Finishing Off That First Draft

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by Teagan Berry

Like many writers before me, and sure to be many writers after, I find the final push towards that completed first draft is extremely difficult. For some reason, the brain decides to press hard on the brakes while simultaneously throwing up a wall, breaking all real flow of writing and making it very hard to finish anything, let alone the climactic portion of your novel.

Over the past decade or so I’ve encountered this problem more times than I’d like to admit or say, but during this time I’ve also managed to come up with a few different strategies to try and break through the what seems to be impenetrable wall. So, without further ado, here are some tips and strategies to help you conquer what some say is the hardest portion of writing.

 

1) Take a break from your current project.

For me, this is always my go-to option whenever I’m trying to finish writing the last part of my first draft. If I find myself standing there, looking at that unbearable wall, working on something else somehow manages to open my mind back up and gets the words flowing again. Some people find they need to stay within their book universe, so they either work with an existing character already found in their novel (which can lead to an interesting spin-off novel!), or they take their main character and place them in an entirely different scenario and see where it takes them.

Who knows, maybe you’ll end up using some of that writing in a later project (sequel maybe?) or fit it in when you’re working on an edit. Other times, people find it helpful to completely step back from their universe and begin working on something else. It might just be a one-shot, or maybe it turns into your next full-scale project, but the complete removal from all things familiar sometimes helps harness that raw creativity only found when creating something new.

 

2) Try working on the next scene in your manuscript.

Though this option hasn’t been always as successful for me in the past, skipping your current scene and moving onto something else does have it’s benefits. Towards the end of a novel this tactic gets a little more difficult – since there are less and less scenes to move on to, but it can be quite effective if used with enough writing material left. Moving onto the next pre-planned scene allows for the familiarity of the characters to continue which keeps the creative flow moving and sometimes even helps spring up new ideas.

Perhaps your character says something funny that strikes a chord with you; the next thing you know, that funny little statement gets something going in your head and BAM! Problem solved. The whole point of this option is to work around the blip in your story and trick your brain into thinking you’re not close to being completely finished writing yet. From what I’ve found, that’s why the wall is thrown up – not because they ideas aren’t there, but because your brain just can’t get unstuck on one particular thing.

By skipping over it and continuing work on the project, you can fool your brain into thinking it’s already been written. Once the remainder of the story has been finished, you can return to that one spot you skipped over and fill in the gap.

 

3) Talk it out with a writing friend.

This tactic always seems to work well for me – and I would use it much more frequently if I lived in the same city as my writing partner. Writing friends (or writing groups if you’re lucky to join one of those) are a good way to hash out issues of any sort in whatever piece you’re working on, but especially issues relating to breaking down that final wall.

Through their experiences and yours combined, normally some sort of an answer is discovered after a couple of sessions and you can continue on working. The key for this being successful is they type of person or group you hook up with. Hands down, the person needs to be a writer. Though non-writers can provide feedback and help with small things, it takes a writer to help their kin through a crisis such as breaking down the wall. Most writers have been through a similar situation at least one other point in their lives, which helps immensely.

The other major thing I think people need to look out for is the genre in which their writing friend spends most of their time in. Myself, I write in the Y.A./N.A genres, so naturally my writing partner does so as well. Now, that doesn’t mean someone who writes in crime or mystery or fantasy wouldn’t be able to help me – I’m just saying that different genres have different checkboxes that need to be looked at and a writer from a different genre may not know all of them.

That’s all the suggestions for now! I’ll have some more in the next little while, so stay tuned! And as always, keep writing.

Until next time.

 

 

 

Guest post contributed by Teagan Berry, alternately titled “Writing the Male Poing of View.” Teagan writes books, watches sports, and reads. She started her blog initially to beat writer’s block, but it’s turned into so much more. 


226373498_dacf4f263f_bNeed help with your book or novel? Check out the Writer’s Toolbox, a list of free, discounted, and overall helpful links to tools and benefits to help you with what you do best: writing.


 

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23 thoughts on “Finishing Off That First Draft”

  1. I always put my characters into a scene that has nothing to do with the actual book, just to get a feel about how their voices are. I feel like writing is easier when I convince myself that it doesn’t ‘count.’ Great suggestions!

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  2. Changing direction to a new scene is a great idea. Or outline new scenes, or just jot notes for what you can’t get into paper. The important thing is to keep writing, no matter how bad it seems. That’s what editing is for. I can’t tell you the number of scenes I’ve written to keep a story going that I cut from the final draft. Some, however, opened new channels of thinking that made the story work and even improved it (although they still needed editing).

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  3. Reblogged this on Wind Eggs and commented:
    Teagan Berry shares some thoughts for writers struggling to finish a draft. While I would never recommend taking a break, shifting direction with new scenes, and talking problems out with other writers never fails.,

    You don’t just have to write a new scene to get the thoughts flowing. You might outline new scenes, or simply jot notes for what you can’t get into paper. The important thing is to keep writing, no matter how bad it seems. That’s what editing is for. I can’t tell you the number of scenes I’ve written to keep a story going that I cut from the final draft. Some, however, opened new channels of thinking that made the story work and even improved it (although they still needed editing).

    There may, however, come a point when you realize the novel is dead in the water, for whatever reason. I have several manuscripts of 80 or 90 pages that I realized would never float. In that case, Teagan still offers great advice for taking that final break.

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  4. It’s a mental marathon–no wonder we grow weary toward the end! Plus, tying everything together, choosing the right words for that last chapter, that last paragraph, is just plain exhausting.

    Thanks for the helpful tips, Teagan. Pinned & shared.

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  5. Excllent ideas. Sometimes writers can forget about the benefits of exploring a character in a wholley different scenario than what occurs in the main text. I find it allows me to better understand their motivations…or for me to see where their personality falls week. Yet it can be hard to think of doing something like that when you’re so hyper focused on them in this one context.

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  6. Have done No.’s 1 & 2. Sometimes I’ll break away from a novel to work on a short story. I usually have a few on the “back-burner” waiting / begging for more input.
    Once I had trouble choreographing a fight scene. Rather than let it get to me, I simply typed “Fight Scene Goes Here” and moved on. 🙂
    All good tips!

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  7. I have an opposite (sort of) issue most of the times. I’m personally a huge advocate of scene skipping and use that strategy the most, but I’ll also find myself having the ending written with no idea how to get there. I even have a current project that I’m basically working backwards on.

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  8. For me, the hardest part is getting the thing off the ground. The first chapter is usually easy, but then what? Five thousand words into an 80,000-100,000 word novel, I wonder if I have it in me to pull it off. It’s too easy to let myself get distracted.

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  9. Thank you for these useful tips. I’ve hit a wall… on the very last page of my novel! The whole story is there, I just can’t find a snappy way to finish. I might take your advice and start writing the second book in the series…

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