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5 Simple Tips for Finishing your Novel’s First Draft

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by Lindsay Detwiler


I hope you enjoy this guest post by my author friend Lindsay. She’s written eight novels and has a knack for telling a true-to-life love story. We hope her five tips will help you get your Novel’s first draft nailed down.

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I’ll never be able to write an entire book. These were the words that plagued me as I sat down on my parents’ deck and started writing in my green notebook that warm, June night. I had just come home from a college class that had inspired me to chase my wildest dream—getting a novel published. I had visions of my name on a cover of a book, book signings at Barnes & Noble, and the feeling of knowing my words were being read by others.

There was just one problem—I had to write the book first.

When I sat down and started writing the words to what would become my first novel, Voice of Innocence, I really didn’t have any confidence. First, I didn’t think anyone would ever read my book. Most importantly, I didn’t think I’d even have the ability to write an entire novel.

Sure, I was a huge bookworm and knew what made a good story. In truth, though, I’d only ever written short stories and essays, of which I never even shared with anyone other than professors. I truly had no idea what I was doing, something that almost made me quit before I started.

That summer, though, I took on the challenge of writing my first book. I worked tirelessly after my shift at my job, typing away a chapter a night. It was a challenge for me, and really I just wanted to see if I could write a book. I didn’t plan on it going anywhere beyond the confines of my computer.

That first draft took me several summers, a lot of coffee, and more growing doubts as the time passed. But eventually, I got that draft done, got my first book published (to my utter shock), and found myself on the journey toward a writing career.

Now, seven books later, a first draft takes me a few months instead of a few years, mostly because I’ve gained something I didn’t have the first time around: confidence.

Writing a book can be a daunting task, especially if you’ve never done it before. However, there are things you can keep in mind to make the process easier.

Below are 5 Simple Tips for Finishing your Novel's First Draft

Pick a topic you are passionate about

When I first started writing, I didn’t believe anyone would ever read it. I wasn’t thinking about the market or what story would make me popular. I was simply telling the story that spoke to me.

Although there are many experts who will argue with this advice, I think choosing a topic you are passionate about and feel called to write is the secret to actually finishing your draft. You must be deeply moved by your subject, your story, and your characters, or you won’t have the drive to finish it.

Even when I walked away from the draft for Voice of Innocence, my first novel, I always came back to it because the characters wouldn’t stop haunting me. I needed to tell their story, which is why I was able to finish it.

If you can find an idea that speaks to you even when you aren’t writing, then you know you’ve got it right.

Write every single day with reasonable goals

Stephen King’s On Writing talks about how writer’s block can be overcome by simply writing through it. When you are in the middle of writer’s block, this can be a difficult practice. We often become very good at making excuses for ourselves and for our work. We tell ourselves we deserve a break, need to wait for the “inspiration” to strike, or should wait until life gets less busy.

More: Must-Have Books For Writers

The longer you step away from your draft, however, the harder it is to fall right back in. You lose the mindset and sight of the bigger picture. More importantly, the devastating little thing called doubt begins to slither its way in.


Write every single day when you’re working on your draft. This does not mean you have to write 10,000 words a day. Set a realistic, achievable goal. If I am really busy and struggling, I tell myself to write a single page. Often, I find that once I sit down to write that page, I can write more, even if I’m not feeling it.

I’ve also found that the writing I produce on the days I’m not feeling confident is sometimes my best writing. Don’t let the words “writer’s block” get in your way or get in your head. Find the determination to take a step toward your overall goal every single day.

Don’t worry about word choice now

Many new writers get so absorbed in the tiny details that they lose sight of the bigger picture. Writing an entire novel is difficult. There are so many ways to look at a story. You must constantly be aware of the larger story arc, the overall goals of your work, and the endpoint. However, before you publish, you also have to look at every nitty gritty detail, down to every single word. It’s exhausting.

Do not focus on things like word choice, verbs, or even grammar while you are drafting. Focus purely on getting your ideas down. It is only once you have the first draft done that you can even wrap your head around fine tuning. If you become so obsessed over every single word now, you will be overwhelmed, and the temptation to tuck your draft away forever will grow.

Know the beginning, middle, and end

Whether you are a plotter or not, I think it’s so important to have some type of roadmap. Knowing where to begin, where to drive the plot toward, and how to end can help you get all of the events in the right place in order to build suspense. You don’t have to have every detail outlined—I tend to let my characters take the reins. However, you do need to know where you are going, or it will be difficult to stay focused and write a tight storyline.

This tip seems simple, but it actually takes quite a bit of thought and work. I spend a lot of time thinking about the beginning, middle, and end of my story before I ever start writing. It is when I know where I want things to end up that I can make sure every interaction, piece of dialogue, and event is driving the story toward my ultimate goal.

Have a trustworthy friend you can go to for confidence

The writer’s life is filled with doubt. Whether you’re writing your first draft or your fifteenth, there will always be a point where you feel like the worst writer in the world or doubt your idea.

This is where your trustworthy, go-to person comes in. For me, this person is my husband. When I have a plot hole I need to fill or an event I just don’t know about, I chat about it with him. Often, you will find that you really do know the answers and have the confidence. It just takes talking about it to understand and work through your issue.

  • Find someone who will be your boost of confidence when you are feeling down.
  • Find someone who will encourage you and motivate you to finish your vision.
  • Find someone who will help you find your writer’s voice when you feel like it is lost.

Writing a book is overwhelming, no matter who you are. However, it is by finishing our draft that we get one step closer to having our words shared, our voices heard, and our dreams fulfilled.

If you can keep that in mind, your first draft will be finished in no time.

Are you working on a first draft? Tell us about it in the comments!

Lindsay Detwiler is a contemporary romance author with Hot Tree Publishing, a high school English teacher, and a contributing blogger for The Huffington Post. Her seven published novels fall on the sweeter side of the romance genre. She lives in her hometown with her husband Chad (her junior high sweetheart); their five cats; and their mastiff, Henry, who appears in each of her novels. Her eighth novel, Inked Hearts, is releasing on October 21, 2017. Connect with Lindsay on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram or join her VIP fan club.

Have you ever started a writing project and never finished it? Learn how to successfully finish your novel's first draft by following these six simple steps. Click through to learn how.

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