Getting to the End

Posted Mar 13 2018, 9:55 pm

We have all heard the famous saying, “A journey of sixty thousand words (give or take) begins with a vague idea, a blank .doc file, and a sheen of panic sweat.”

Actually, I kid. For me, the first pages of a draft are the easy ones — the exciting moments where ideas are fizzing, but not yet set into a final form. The world, or at least my draft, is full of possibility. I get to know my characters, tinker with setting, start the plot threads that I will — I AM SURE — weave together into a tapestry of awesome, and soon I will triumphantly type “The End.” 

The reality is more . . . prosaic. It goes something like this:

  • 1 – 10,000 words: THIS IS AWESOME.
  • 10,001 – 20,000 words: This is still pretty awesome but I guess I should get a plot?
  • 20,001 – 30,000 words: Wait what where . . . didn’t he have blue eyes in an earlier chapter? Also I need to research hotels on the coast of Alabama that are open in September. And why isn’t this character doing what I told her to do?
  • 30,001 – . . . : HELP I AM LOST IN THE WOODS maybe I should just start over.

This is why, for so many writers, the first draft never ends. Once you reach LOST IN THE WOODS status, the temptation to go back to the beginning and fix everything and then finish the draft is overwhelming. Many a writer, including yours truly, has been down this path.

However! It doesn’t have to be this way. I can and have finished first drafts. It requires a bit of that BIC (butt-in-chair) factor we all know and love. And it requires determination to see the thing through even when you’re seriously considering holding an intervention with your characters.

Fortunately, the Internet has some great advice for first drafters who are stuck in the middle:

At Seekerville, guest poster Lindsay Harrell gives her 7 Tips for Finishing a First Draft. (Thanks to Karen Fleming for sending this link, and for providing the idea for this post!)

Another 7 Tips come from Erika Marks on the Writers in the Storm blog.

Kristin Kieffer of Well Storied., offers her Top 5 Tips for Finishing Your First Draft, too.

But I think Mur Lafferty (of the podcast I Should Be Writing) has the final word here. And picture:

Source: @mightymur (Mur Lafferty)



4 responses to “Getting to the End”

  1. Phyllis Cherry says:

    Thank you. I’m in the middle of a first draft now and appreciate your recommended references.

  2. Confer Donna says:

    Great references! Thanks!

  3. Lingefelt Karen says:

    Great post! I can totally relate to all of this. I get stuck in those woods almost every time (and at the same point, too). Sometimes it helps to go back and read what I’ve already written–I’ll usually find that one little thing that gets me unstuck. At the same time, I don’t like to do any editing as I go. I keep going forward making a big ugly mess along the way. The fun (?) part is cleaning it up afterward.

  4. Nelson Renee says:

    Great resources. Thanks.

    I finally reached “the end” in December. Maybe with some of these tips the next one won’t take 10 months.

    Of course, now the 2nd round edits feel like pulling teeth.

    🙂 Renee

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