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!


Once you get into some good habits, it’s pretty easy to write a novel. First, sit down around the same time every day and write. Most people find the best time is very soon after they get up in the morning. But if you’re a night owl, pick a time you know will work best for you.

Sit there until you write something. Tell yourself you cannot do anything else until you’ve written something to move your story forward. If you feel stuck, ask yourself what could happen next, letting your imagination loose with everything wild and crazy you can think of. Make a list, make your choice, and continue.

Decide on a certain word count for each day. Not a time period because you can fritter that time away. If you work toward a word count, you’re apt to finish the novel sooner. Not only that, but you’ll be able to figure out about how long it will take you to complete the first draft. Six days a week, one thousand words for a novel of about 84,000 words will then take you fourteen weeks. Three and a half months. Not bad, is it?

Along the way you may have had others look at chapters. If you have time, you can go through their critique notes and make changes, but don’t use your writing time for this. The trick is to get through that first draft.

Do not spend your writing time editing until the first draft is finished. Just plow through it. When done, take a week off from that project, then go back to edit it.

There are all kinds of ways to do edits. I suggest you go on-line and read articles and blogs about different processes and pick the one (refining it for your needs) you think will work best for you. The first two or three times it’s going to be really tough. But the more you do, the more you’ll find ways to help you go through each pass quicker. Keep notes about what works and what doesn’t for next time.

After you’ve done all you can think of to do to make your novel the best it can be, it’s time to get a professional editor to go over it for you. I recommend you do this before trying to submit it to agents. And absolutely do this if you’re going to self-publish. You want people to love your story, not complain about typos, misspellings and grammar mistakes. These errors will totally distract many readers from your prose. And some of them will mention that in reviews on Amazon, Goodreads and other places.

Good luck! If you try this, come back later and tell me how you did. I love comments.