Five Steps To A Perfect First Draft

Step One: Be keenly aware that there’s no way in hell you’re ever going write a perfect first draft, but try anyway. 

This is the naive phase. Sure, you’ve written first drafts before, and they’ve all turned out abominably, but this time will be different. No book idea has ever been as shiny and wonderful as the idea in your head right now. All those other awful first drafts were a fluke, and besides, those ideas were nothing like this one.

Step Two: Lay out a neat little plan of how you’re going to get this done.

You’ll carefully outline every detail of your novel beforehand so nothing could possible go wrong. You’re going to wake up every morning at 6am and write outside as the dawn spreads glorious light over you and your wonderful novel — which, by the way, is written without stress or worry in a matter of days, and is, as you suspected all along, a masterpiece.

Step Three: Scrap the plan half way through. 

You’re a week into writing this book and you’ve only gotten up at 6am once. You realised it was horrific idea and swore never again after you almost water damaged your laptop because it started raining after half an hour of sitting out in the freezing cold. Who thought that that was a good idea in the first place? Definitely not you. Suddenly that outline that was supposed to make everything easy … doesn’t. It’s sapping your creativity and making you think blargh every time you sit down to write, so one day you take a quick detour. And then maybe another one. And another and another one until you’re not quite sure where your novel is going anymore, but where it is going is probably fantastic.

Step Four: Regret everything. 

Okay, you take it back. This novel idea isn’t the most shiny wonderful snowflake of all eternity — actually, you’re pretty sure it’s the devil. Every time you want to write, something goes horribly wrong and stops you from writing. Every time you do write something, everything you write is complete garbage. Why did you think writing a book was a good idea? Surely it wasn’t like this the last time, right?

Step Five: Realise that it is in fact perfect.

You push through. You sit down and you write, maybe not every day, and maybe not very well, but you write your damn book, and you feel pretty proud. It’s certainly not perfect, but perfect first drafts don’t exist, right? And anyway, first drafts are supposed to suck. And if first drafts are supposed to suck, then you’re draft is doing exactly what it’s supposed to be doing. That sounds like perfect to you. You’ll come back to it in a few weeks and realise how horrible it really is, but for now you’re just proud of yourself for surviving. You eat a whole jar of Nutella, and maybe even relief-cry for a bit.

You did the thing. You rock.