How do you write your first draft?

When it comes to actually writing the first draft of your novel… how do you do it?

Do you start at chapter one and work your way through each chapter in a linear fashion?

Or do you write bits and pieces all over the place and go back and join them up later?

I’m asking this question because I try so hard to write chapter one, then chapter two, then chapter three… and so on and so forth. And I just can’t do it! I’ll write a paragraph of chapter one, then jump to chapter twelve, then get an idea for chapter four. Then eventually I’ll get enough pieces and start to link them all together.

Does anyone else write like this? Or is it just me?

I think my way has its pitfalls, especially in regards to keeping track of everything. But on the bright side, I never get writer’s block, because if I’m stuck somewhere, I just move on and start writing someplace else.

Thoughts?

About Jodie @ Words Read & Written

Book blogger & aspiring author.
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128 Responses to How do you write your first draft?

  1. James says:

    When writing a novel, short story, thesis – whatever – I begin writing my climax. Why? Because that’s where our good ideas stem from. When I successfully write the climax of my story (i.e. major drama), I am able to see where I want all of my characters at that exact moment. The climax is where my readers understand me, feel me, feel the emotion I’m trying to convey. That way, the rest of novel is built around that one truth I’m trying to convey to my readers. Sounds silly, but it really works.

    Like

    • Amanda says:

      That’s not silly at all. A story should be compelling, and if you don’t have a powerful moment for it to build up to, then your story will fall flat. If starting at the “moment” and working your way back produces results for you, then it isn’t silly at all. In fact, I think it is a brilliant strategy!

      Like

  2. James says:

    When writing a novel, short story, thesis – whatever – I begin writing my climax. Why? Because that’s where our good ideas stem from. When I successfully write the climax of my story (i.e. major drama), I am able to see where I want all of my characters at that exact moment. The climax is where my readers understand me, feel me, feel the emotion I’m trying to convey. That way, the rest of novel is built around that one truth I’m trying to convey to my readers. Sounds silly, but it really works.

    Like

  3. stripe6499 says:

    For me, I don’t actually write until I have most of the basics of the story in my head. I play it through like a movie and then when i actually sit down to write I’m mostly describing what I see in my mind. Once I start writing however, that’s where things are subject to change. Sometimes a scene goes in a slightly different direction than i had first imagined and then there are those pesky characters that just end up writing themselves. Once the first draft is done, that’s where most of the changes start happening..

    Like

  4. stripe6499 says:

    For me, I don’t actually write until I have most of the basics of the story in my head. I play it through like a movie and then when i actually sit down to write I’m mostly describing what I see in my mind. Once I start writing however, that’s where things are subject to change. Sometimes a scene goes in a slightly different direction than i had first imagined and then there are those pesky characters that just end up writing themselves. Once the first draft is done, that’s where most of the changes start happening..

    Like

  5. jeanryan1 says:

    Very very slowly. I revise as I go–like bricklaying or stone-setting: each layer must be solid as I can make it before adding on another. Any writing manual will instruct you otherwise, but we all have our own ways.

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  6. jeanryan1 says:

    Very very slowly. I revise as I go–like bricklaying or stone-setting: each layer must be solid as I can make it before adding on another. Any writing manual will instruct you otherwise, but we all have our own ways.

    Like

  7. When I’m writing non-fiction I write it in any old order, and then move it all around until it ‘works’. When I’m writing fiction I start at the beginning and work through to the end, then stop.

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  8. j1m says:

    more often than not i write in the order the book will be read, mostly because one thing often leads to another and can take me somewhere unexpected.

    even the novel i wrote in 2010 which had one main character but showed him at four different stages in his life, rotating between each of them (ie, chapter 1 aged 40, chapter 2 aged 17, chapter 3 aged 25, chapter 4 aged 12 and repeat), i still wrote about him aged 40, then about him aged 17 etc, although it probably would have been easier to write about him aged 12, then 17, 25 & 40. however, because i wrote it as i went, as it flowed, i found things in age 40 that affected the other ages, and things in age 17 that affected the other ages, often connected to something i found as i wrote one of the other ages. and if i’d written purely chronologically i may have missed that as my age 12 character would have been set when i began 17, and 17 set when i began 25 etc.

    that said, either way, any way, you can always rejig in a rewrite.

    and i’d be hard pushed to say that whatever way gets you writing and helps avoid blocks is a “bad” way,

    so do whatever works for you. i don’t think there is a “wrong” way. unless it’s NOT writing. 😉

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  9. j1m says:

    more often than not i write in the order the book will be read, mostly because one thing often leads to another and can take me somewhere unexpected.

    even the novel i wrote in 2010 which had one main character but showed him at four different stages in his life, rotating between each of them (ie, chapter 1 aged 40, chapter 2 aged 17, chapter 3 aged 25, chapter 4 aged 12 and repeat), i still wrote about him aged 40, then about him aged 17 etc, although it probably would have been easier to write about him aged 12, then 17, 25 & 40. however, because i wrote it as i went, as it flowed, i found things in age 40 that affected the other ages, and things in age 17 that affected the other ages, often connected to something i found as i wrote one of the other ages. and if i’d written purely chronologically i may have missed that as my age 12 character would have been set when i began 17, and 17 set when i began 25 etc.

    that said, either way, any way, you can always rejig in a rewrite.

    and i’d be hard pushed to say that whatever way gets you writing and helps avoid blocks is a “bad” way,

    so do whatever works for you. i don’t think there is a “wrong” way. unless it’s NOT writing. 😉

    Like

  10. I write exactly the same way.

    Like

  11. jguenther5 says:

    A lot depends on the project. Stageplays involve a lot of different elements and I tend to write them in little, diverse bits, here and there: a character name, a scene, a line, a bit of set detail. Novels are more linear. My next screenplay will probably be heavily outlined before I start writing.

