4 Ways to Battle those First Draft Blues

“All good writing begins with terrible first efforts” – Anne Lamont.


All writers have written very, very bad first drafts. I doubt that any author whether they be a literary geniuses or not have ever sat down at their computer and typed out a perfect manuscript without mistakes. You probably know this. You may have even already been through the process of writing something horrendously bad and saved it later with rigorous editing and rewriting. Yet still, you often sit with a blank page laid out in front of you terrified to write because you know it will be god damn awful. Eventually you write something. Decide its awful. Delete it immediately. Then a slow sense of dread begins to set in and you decide that you are a terrible writer who has no business putting anything down on paper. These are the first draft blues and they are the road block to finishing your first draft. Here are my four top tips that I currently implement in order to beat these first draft blues.

1.) Write something else

Sometimes you just need to take a break from your idea. If you are writing a long novel this tip can be especially helpful. Find some kind of writing prompt and make it fun. Write about what its like to be an alien or a puppy. Write about something that has made you laugh recently. Write about anything, but don’t edit it. Just write it and have fun. No one will ever have to read it and it doesn’t need to be good. Make it as silly and ridiculous as you can. This will help you remember how fun writing can be when you don’t hold back. Most importantly it will mean that you have started writing for that day so continuing to write your first draft won’t seem so intimidating.

2.) Music

I find that when I am struggling to focus or concentrate on finishing a piece of writing it helps to try and relax and shut out the real world so that I can get lost in the one I am creating. Music is a great way to accomplish this. I prefer to listen to classical as it has no lyrics that I can get carried away singing along to and can be very soothing. Playing relaxing music can also help you loosen up and feel more comfortable about writing your first draft.

3.) Don’t get it right, get it written.

A very talented script writing teacher once gave me this golden nugget of advice and I think it is the most important advice anyone writing their first draft needs to remember. Perfectionism is the enemy of a first draft. If you are constantly editing your work as you write you will defiantly end up feeling depressed about writing. You may even stop writing your fist draft altogether. So, don’t edit. It will only make it worse. Just except that what you are writing is bad and keep going. You can make it perfect later, that is what editing is for. Resist the urge to re-read and edit and just repeat the mantra “Don’t get it right, get it written.”

4.) Word limits.

The final way to beat those first draft blues is to set yourself a word limit. Some people advise that you could also set a time limit but if you struggle with writing first drafts I would not recommend this. I find that if I set a time limit, I end up staring at the clock stressing about how little I have written for the past hour. A word count is also better because it forces you to just write. You are rewarding yourself for the words you are putting down on the page and not the quality of them.  You can vary the amount of words you need to write each day dependent on how busy you are. Simply sit down, write whatever comes to mind until you reach your word limit and the don’t worry about what you have written. That is, until you come to edit it.


Do you have any tips on how to beat those first draft blues? Leave me a comment and let me know.

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