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Novel Writing: The Easy Part - First Draft

Writing a novel is a multifaceted journey that encompasses various stages. Each stage presenting its own set of rewards and challenges. While the perception of ease varies from one writer to another, many authors find certain aspects of the process more approachable than others.

For me, writing the first is by far the most fun.

The moment of inspiration often comes unbidden, a sudden vision of characters, settings, or situations that demand to be explored. The initial idea is exhilarating and full of potential.

Here’s why this stage can feel effortless.

Your creativity flows freely. There are no constraints. Your ideas can gravitate and expand in any direction you decide they should in the moment.

In this part of novel writing, I can barely stop writing. My brain pushes out ideas faster than my fingers can type them. Hence, the need for editing later. LOL. But also, there is no pressure to make the ideas perfect. It's absolutely a time of wild explorations and excitement as the story becomes fixed on the page.

During this phase of writing, writers are free to imagine without the limitations of structure, plot coherence, character consistency.

Once the first draft is complete, my suggestion and practice is to read through what you've written. It will be a bumpy, so be prepared. But the idea here isn't to worry about perfection. It is to get the story you've put down on paper (digitally or otherwise) formulated in your mind.

This necessary part gives you the opportunity to establish your story idea so that you can then start considering story arc, conflicts, character development, setting, and so on.

ProWritingAid offers a great explanation written by Kathy Edens, of what a story arc is and the development process. It is important for you to start thinking of your story following the story arc template. I recommend doing this, (even if you've done it on other stories before you should still review it again), after the read of your first draft. Now, let it all sit in your mind for a week or two. 

Here's why.

You'll have read your first draft from beginning to end. Then you'll have reviewed the story arc template. Now you'll let those both sit in your mind for a bit.

This process is known as "resting the manuscript" or "digestion". During this time, the writer gains distance and a fresh perspective on their work. But now, with the story arc in mind as well. This helps to dovetail your story with the story arc. So, when you sit down to revise the first draft, it is easier to identify improvements to your draft with a fresh perspective on the story arc.

First edits are hard. Heck, who am I kidding? All edits are hard. However, with proper planning and care, your job in the editing process can be easier and more efficient.

Of course, there will be much more editing to be done.

Like the plot development and subplots. Character development and backstories. Deepening conflict and expanding the growth. Pacing and consistency. These are all important aspects of a good story.

My recommendation is to not be tempted to include these types of edits in your editing of the first draft to story arc. It's too much to take on and will only bog you down.

Let’s recap.

Write your first draft with reckless abandon. Be free and complete your editing in small and focused tasks. As mentioned, in the first draft edits, you'll only be focusing on aligning your story to the story arc. This will all be part of the process with future edits, too. But getting the story arc developed at this part of the process will help you with all your future edits as well.

Happy writing.

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