Common First Draft Problems

By on July 13, 2016
Common First Draft Problems - Writer's

Getting through your first draft is no mean feat, especially if it is your debut novel.

It takes a serious amount of time and dedication to actually get to the point where you can say ‘my first draft is finished.’ In fact, most people who attempt to write a novel never get to the end.

Why? Because it’s a tough thing to do, it’s exhausting, emotional, frustrating and a constant struggle to keep going. Yes, the road to completing your first draft sure isn’t easy, and it is riddled with problems and obstacles to work through in order not to fall flat on your face.

But it is possible to get there, and armed with the knowledge of those obstacles, those problems you may have to overcome, you can give yourself the best chance of crossing that finish line.

So what are the most common first draft problems and how do we tackle them? Read on to find out…

You don’t know where to start

Sitting down to begin your novel can feel scary and overwhelming. It may be that you just have the bare bones of a story in your head, but no idea of how you are going to flesh it out. If starting your book begins to feel like a mammoth task, just take it easy. You don’t have to start at the beginning. Just write out a scene you know you want to happen. You can write your book piece by piece and figure out the order later - if that’s what works best for you.

Finding your voice

Everyone talks about finding your ‘voice’ when you write. You writing voice should be natural, engaging and completely unique to you. Often when writing a first draft however, writers can get obsessed with the idea of trying to find that 'voice', when really, if you write naturally, then you already have.

Forcing yourself to write any differently will only make it harder to write, and will come out on paper as sounding forced too.

Being too critical

You know what? Your first draft is going to be dreadful. That is just the way it goes.

If you get too bogged down in trying to make it anything other than this you’ll find it far too time consuming and frustrating to ever get through it. The point of a first draft is to get it written. Once that’s done you can then go back and rip it to shreds if necessary, but don’t listen to that voice that is telling you had bad it is - it might make you stop.

Remember all you are trying to do here is get the story down on paper, from start to finish.


You want to write something mind-blowing and truly unique, only when you start to craft your story, its structure becomes more and more complicated and you end up not knowing which way to turn.

The best advice is to write your first draft as simply as you can. Don’t get bogged down in the details of how things work, or make it any less complicated than you need to. If you begin simply the end result will at least be a story that flows, and one that makes sense - form there you can work at it, break it down and build it back up again to create the ingenious, visionary novel you had always imagined it would be.

If you start small and build up, it is so much easier then weaving a tangled mess and subsequently spending time trying to unpick that mess afterwards.

If you get these common first draft problems securely ingrained in your head then you might be able to avoid them!

Remember, first drafts are just about getting your entire story down -and  if you can do that you are already doing better then most!

Bethany Cadman -author of 'Doctor Vanilla's Sunflowers'

Bethany Cadman -author of 'Doctor Vanilla's Sunflowers'

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