Wouldn’t it be lovely if you could just start writing and everything that came out of your head arrived in beautiful prose? That the ideas just kept flowing, and it all made perfect sense? How do other writers find it so easy?
The answer is they don’t. Most of the work to produce a novel comes after the first draft, in the seemingly endless rounds of edits.
The best piece of advice I ever received about writing was from a tweet by Caitlin Moran describing her first draft as ‘word vomit’. The idea that a first draft is always sh*t is quite reassuring.
The problem is that you are probably comparing your first draft to a published book which will have gone through several drafts and editorial stages. The finished product on the shelves looks very, very different from the first draft on your computer.
So, let your characters change age, name and gender half-way through. Relax when your setting changes from the South of France to Southport, when your plot veers in strange directions and hangs on unlikely coincidences, when you’re convinced that what you’re writing makes no sense whatsoever and never will.
In your first draft you can leave out scenes altogether and skip to the more interesting parts. You can add backstory that you know you will end up cutting. You can type XXX when you need to do some research. You can bring characters back to life if you killed them off too early. You just have to keep going!
I am nearing the end of the first draft of book three. I hope to have it completed by the end of January. And it is very much ‘word vomit’. It’s not something I would ever let anyone read.
But it’s easier to edit 80,000 of word vomit than it is to edit a blank page.