    The most important thing is creating your characters, having them firmly in mind, before you write very much action or dialogue. Character must drive your story. You as a writer must be at a distance from the twists and turns of the plot. If you’re not, the puppet strings will show and constantly remind the reader that it’s really a writer behind the novel.

    Like

  12. jguenther5 says:

    A lot depends on the project. Stageplays involve a lot of different elements and I tend to write them in little, diverse bits, here and there: a character name, a scene, a line, a bit of set detail. Novels are more linear. My next screenplay will probably be heavily outlined before I start writing.

    The most important thing is creating your characters, having them firmly in mind, before you write very much action or dialogue. Character must drive your story. You as a writer must be at a distance from the twists and turns of the plot. If you’re not, the puppet strings will show and constantly remind the reader that it’s really a writer behind the novel.

    Like

  13. Charli Mills says:

    I used to agonize over Chapter 1 as if the rest of the novel would just happen if I got that one chapter “right.” Then I did NaNoWriMo in 2012 and I just wrote. Turns out my Chapter 1 appeared around day 25. So, in 2013, I just dove into the most exciting thing I could think of with my next project. It felt crazy, but I just kept writing. In the end, Chapter 1 actually happened on day 1. Lesson in it for me: just write. Construction comes with revision. But I’m new at this, so who knows what I’ll think 3 years from now! 🙂

    Like

  14. Kudos to you! I could never write a novel that way. I write from beginning to end and it’s only after I finish that I go back and see what could or should be changed, added, or taken out. It’s interesting how different people write. We all have our own methods to our madness. I don’t know if one specific tactic would work for two different people, let alone everyone! Ha ha. I think the secret is that there is no secret.

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  15. Kudos to you! I could never write a novel that way. I write from beginning to end and it’s only after I finish that I go back and see what could or should be changed, added, or taken out. It’s interesting how different people write. We all have our own methods to our madness. I don’t know if one specific tactic would work for two different people, let alone everyone! Ha ha. I think the secret is that there is no secret.

    Like

  16. I learned early on to write and the next day to rewrite-tweak and move on. Linear. Yeah. Good for me. By the time my publisher receives the manuscript, it’s clean. Next time you like my blog, please leave a comment so we can get to know each other.

    Like

  17. I learned early on to write and the next day to rewrite-tweak and move on. Linear. Yeah. Good for me. By the time my publisher receives the manuscript, it’s clean. Next time you like my blog, please leave a comment so we can get to know each other.

    Like

  18. revgerry says:

    I write EXACTLY that way!!!!
    Thanks fo stopping by my blog.

    Like

  19. Peace Jaway says:

    Reblogged this on Moments of Awareness and commented:
    I tend to write by starting with a single long paragraph, lots of run-on sentences, stream-of-consciousness style, and then when I go back and break it up I’ll expand some areas, delete others, move things to where they’ll flow better. How about you?

    Like

  20. Peace Jaway says:

    Reblogged this on Moments of Awareness and commented:
    I tend to write by starting with a single long paragraph, lots of run-on sentences, stream-of-consciousness style, and then when I go back and break it up I’ll expand some areas, delete others, move things to where they’ll flow better. How about you?

    Like

  21. Peace Jaway says:

    I tend to write by starting with a single long paragraph, lots of run-on sentences, stream-of-consciousness style, and then when I go back and break it up I’ll expand some areas, delete others, move things to where they’ll flow better.

    Like

  22. Peace Jaway says:

    I tend to write by starting with a single long paragraph, lots of run-on sentences, stream-of-consciousness style, and then when I go back and break it up I’ll expand some areas, delete others, move things to where they’ll flow better.

    Like

  23. rohithchakra says:

    Reblogged this on storiesomnibus and commented:
    When it comes to actually writing the first draft of your novel… how do you do it?

    Do you start at chapter one and work your way through each chapter in a linear fashion?

    Or do you write bits and pieces all over the place and go back and join them up later?

    An interesting topic!

    Like

  24. Nic Eaton says:

    I tend to write straight through. I used to be a big planner, but lately I’ve taken to partial planning. I still kind of go overboard in my mind with an outline and all that, but I always remind myself that anything can (and probably should) change as the story progresses and I learn more about my characters. If I have an idea that comes later in the story, I don’t write it down. I keep it in mind, but I don’t force it in, and if it never makes it in or if I forget about it, then I content myself with believing that it wasn’t good enough to be in there in the first place. If I have an idea that would fit within the next chapter I might jump ahead, write it, then double back, but I try not to.

    Like

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