Wednesday, March 11, 2015

5 Writerly Life Hacks to Kickstart Your First Draft


By Michelle Griep


Sparkly new story ideas are always fun to parade around. Everyone “oohs” and “ahhs” over your intriguing novel concept. Yes, indeedy. This is going to be the Great American Novel, so you sit down to write. Your fingers fly. The first chapters pop out like candy from a Pez dispenser.

And then you stall out.

Wait a minute . . . this was a good idea, right? What was that idea, anyway? It seemed so clear in your head, but wrangling that story onto paper isn’t as much fun anymore. The sparkle is gone. You question your concept, your sanity, and whether or not you should’ve eaten an entire burrito for lunch.

Trust me. I’ve been there. Several times, and I’ve discovered some first draft writerly hacks to get your story moving again.

1. Write dialogue.
You know those voices in your head? Type what they’re saying. Don’t worry about attributes or actions, setting or plot. Sometimes all it takes is a good conversation between characters to get you back on your writerly feet.

2. The “stuff happens” doorstop.
Every writer hits the wall at some point, but you don’t have to stop there. Type two words: stuff happens. Highlight them. This is your doorstop, keeping open a space for you to revisit. Then move on to your next scene. Go back to that open door later and add what that “stuff” is.

3. Research Shmeesearch.
Don’t get me wrong. You have to nail down your facts or readers will pick up those nails and crucify you. The point is not to get bogged down researching while you’re creating. Mark areas in your manuscript where you’re unsure about details. After you’ve captured the essence of the story, go back and clarify.

4. Set a timer.
It takes time to write a first draft—more than you expect. Buckets full. Gobs. But don’t let that overwhelm you. Set a timer each day and write. Do NOT get out of the chair. This is your time to write, nothing else.

5. Unplug.
Social media has its place. This isn’t one of them. It takes concentration to pull bits of story fluff from your grey matter and weave it into a breath-stealing novel. Don’t let Facebook or Gmail steal your creative breath.

Writing a first draft is hard work, but if you stick with it and don’t give up, it’s oh-so-satisfying. Hang in there, little writers. Pretty soon it won’t be a “first” draft but a “final.”

And then we can talk about marketing life hacks.
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Michelle Griep’s been writing since she first discovered blank wall space and Crayolas. Follow her adventures and find out about upcoming new releases at her blog, Writer Off the Leash, or stop by her website. You can also find her at the usual haunts of Facebook, Twitter, or Pinterest. Like what you read? There’s more. WRITER OFF THE LEASH: GROWING IN THE WRITING CRAFT is a kick in the pants for anyone who wants to write but is stymied by fear, doubt, or simply doesn’t know how to take their writing to the next level.


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