The Rollercoaster of Writing a First Draft

On the whole I love writing first drafts, be it for a short story or a novel. The freedom it gives me to make mistakes is a liberating one for a woman who is somewhat of a perfectionist.

I often feel like a kid at primary school, dipping my hands in the paint and creating pictures where only a parent will delight in it and pretend to see the dinosaur that a splodge is claimed to be.

That said, the first draft process is a tumultuous one. The random thoughts and feelings at each stage of writing often make me feel like I’m on a rollercoaster.

It’s only fair I make you ride along with me into the weird and wonderful world of my messed up mind.

The Very Beginning

A sweat breaks not just on my brow but in every place you never thought you could perspire. Knee caps anyone?

Rollercoaster of writing first draft - stressed writerThis is it. Shit is about to get real.

I am writing a novel and the first sentence, hell, the first word has to be amazing. It is the one word upon which the resulting standard of the whole novel will rely upon. One ‘bad’ word such as ‘I’ means I cannot write.

Cue spending three days deliberating that one all-important word. Three days spent wondering if I actually know any words at all. Three lost days hating words.

It Begins

The word has appeared.

After three days of vowing never to write again I choose to use ‘I’ anyway. I die a little inside at my poor choice but it will have to bloody well do if this is to ever begin.

A sentence forms. It kind of makes sense. I think of the drafting and hope I can make this crappy sentence ‘do one’ eventually.

I Am Flying

Rollercoaster of writing first draft - write all the thingsParagraphs are spilling out of me like a case of diahorrea, but in a good way. This is the kind of surprise flow that is welcome.

I never knew I had retained so many words in this time on the planet.

I secretly tell the old masters that I am giving them a run for their money. Shakespeare? Pah! I am the wordsmith now. Dickens? I laugh in the face of your characterisation.

There’s a new kid in town and she has written two pages of pure gold. The Booker Prize is in sight.

The Blip

I mentally beat myself up for being an arrogant arse hole. I feel shame that I tried to take the dons of writing on.

I have hit a plot hole and I have dug myself so deep into it that day light seems like a luxury.

I am a numpty. I groan at my previous pride and summon the ghosts of Shakespeare, Dickens, even flaming E. L. James. I am that desperate for writing inspiration.

I Love Writing

Rollercoaster of writing first draft - I love writingIt’s going so well. The plot hole has been covered over and I have practically peed on its grave.

The words are my friends. They know me. They understand me and they are letting me be their master.

Every writing day is fun. I am high on putting the words together. I look forward to waking up each day and getting back into my story. Surely this will never end?

I Hate Writing

It ends. Writer’s block hits.

The world is a bleak place.

Mourn me and tell my family I am no more.

I cannot write.

I am nothing.

The Middle

Rollercoaster of writing first draft - writeI cobble something together. I hit the middle. This is where the plot wears thin. Even though I have outlined,the middle gets me every time.

My novel is getting on my nerves. I am stuck in the Wednesday of writing. The middle is the hump day.

Gone is the building up of tension, suspense and writerly goodness. All that remains is a wilderness of crappy filler plot with barely a hope in sight of ever making it to the end.

I feel like that cockwomble who decided to wear a heavy mascot costume for the marathon. It was great at the start. It was fun. Everyone laughed and thought I was great then.

Now I am in the middle, lugging a snail shell on my back the weight of a washing machine. My legs are broken and my mind hates me. I will never make it to the finish line.

Overcoming the Slump

I write.

It is a mess that will need some serious redrafting but it is written.

I will curse myself later when I have to figure out how my crime novel became science fiction but for now it will do. I wrote something.

I carry the load on my back and I spill out possibly my worst writing ever but at least I am writing something.

The End is in Sight

Now is not the time to get excited and yet every time I do. I  want to sprint to the end.

I cannot finish writing a novel the way that I read one. I have a bad habit of skimming through novels when they’re ending, just so I can read the conclusion. I miss important details in doing this.

I tell myself I must not do this in my writing. I have to write my way to the end so another reader can skip past what has taken me weeks to write. It is my duty.

I give myself a slap, possibly literally, for being the world’s most impatient person. I try to embrace such inspirational phrases like, ‘it’s not about the destination but the journey’.

I remind myself that I hate it when people use the word ‘journey’. I give myself another slap, probably literal, and woman up.

The Ending

Rollercoaster of writing first draft - no words writerOh my days, I can see a light and no one died. Well, not yet but this novel is feeling like it’s killing me.

I am writing the ending.

Everything hinges upon this. I must write an amazing last sentence that sticks in the minds of readers forever so that they will recommend my book to everyone.

I must make it the Best Sentence Ever Written ™.

I must not use ‘I’ at the beginning of the sentence. This is starting the novel in reverse.

Cue three days of finding a word for my last sentence only for it to begin with ‘I’ again.

And Breathe…

It is written. I am a freaking goddess. I have mastered the first draft and won.

I could climb mountains, rollerblade in the park, and jump out of planes. I realise that I am becoming a poster girl for a Tampax advert.

I settle for getting drunk, telling the world I’ve finished it, and lying down for a week.

Oh…Wait a Minute

Rollercoaster of writing first draft - gibberishAfter a month of a chocolate-based coma, reality hits. I cannot publish a first draft. It needs to be drafted and edited. I will need to do something with it.

I cautiously look over it. I curse my fingers that do not work with my brain when I am typing. I wonder what a ‘leorhgs’ is.

I put my laptop away. The first draft taunts me in my dreams, demanding to be picked up and given the TLC it deserves.

I eventually face it, ready to read it through.

I curse myself for beginning my first sentence with ‘I’. Bloody Nora, what was I thinking?

It begins.

About Lisa Sell

Lisa Sell is a fiction writer. When she's not wrestling with words she can be found showing the love for chocolate, cheese, coffee, books, the cats, and the husband. Perhaps not in that order.

8 comments on “The Rollercoaster of Writing a First Draft

    1. Writing is hard sometimes, Ian. That’s what makes it so worthwhile when we get it right. I enjoy the challenge. This post was intended to be a bit of fun too, hamming up writer angst. I’m all good and enjoying writing. Sometimes.

  1. “I feel like that cockwomble who decided to wear a heavy mascot costume for the marathon. It was great at the start. It was fun.”


    What is it with the middle? It’s very tempting to just put “a few weeks later…” and jump past the whole ridiculous thing. People can work out what happened in between, right?

  2. Congrats on draft one, at least you can say you did it!
    I’m constantly asking myself “why am I do this?” It’s certainly not for the money lol … yet I can’t seem to stop. The satisfaction of finishing and hitting that publish now button is euphoric – for ten mins – then it’s groan time to start over!
    Good luck with the re-writes, and see you on the shelves soon.

      1. I so agree, only passion can drive good craft, not the money! Well done on completing your first draft!! Yes, writing is hard and especially with family members to distract!

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