Writing The First Draft

I’ve finally completed the first draft of The Italian Inheritance, a contemporary romance about an orphan and a trust attorney, set on the Italian island of Capri.

Writing the first draft of any novel is a fairly momentous achievement and I learnt a few important things along the way.

  1. Finishing a first draft, even a rough draft, takes an immense amount of dedication. For three months I got up and stared bleary eyed at my computer, before putting my hands on the keypad. As the manuscript progressed, the more motivated I became. In the middle bits I sagged a bit, but forced myself to go on, if only to prove that I could finish it.
  2. Having a set writing schedule helps. I dedicated my mornings to writing, which gave me four or five hours a day in which to write. Afternoons were out of the question due to the school run, extra murals etc. I even logged out of my email client so that I wasn’t disturbed by interesting little pop-ups vying for my attention. The volume went to mute on my PC too.
  3. It helps to have a concrete plot / conflict outlined before you start. About half way through the manuscript I had to sit down with my Conflict Spreadsheet and revisit the developing conflict, tension and character reactions in each scene. I made notes such as “Conflict escalates after first love scene” and “Heroine first realises she has feelings for hero,” against each scene so I could track the development of the relationship.
  4. Outlining the new scene before I wrote it helped me to add in the appropriate tone, action and conflict.
  5. I made it my mission to end each scene with the reader wanting more. This became a goal of mine and made finishing the scene fun and motivating.
  6. To prevent sagging middles, plan your novel carefully. Know how the relationship develops and what happens before you start writing. Otherwise get to the middle and the conflict will be weak, story can’t sustain itself.

As Louis D. Brandeis says, “There’s no such thing as good writing, just good rewriting.”

It’s more important to get the story down with all the conflict, developing relationship issues and resolution before worrying about consistency, spelling, grammar and stylistic errors. That’s what the rewrites are for.

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