Creativity, Writing Craft

Foolproof Way to Get your Draft Done

Hey guys! We’re nearing the end of the month and I thought it would be good to check in with those you who are drafting a new manuscript or determined to finish a draft you’ve already started. Because I know what January can be like. 

For the first few weeks of the month, you’re filled with motivation and good intentions. Your focus is laser sharp. You’re eager to get the shiny story idea that’s burning a hole in your brain, onto the page. So as the first few weeks go on, you pound out those paragraphs and pages and watch your word count grow.  It’s a magical time in the life of a writer. Words are appearing…life is good!

But then it happens. The January slide hits. It’s so subtle you hardly notice it. Your son has a hockey game and so you can’t draft today. Your daughter needs help with her math homework. Maybe you can crack open your laptop after she’s in bed. Your husband asks you to go out to dinner? How can you say no to that? It’s your mom’s birthday. There goes writing time. The pantry is a disaster. How can you possibly focus on writing when you need to organize it? Your job is crazy demanding this week so obviously, your draft will have to wait, right? 

Does this sound familiar?

At first, you may excuse the missed writing sessions because skipping one or two or three won’t hurt, will it? 

Well, maybe. Here’s why …

Every time you put off writing your draft, every time your resolve wavers, your manuscript tumbles further down the slippery slide that leads to the land of unwritten drafts: that dreaded place no manuscript wants to end up. 

Don’t worry. I’m not judging you! The writing life is hard. Honestly. Regular life gets in the way all the time. But here’s the thing. Often times, the reason you lose focus and have trouble finishing your draft has nothing to do with any of the things I mentioned above. I mean those things do make it hard to find time to write sometimes. But if you think about it, those aren’t The Reason. When we’re motivated and steadfast in our determination, we find time to write regardless. The external forces can’t breakthrough your determination. Not for long anyway. But if there’s something else going on, your resolve weakens, and you may think you’ve lost motivation. When actually something else is preventing you from adding words to your draft. 

Your mind is muddled.

I think the reason you’ve stalled has nothing to do with outside forces and everything to do what’s happening inside your writer’s brain. Your story has gotten tangled and you’re spending so much time trying to untangle it that you’re beginning to feel frustrated… muddled. Weeks ago, you felt like you had the most perfect story idea ever. Now, as you’ve gotten some of it down on the page, you’re noticing its flaws. And that’s good. However, the problem is, instead of pounding out your draft, you’re trying to fix the flaws before you add any additional words. And that leads to a very bad thing: putting walls up around your creativity. You’re not letting your creative thoughts do their thing.  

I’m the first one to admit that I’m a slow drafter. I tend to revise as I go. I write a chapter or two and then revise them before I move on to the next. But I don’t do that at the expense of finishing the draft. I resist the urge to make major changes or get too picky. Because if I do, I’ll be forever stuck on chapter eight and in a thirty-chapter manuscript, that’s not a where I want to end up. I want to be done. I want to have a completed draft, so I have something to work with, something to make better.

So, what’s my foolproof way to do that—to get more words down on the page? I go back to the beginning. I ask myself, “What is the story about in its most basic form?” Then, I instruct myself to transfer the story from my mind to the page. In other words:

I tell myself the story. 

When I’m drafting and feel myself getting off track or confused to the point where I feel stuck, I remind myself that I have a story I want to share with readers. But I can’t do that until I know what the story is. So, I pretend that I’m telling it to myself. At each writing session I think, “Okay, what happens next?”

I’m a rule follower and if I do what I’m told and ignore the plot mess inside my mind, then I can literally feel the walls around my creativity coming down. 

It’s as easy (and hard) as that! And if I really get stuck in a spot then I write something like: And then something bad happens to the grand monarch. And then keep going. Go back to that bad something in revisions. 

I look at drafting as nothing more than telling myself what the story is in my own voice and in my own words. If I do that, then I’m always able to finish my draft. It may not (well, definitely will not) be perfect, but it will be complete. 

I hope this tip helps you to recharge your next writing session—even if today that writing session is for ten minutes snuggled under a blanket. Because ten minutes is better than none and it’ll ensure that your manuscript stays off that awful, slippery slide that can lead to an unfinished draft! I believe you can prevent that from happening. I believe you can start pounding out those paragraphs and pages. Now you just have to believe in you too!

If you have thoughts, questions, or suggestions on the topic of drafting, I’d love to hear them. Feel free to comment below. 

As always, thank you so much for reading. Until next time, I hope you have a fantastic weekend! I’ll check in with you again next week.