Eight Easy(ish) Ways to Finish the First Draft of Your Novel

I’m doing NaNoWriMo this month – maybe you are too?

(For the uninitiated, “NaNoWriMo” stands for National Novel Writing Month. It happens every November, where people all over the world try to write a 50,000 word novel in a month.)

This is the eight book-length piece of fiction I’ve worked on (I have several unpublished manuscripts, plus three novels out there: Lycopolis, Oblivion and Dominion, and a novella coming soon). You’d think that, by now, the drafting might come easily! That’s not always the case, as you can see from my Facebook update six days into NaNo:

Image of a Facebook post by Ali Luke on 6th November 2018. The text reads: NaNoWriMo progress: Days 1 - 4: 22 words; Day 5: 1,786 words; Day 6: 1,516 words. Total so far: 3,414 words. (Currently convinced that most of them are rubbish, but maybe I'll get to some better words tomorrow...)

I know that many other writers find it tough to get through a whole first draft, too. It’s particularly difficult if you’ve never written a novel before – you might question whether you have the skills, or even the stamina, to see it through.

Whether or not you’re taking part in NaNoWriMo, here are four things to do – and four things not to do – if you want to finish your first draft.

(Note that these tips aren’t just for novelists. If you’re writing a novella, or even a long short story, they should help too; the same goes if you’re writing serial fiction – like a multi-chapter fanfiction.)

I’m going to assume, going into this, a couple of prerequisites:

  • You’ve chosen an idea that you’re enthusiastic about. If that’s not the case, ask yourself why. Are you trying to write something purely for the money that you don’t really care about? (There’s nothing wrong with writing for money! But it’s an awful lot easier to do that as a freelancer than as a bored novelist.)
  • You’ve got some sort of plan down on paper. It doesn’t need to be a detailed outline – but you should have a rough idea of the shape of your story. What’s the main conflict? How does it all end? What major plot points need to occur along the way? How will the events of the story change your characters?

So, with those in mind, here are four things to do and four things not to do, as you write your draft.


What Can You Write About if You Don’t Have Any Ideas?

This is a familiar situation for a lot of writers.

You want to write – but you don’t have an idea to actually write about.

Whether you’re working on blog posts, novels, short stories, or something else entirely, you need ideas. And it can sometimes feel that ideas are in very short supply.

You might well be able to come up with an idea if pushed – but it wouldn’t necessarily be something that interests you enough for you to devote valuable writing time to it.

One solution (particularly for bloggers) is to set aside time to deliberately create a whole list of ideas. Instead of sitting down at the computer and hoping an idea will strike, have a specific “idea generating” writing session where you jot down as many potential ideas as you can. (Don’t worry about whether they’re any good or not – sometimes a so-so idea can lead you to a great one.)

If that doesn’t really help you, though, you might want to use this “between ideas” time to:



I’m Ali Luke, and I live in Leeds in the UK with my husband and two children. Aliventures is where I help you master the art, craft and business of writing.

Start Here

If you’re new, welcome! These posts are good ones to start with:

Can You Call Yourself a “Writer” if You’re Not Currently Writing? 

The Three Stages of Editing (and Nine Handy Do-it-Yourself Tips)

What to Do When Your Writing Goals Seem a Long Way Off

If you’d like more suggestions, head to the “Start Here” page:

My Novels

My contemporary fantasy trilogy is available from Amazon. The books follow on from one another, so read Lycopolis before the others.

You can buy or sample them on your local Amazon, or read all three FREE in Kindle Unlimited.

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