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Finishing the Draft: How to Get It Done

Writing is like a marathon. You start out strong with adrenalin and ambition pumping through your veins. You feel excited and unstoppable. And then you lose steam. You try to push forward, put one foot in front of the other, but the ambition is gone. Suddenly, you don’t know where you are going. Where is the finish line? Is there even a finish line? Putting one foot in front of the other seems almost impossible now. You are lost, tired, and disenchanted. No matter how experienced of a writer you are, finishing the draft will always be the hardest part. The excitement that pushed you to begin has run out and you are moving forward on pure will power. It seems like the dread that grows as you come closer to the finish line is inevitable. So, how do you make it through? How do you propel yourself forward when it feels like you are running out of fuel? Well, like we always say, everyone is different. However, there are many common myths regarding the drafting process that have notoriously slowed writers down. Busting a few of these myths might give you enough strength to push through to the end of the draft.

Myth #1: You should edit as you go.

On the surface level, this might sound appealing. Who doesn’t like killing two birds with one stone? But, editing your work as you write it can actually hurt your writing process and even slow it down astronomically. This is because you are your own worst critic. If you pause your creative flow every minute or two to tear down a sentence, you give your brain permission to second guess and put down your writing before it is even finished. Critiquing a piece of writing that is unfinished is like tasting a cake that hasn’t been put in the oven yet. Not only is it disgusting, it is also potentially dangerous for your health. Do not let yourself look at your paper through an editor’s eyes until you have finished at least a rough draft of your piece. It will keep your writing flowing and will stop you from second guessing yourself before you’ve even put your cake in the oven.

Myth #2: Go chronologically.

It seems like it goes without saying, right? Start from the beginning and end with the conclusion. However, writing in the same way that you read can create a bad case of writer’s fatigue as it builds up the pressure to make the piece’s conclusion live up to the rest of the piece, thus filling the writer’s brain with dread when it comes to writing the conclusion. Instead of starting firmly at the beginning and moving chronologically forward, try starting with the part that excites you the most. Start with something that makes you thrilled to be a writer, whether that be a phrase you like, a plot line that you want to see through, or a thought you want to explore. Focus on that part first and then branch out from there. It will not eliminate the possibility of running up against spots that you are less excited about, but it will give you more energy and confidence in approaching those hard spots. Instead of starting from the beginning of your story, start from the beginning of your passion for the story you are writing.

Myth #3: Everything is set in stone.

This is a big one, and one that a surprising amount of writers still believe. It is common to believe that your first draft needs to be polished to a certain extent, but this is the exact opposite of the truth. Your first draft is your drawing board, a chalkboard for you to doodle on before diving into the experiment head on. Not only are the words flexible. The format, structure, and order is completely up to you still. The first draft is just your way of getting everything in your mind down on paper in a structured way that allows you to take a look at everything before refining it and making it more presentable. If you need to write things out of order, you totally can. If you need to write certain sections as outlines instead of full sentences, you are absolutely allowed to do that. No one can tell you how finished or polished your first draft needs to be, because your first draft is for you and you alone.

Writing the first draft can be a beautiful experience. It allows you to see the thoughts in your head on paper. But it is also a marathon, a long and winding road to the finish line. While you will undoubtedly be tired by the end of the race, whether or not you enjoyed the journey there is entirely up to you. Give yourself the tools to enjoy your surroundings while you run. It makes getting to the finish line infinitely more rewarding.