Tell Yourself It’s Just a Short Story



Have you ever been overwhelmed by a large writing project? I know I have; especially when I’m working on any long project like a novel. It can be daunting if I think about all the work I have ahead especially when I’m trying to get that first draft done. For me, first drafts are really hard to finish.

I always start a new project full of energy and can’t seem to write or type fast enough. But then I hit that place where I’m not sure how I will ever get it all done. Or that part of the story where I don’t have any idea how I’ll get from one point to another and that brings the whole project to a screeching halt.              

One trick that can work is to treat it like a short story. I tell myself that I need to just get down the major parts or scenes from beginning to end. I ignore the gaping holes that appear. I try not to add too many details. I just push through to the end. When I reach one of those walls where I can’t imagine how to move forward, I’ll make a note  to go back and figure that part out. I just keep writing sketches of scenes knowing I’ll go back and fill in the details later.

If I keep telling myself it’s a short story, sometimes I can get it all out without panicking. And if I keep writing it as fast as I can without giving it too much deep thought I’m surprised when I reach the end. I also know that the end may change. Any of it may change but I work on that later too.

I find that I’ve gotten to know my characters better by the end of that quick draft. I know more about their motivation which makes it easier to fill in those blank places.

It doesn’t always work. Sometimes I reach the end and realize that I don’t really have a story here. But at least it’s a quick draft and often I can use some part of it. I think I learn from everything I write so it isn’t wasted time.

When it does work, at least I have the bare bones of the story and look forward to going back and filling in the details. For me, that’s the fun part. Getting that first draft done quickly makes the second draft feel like dessert.

What tricks do you use to get that first draft done?