Finishing off that first draft

Like many writers before me, and sure to be many writers after, I find the final push towards that completed first draft is extremely difficult. For some reason, the brain decides to press hard on the brakes while simultaneously throwing up a wall, breaking all real flow of writing and making it very hard to finish anything, let alone the climactic portion of your novel.

Over the past decade or so I’ve encountered this problem more times than I’d like to admit or say, but during this time I’ve also managed to come up with a few different strategies to try and break through the what seems to be impenetrable wall. So, without further ado, here are some tips and strategies to help you conquer what some say is the hardest portion of writing.

1) Take a break from your current project.

For me, this is always my go-to option whenever I’m trying to finish writing the last part of my first draft. If I find myself standing there, looking at that unbearable wall, working on something else somehow manages to open my mind back up and gets the words flowing again. Some people find they need to stay within their book universe, so they either work with an existing character already found in their novel (which can lead to an interesting spin-off novel!), or they take their main character and place them in an entirely different scenario and see where it takes them. Who knows, maybe you’ll end up using some of that writing in a later project (sequel maybe?) or fit it in when you’re working on an edit. Other times, people find it helpful to completely step back from their universe and begin working on something else. It might just be a one-shot, or maybe it turns into your next full-scale project, but the complete removal from all things familiar sometimes helps harness that raw creativity only found when creating something new.

2) Try working on the next scene in your manuscript.

Though this option hasn’t been always as successful for me in the past, skipping your current scene and moving onto something else does have it’s benefits. Towards the end of a novel this tactic gets a little more difficult – since there are less and less scenes to move on to, but it can be quite effective if used with enough writing material left. Moving onto the next pre-planned scene allows for the familiarity of the characters to continue which keeps the creative flow moving and sometimes even helps spring up new ideas. Perhaps your character says something funny that strikes a chord with you; the next thing you know, that funny little statement gets something going in your head and BAM! Problem solved. The whole point of this option is to work around the blip in your story and trick your brain into thinking you’re not close to being completely finished writing yet. From what I’ve found, that’s why the wall is thrown up – not because they ideas aren’t there, but because your brain just can’t get unstuck on one particular thing. By skipping over it and continuing work on the project, you can fool your brain into thinking it’s already been written. Once the remainder of the story has been finished, you can return to that one spot you skipped over and fill in the gap.

3) Talk it out with a writing friend.

This tactic always seems to work well for me – and I would use it much more frequently if I lived in the same city as my writing partner. Writing friends (or writing groups if you’re lucky to join one of those) are a good way to hash out issues of any sort in whatever piece you’re working on, but especially issues relating to breaking down that final wall. Through their experiences and yours combined, normally some sort of an answer is discovered after a couple of sessions and you can continue on working. The key for this being successful is they type of person or group you hook up with. Hands down, the person needs to be a writer. Though non-writers can provide feedback and help with small things, it takes a writer to help their kin through a crisis such as breaking down the wall. Most writers have been through a similar situation at least one other point in their lives, which helps immensely. The other major thing I think people need to look out for is the genre in which their writing friend spends most of their time in. Myself, I write in the Y.A./N.A genres, so naturally my writing partner does so as well. Now, that doesn’t mean someone who writes in crime or mystery or fantasy wouldn’t be able to help me – I’m just saying that different genres have different checkboxes that need to be looked at and a writer from a different genre may not know all of them.

That’s all the suggestions for now! I’ll have some more in the next little while, so stay tuned! And as always, keep writing.

Until next time.