A Girl Like You 
“Three generations of women in Malena Lott’s Something New discover that it’s never too late to rediscover and redefine some things old, like love and family. The Apples are witty, passionate women with just enough angst to remind us of people we know…like ourselves.”- Christa Allan, author of Love Finds You in New Orleans

25 comments:

  1. Lovely, vibrant cover, Malena. I love it.

    These are great tips for getting through the important first draft. I still need to work on points 4 and 5. While I do have three completed manuscripts, one of which sold, I have several other partial manuscripts that I really want to finish one day. I wish I'd been tougher on myself and finished those projects back when I started on them. But now I guess I just need to make it a priority to complete them after I'm finished with the two projects I'm working on now.

    Thank you for sharing your experience.

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    1. Thank you, Roxanne. I am very fond of the cover, too. Good luck on finishing your projects. I know you can do it.

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  2. Thank you for the post! I'm doing great on my nano word count, but I'm approaching the middle of the book, which is where I often get bogged down. I appreciate the tips and little nudge to power through!

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    1. Happy to hear you are rocking your word count! I've felt sluggish this week. Started NaNo at 30K and I've only added about 12 in the first week but we have a week of company coming for Thanksgiving plus a dance convention so I better get on the stick! Good luck to you!

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  3. Thank you for the giveaway! All of your books sounds wonderful! Beautiful cover on Something New.

    Margaret
    singitm(at)hotmail(dot)com

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  4. Thanks for stopping by, Margaret! Rock the day.

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  5. Wonderful tips, thanks for all the good advice Malena. I'm entering to win a copy of Something New for my wife. I think she'd really like it. Thanks for the giveaway.
    carlscott(at)prodigy(dot)net(dot)mx

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    1. Carl, aren't you a sweetheart. Thanks for entering.

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  6. Yep, you about called it. I'm 1 for 3 for NaNo and although I made the 50k, exceeded it even, I still don't have a finished first draft. Why? Because of #4. I really have to be tough on myself to see it through, no matter what. That's my current focus.

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    1. Patricia, #4 is a real bug-a-boo, isn't it? I joked to my son last night that I needed to strap him in his chair to finish his homework and then I thought, "heck, I could use a strap for myself when I'm writing." lol Good luck to you!

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  7. Wonderful writing tips, Malena, and ohhhh, what a gorgeous cover for Something New! Fingers crossed for you ;).

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    1. Thanks so much for your support, Marilyn!

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  8. Thanks for the tips, I'm up to almost 12k words and needed the reminder to be tough on myself and complete what I set out to do. My butt is in this chair for the long haul. Good luck with your NaNo-ing!
    I'd love to win a copy of Something New!

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    1. Jen, yes! Tough. Like rawhide. We need rawhide butts. Good luck to you, as well!

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  9. I love the cover for "Something New" and would love to be entered to win a copy! (The bridesmaids dresses in my wedding were almost that colour green, explaining why I was instantly drawn to it :) )

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    1. Jonita, I bet those dresses were gorgeous! Yes, the green dress and those amazing flowers were what won me over on this cover design. Thanks so much.

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  10. I do enjoy learning about the 'behind the scenes' of writing.

    SOMETHING NEW looks wonderful.

    marypres(AT)gmail(DOT)com

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  11. I'm late but I'm here! Great post, Malena! In fact, I'm late b/c I've been buried in a first draft that is finally making progress. Your tips could not be more timely for me!!

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    1. Thanks so much, Laura. Yay on your progress!

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  12. I'm impressed by how much you get done with all that you have on your plate! Bravo and I enjoyed reading these tips.

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    1. Thanks, Karin. If my plate were empty, I wouldn't know what to do with myself. :)

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  13. Thanks to random.org, we picked a winner! Margaret Literary Chanteuse - you win a copy of one of my ebooks. I'll email you so you can let me know which one you'd like and thanks to everyone for your support and comments. ((hugs))

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