Sometimes drafting that story stinks.
You’re all excited in the beginning, you can’t stop writing! But somewhere you get stuck. And you may want to quit.
Keep in mind, your purpose in writing the first draft is to just get the raw material of a story. You don’t have to create a masterpiece. You don’t even have to be all that coherent. In fact, what you’re doing wrong may be stressing you out. Instead, just write down what comes to your head. Don’t self-edit. Don’t go backward. Just put down word after word.
1. Describe what everyone is wearing. This is especially for your girly-girls. Go into detail about the honey colored cashmere twin set that the receptionist has on. Have it remind you of your Aunt Grace and the time she took you shopping at Macy’s and you got squirted in the eye by the perfume counter and now you can’t smell Jennifer Lopez’s new scent without thinking of Aunt Grace. Do it. Your draft needs this.
2. There’s an annoying noise bothering the main character. What is it? And then describe it. What does he do about it? Even if this has nothing to do with your story, the act of writing it out can trigger something else. You may be glad you went off on this tangent.
“Don’t waste time waiting for inspiration. Begin, and inspiration will find you.”
― H. Jackson Brown Jr.
3. Your main character is really, really hungry. Have him stop and feed himself. Does he cook or go out? What does he eat? Go into detail. Why does he like bacon and blue cheese burgers so much? What does he do with his egg allergy? Why does he suspect the waitress is up to something? Not enough characters eat, in my humble opinion, so schedule some elevensies and see what happens in your draft.
4. Your main character has been in this exact position before. What was it like? What did she do differently? What feeling does she now have about this? Pride? Shame? Fear? Tell the reader. Even if you go into dangerous unnecessary backstory, do it anyway.
5. Give your main character a ridiculous middle name and tell a story of how they got it. Who cares if this has nothing to do with the plot, just write. It could be that this could open up a long lost secret or motivation that can help unstick you!
6. That weird thing that you heard about from a friend last week — about the dog, or the appliance repair man or that puff piece on the evening news — put it in your story. Even if it’s not completely plausible. In fact, go through all your old notes and see if there’s something salvageable from other stories that this one could use.
7. Put your main character in a car accident. These are never planned. Think about how they would react, what types of injuries would be the worst. Would they be at fault? Would they take responsibility? Every draft needs something unexpected, right?
8. Your main character finds a cell phone. It is ringing. They answer it. It’s someone the main character knows. Who is it? What do they want? This assumes that your story isn’t set in Longbourne in 1810. Even if it is, go for it. You may discover something.
“We have to continually be jumping off cliffs and developing our wings on the way down.”
― Kurt Vonnegut
9. The weather goes crazy. Is it a major thunderstorm? Hurricane? Blizzard? This too is not in our control and it shouldn’t be a choice for you — put your main character in a storm and let them wrestle with the elements. Like we can ever do anything about the weather.
10. Finally, set your timer. Go small. You might be stressed out that you don’t have an hour or two to put in the big numbers. That’s okay. You need lots of small numbers. If you’re a fast typist, you can knock out three hundred words in ten minutes. Take any of the above suggestions, work for ten minutes and watch that word count climb.
Here’s a secret: you don’t have to write what makes sense. You just have to get to the end. Once you get that draft done, then you can get serious about what says and what gets cut.
Just write. You can do it. It will be awesome.
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Katharine Grubb is a homeschooling mother of five, a novelist, a baker of bread, a comedian wannabe, a former running coward and the author of Write A Novel In 10 Minutes A Day. Besides pursuing her own fiction and nonfiction writing dreams, she also leads 10 Minute Novelists on Facebook, an international group for time-crunched writers that focuses on tips, encouragement, and community.