Stocking Stuffers for Writers: Drafting

We know time is in short supply, so each day leading to Christmas, we’ll offer 5 simple, smart tips on an important topic to writers, helping with craft enhancement, revision and social networking!


Today’s Stocking Stuffer: Honing your mad DRAFTING skillz:

1–Don’t start until you have a road map. I can hear the pantsers screaming, but this applies to you too. If you are an outliner, outline. If you’re a pantser, have a plan. Brainstorming means understanding the story you want to write. Know your characters, what their motivations are and most importantly, what your goal is for this novel. Make notes in a journal or doc. to reference–it will help you later if you get stuck. A road map means never facing the dreaded question: What should my character do now?

2–Drafting is not about quality, it’s about storytelling. This isn’t Hell’s Kitchen, It’s a first draft. All you need to do is transcribe the story in your head onto the page. Don’t agonize over a turn of phrase, or how to convey the perfect description. Give yourself permission to use placeholders if needed (bland descriptions, cliched actions) to be reworked later during revisions. 

3–Create a mental shift. Drafting works best when you can shove everything else aside and just write. To do this, minimize distractions (put a movie on for the kids, unplug the phone, shut off your email) and create a productive writing environment. Choose a mental aid to train your brain that it’s time to write: light a candle, for example, or draft the book in a color other than black. Whatever you choose, do this only when you draft and your brain will shift into gear faster.

4–Be consistent. Butt-in-chair, all the way. Make a contract with yourself to set aside so many hours per day or week to draft your book. If you struggle with procrastination, set up a reward system for specific word counts–something that has value to you. If you’re brave, try Write or Die. If Twitter is your downfall, turn off the net or try a laptop somewhere without wi-fi.

5–Fight the urge to go backwards. This ties in with #2, but is oh-so-important. Too many writers get caught on the merry-go-round of fixing that their novel languishes forever, incomplete. Always write with the end in mind. If the plot takes an unexpected turn and therefore changes a storyline or event earlier on, don’t go back and rewrite. Instead, make notes about the changes as a placeholder and then keep writing the current scene. This way you keep that creative flow and story pacing going. Come back and reinvent the earlier scene after you finish the book, when you have the time and focus needed to get it right.

Image: PublicDomainPictures @ Pixabay


Becca Puglisi is an international speaker, writing coach, and bestselling author of The Emotion Thesaurus and its sequels. Her books are available in five languages, are sourced by US universities, and are used by novelists, screenwriters, editors, and psychologists around the world. She is passionate about learning and sharing her knowledge with others through her Writers Helping Writers blog and via One Stop For Writers—a powerhouse online library created to help writers elevate their storytelling. You can find Becca online at both of these spots, as well as on Facebook and Twitter.
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29 Responses to Stocking Stuffers for Writers: Drafting

  1. Great post…I’m struggling with number four. Hopefully, when the holiday season is finished I’ll be able to set a schedule and stick with it.

    Have a wonderful Christmas!

  2. “Resist the urge to go backwards.”

    Guilty of that. I tend to read what I wrote the day before and sometimes get lost in tweaking.

    Thanks for the list, and, oh yeah,

  3. Jaleh D says:

    Those are some great tips. Janice Hardy had a whole post on the use of adverbs as placeholders for the first draft to keep you from bogging down in finding better wording.

    A plan is so important. But mine isn’t completely written out. It might be easier if it was, but some is better than none. And I do remind myself of where I’m going, but it doesn’t always help figure out what should happen next to achieve the goals.

  4. Amber Cuadra says:

    Good points. I’ve just discovered the whole “planning” thing. I used to just go with it, but I’ve found planning is almost more fun for me than actual drafting! 🙂

  5. Paul C says:

    Most helpful tips. You make it clear that drafting is FOCUS on the process.

  6. Excellent tips. Not easy for me to follow, but excellent. I have a hard time writing a draft from start to finish. I tend to write one day then revise the next then move on. And I have to have the first three chapters pretty solid before I feel comfortable moving on. Not textbook technique, but so far it’s working.

  7. Thanks, Angela, I really needed to read all these tips, especially around the holidays when I am feeling extra lazy about working on my new book! I am tinkering too much and need to commit to just writing! Have a great holiday!

  8. Thanks for the tips! These should come in handy for me.

  9. Great to see this resonate with so many writers. It’s interesting to see how everyone favors different ones–it shows how we are all unique with different struggles.

    Many people think that because we post these tips, we are immune to the struggles ourselves. Not so! I definitely write all of these posts as much for myself as for anyone else out there who might be in the same boat.

    Hope everyone is having a wonderful week!

  10. Good tips. I always have a “dumping ground” or note doc. for my drafts.

  11. Kath says:

    Great practical reminders!
    Thank you,

  12. Mary Witzl says:

    Those are useful tips, and I was feeling pretty smug about knowing them — until I got to number 5. I ALWAYS go back and tweak something that needs changing, terrified that I’ll forget to do it later. This slows me down and keeps me from moving forward in a proactive way. Maybe I’ll manage this in 2011, but I think I’d better start doing it NOW.

  13. Heather says:

    These are great! I especially like #5, it’s so important! Unfortunately it’s hard not to do. But you’re right, we must resist!

  14. storyqueen says:

    Great tips….I often write little placeholders for myself when I am drafting…”something needs to happen here, not sure what”….and then I jump ahead to what I DO know is going to happen.

    It’s all about keeping the momentum.


  15. Ann says:

    Great tips…Thank you. I like the draft one. Need to keep reminding myself of that one.

  16. Drafting is my favorite stage. #2 is awesome!

  17. I totally agree with #1. At least have a plan before your begin or before you know it you’ve gone off on a wild thread that you will just delete later.;)

  18. Super tips! So many pitfalls for writers to get stuck. I tend to fall into#5 all the time.

  19. Karen Lange says:

    Love this, especially #5. I’m always tempted to fix as I go and it often hinders my progress. Thanks, Angela. This is timely for me.
    Blessings to you and your family,

  20. LOL. Sure, tell me this when I only have a 1000 or so words left to write on my first draft. 😉

    Great advice as always!

  21. #2 keeps hitting me on the head! Thanks 😉

  22. Deb says:

    Thanks for another great Stocking Stuffer. I especially like the second one..!!

  23. Angela, these are extremely helpful. I am enjoying getting caught up with them. Thank you for giving back, girl. I have learned so much from you in 2010. And I know! I’ll learn lots more in 2011. (((hugs))) My favorite of these? 4 and 5. I am one of the trying to fix and never moving forward. With SEVENTY-TWO HOURS, I stayed on that first chapter for ever, just trying to get it right. 🙂

  24. Matthew Rush says:

    Excellent advice. I especially appreciate 3, create a mental shift. I usually do that without thinking, but this is a great idea for helping your mind shift into gear.

    Thanks Angela!

  25. AubrieAnne says:

    These are the kind of things I REALLY need to work on!

  26. Pk Hrezo says:

    Great advice and reminders. Thanks for stuffing our stockings. 😉

    Have a great holiday season!!

  27. Gail says:

    Great tips, now if I only could write!

  28. Awesome! I could never write forward without a road map! 🙂

  29. Andrea Mack says:

    Great tips, especially #5! I’m really enjoying your “Stocking Stuffer” posts.

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