Best-selling author James Michener said, “I’m not a very good writer, but I’m an excellent rewriter.”

Many writers impede their progress and stifle their creativity by not doing two particular “somethings” while writing their first draft and once their draft is completed—and waste time and energy by not doing them.

Writing the Draft

A writer can feel about a blank page of paper or computer screen the way an artist may feel about a blank canvas: Stymied or hesitant to start. The way an artist gets going is to make a first stroke. Notice I didn’t say make “the” first stroke, but “a” first stroke. Write anything, even if it’s something like “I haven’t got a clue what to call this book, but I’ll figure it out eventually.” It’s more important to get your fingers typing or writing than to insist that what you write be perfect the first time (it likely won’t be).

It’s a smart idea to do preparation before you start the draft. This includes the main point of the book, character analyses if fiction, and scenes (for fiction) or topics (for non-fiction) that will give the beginning, middle, and end to your story. It’s also best if, once you start writing the draft, you just write and keep on writing, without stopping to reread and edit what you’ve written, as tempting as that is. You can use up a lot of time and energy by writing, rereading, and editing the sentence or paragraph or chapter you just wrote (perhaps over and over). During the first creative writing course I took a few decades back, we had to read something we wrote aloud to the class. One participant read the first chapter of the book he was writing. It was brilliant, engaging, and well crafted. We enjoyed it so much that we begged him to read the second chapter to us at the next class. He admitted he had only the one chapter—and that he’d been working on it for two years. Two years! At that rate he’s probably still not finished.

Get your first draft written then focus on needed edits and revisions. Which leads me to…

The Best Way to Check Your First and Subsequent Drafts

• After you finish your first draft, print it out. You may want to double-space it first, if you believe you may need or prefer to have the extra space to make notes.
• Put the draft aside for one week. I’m serious. Mark a time on your calendar to work on your draft the following week and go do something else. If you happen to think of something to include or change, make a note on a piece of paper or a computer document, but DO NOT work on your draft.
• It’s now a week later and time to look at your draft. Find a place that’s comfortable, quiet, and where you can work as uninterrupted as possible or feasible.
• Get your draft copy and a pen or pencil and eraser.
• Read your draft aloud. I cannot emphasize enough how important and helpful doing this is. It makes a real difference. You need to hear how what you wrote sounds because that’s how readers will hear it in the movie in their minds when they read your book. Reading your draft aloud—and not at a fast pace—not only lets you hear how what you’ve written sounds, but also brings typos, spacing, and other issues to your attention. You want to wear your editor hat, not your look-what-I-did!-author hat for this read-through.
• Makes notes on the pages and on the backs of the pages. Pay attention to indents, punctuation, content organization, and clarity, as well as creative aspects of what you’ve written. This may take more than one period of time to complete. Allow for this, but stay committed.
• Once you’ve done this process all the way through your manuscript, make the changes and revisions. This also may take more than one period of time to complete. Allow for this, but stay committed.
• Repeat this process for each revision until you feel it’s time to get either a reader you trust to read it and comment or get a developmental evaluation (critique) from someone who knows how to do this. Or you may feel it’s time to use the services of a developmental editor (or proofreader—if you’re genuinely confident about your creative and technical skills) to polish it and or bring your attention to anything you may need to be aware of. Whichever one of these next steps you take, you’ll need to repeat the process for going through your revised draft.
• Once you feel your draft is a final one, after you’ve made your latest revisions and tweaks, let your proofreader or editor proofread it one more time. Too often I have self-published clients who skip this step, only to see “oopsies” that could have been taken care of before the book went into print. It’s the same for my clients who approach literary agents.

A few other tips that will benefit you are:
Work on your manuscript every day (or at least 5-6 days a week) even if one hour is all you have that day. If all you have is five minutes a day, use it. You can find a number of authors who’ve shared that this daily incremental writing pattern is how they got their books written. An hour (or five minutes) a day gets it written faster than zero minutes of writing a day.

Take needed breaks! Writing, proofreading, and revising use brain energy. If you feel your energy flagging, pause for a refresher break or start again the next day.

I wish you the best with your writing and progress.

Author's Bio: 

Need a Book Doctor or an incentive to write or complete your manuscript? Let Joyce L. Shafer be your writing coach, developmental editor, or provide a critique. Details about her services at