Without a first draft, you’ll never have a published story or novel. Bottom line.

So, the first “rule” for writing a short story or book is to write a first draft until it’s all done.


Some people love to plot in advance, while others like to wing it. That debate is one for another blog post.

Pick your own way, then get to it. Maybe you plot extensively, then find out a third of the way through that it’s not going to work. Either fix the plot outline, or just plow ahead. Or maybe you love the exhilaration of sitting down every day not knowing where your story is going and just write. But you get half-way through, and you don’t know what should happen next. It might not hurt to take a few days to figure that out (in other words do some plotting) before continuing.

Writing is not a cut-and-dried process, obviously. So, do what works.

But get that first draft written. Don’t go over and over Page 1 or Chapter 1 until it’s perfect. For one thing, it will never be perfect. For another thing, you might get to Page 6 or Chapter 6 and realize you need to do a lot of work on Chapter 1. Again. And all that time you spent on it way back when is lost. You might have been on Page 10 or Chapter 10 by now. Plow through. Get it done.

Then you really have something to work with. Not only that, you can say, “I wrote a book.” Sure it’s not publishable yet, unless you’re a genius, and more work will need to be done. But the major objective is complete. Put a fork in it and get out your red pencil. Now you’ll have to do a different kind of writing, known as editing. And talking about editing would take a whole ‘nother post, so I’m not going there today.

But a reminder: Only two days left for the Goodreads giveaway of my suspense novel REVELATIONS about religious cult. Here: Good luck if you enter!


  1. Great advice, Jan. My first drafts, novel or short story, almost always start in the wrong place so it would be a total waste of time to perfect the first page or first chapter, since I end up tossing it anyway. NaNoWriMo taught me to work from beginning to end without stopping. Actually, now that I think about it my first novel was 125K and I wrote it from beginning to end. Doing that helped me realize I could finish what I start with m writing.

    • Pat, great point about might need to totally change the first chapter (sometimes even get rid of it and work some of the info into the rest of the story). Wish I’d thought to put that in the post. Thanks for commenting!

  2. Hi, Jan,

    A good post, one that I agree with totally. I know several people who have been writing the same novel for many years. They never get past a few chapters because they obsessively rewrite those same chapters. I also entered your giveaway on Goodreads. Congrats on the new novel.

    • Jacqueline, we must know some of the same people. LOL I do feel sorry for them. Some I know have been really GOOD writers. Thanks for stopping by.

  3. I say it to everyone until I’m blue in the face: Finish that first draft. You can edit crap into not-crap. You cannot edit a blank page. Sticking an END at the bottom of the first draft isn’t the most important step in the process, but you’ll never complete the other steps unless you get to that one.

    • Exactly right, Julie. I really don’t know why some people never finish. I would guess either fear or perfectionism, or a bit of both. Thanks for commenting.

  4. Excellent advice, Jan. I’ve always been one of those who would edit one chapter over and over before moving on to the next. I’m getting over it and this was a good reminder. Thanks.

    • Hi, Earl. Glad to hear you’re getting over your compulsion to go over and over what you’ve already written before finishing. You’ll get a lot more done this way, believe me! Good luck.

  5. Good post, Jan. I totally agree with your point about getting the whole thing down, THEN going back to revise. A bad thing about writing on computers is that it’s so easy to revise. In the summer, I do a lot of writing around the town pool. I use index cards, then when I get home, I transfer the stuff to the computer. I’ve realized that it’s much easier to just keep writing (little revision at all, if any) when you’re not on a computer. For me, it’s a good lesson in discipline!

    My latest spoof: “Twitter Birdies Take Over Word TWEET, Real Birds Furious” http://is.gd/bTp4qU

    • Hi, Gail–interesting how you do it. I do look over what I’ve written the day before and make some minor changes before writing my daily words, but that’s it. I just looked at you newest spoof–hysterical! I Tweeted it and put it up on Facebook. Thanks for my laugh for the day.

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