Ten Things I Wish I Knew Before Starting My First Draft

Five years ago, I decided to write a book. So, I did. It was easy.

Said no writer in the history of the world, ever.

When I began writing in 2016, I naively thought that I would sit down and write my first novel in a few short months. I would do it carefully and methodically so that there would be no need to edit. I’d work out the plot along the way with a glass of red, no problem.

(Fool! Fool! If only she knew!)

Needless to say, I got about 20,000k into my historical circus novel and realised it was terribly written, a weak premise and that I had a lot to learn.

I ate my humble pie accordingly. It was bitter.

Since my first tentative steps in writing fiction, I’ve often thought about how useful it would have been to have started out with some key pieces of knowledge from the onset of my writing path. I’ve therefore put together a shortlist of things I wish I’d known before I started writing my first novel to help any other aspiring writers on their journey. Whether you’re grappling with the first glimmer of an idea, or well and truly into the editing process, here are a few gems of wisdom from one scribbling dreamer to another.

1. You do actually have time to write the book

There will always be something in the way of your writing (in my case, two wailing wildlings under the age of three) but if you want to write a book, you need to prioritise and protect your writing time and keep showing up. Keep. Showing. Up. You’re busy. I get it. I’m busy. Everyone is busy. There are busier people than you writing a book. Write into the night or early in the morning, on public transport or in the doctor’s waiting room. One word a day will eventually write a book and you really do have the time to do it.

Turn off Netflix, my friend. I see you.

2. Stop worrying about if you're a plotter or a pantser

Anyone who has ever read a writing blog, or book has heard some variant on this theme. Plotter vs. pantser. Gardener vs. Architect. Post it, note enthusiast vs. chaotic notebook hoarder. One writer will command you to make a detailed cork board story beat plan, whereas another will tempt you into just following your heart and the scent of the story. These labels can be helpful in finding your optimum drafting method but regard them with healthy distance. Finding the perfect method may distract you from actually writing. Many writers are a mixture of both.

3. If your goal is to be traditionally published, there are rules.

Now before the anti-establishment crew come at me with their torches and pitchforks, hear me out…

Perhaps you have broken every traditional publishing rule in the book and written a breath-taking novel which will get agent/publisher attention, regardless. Perhaps your favourite book is an 800K YA romance about alien falling in love with a mole, written in a fictional space dialect of Morse code that few readers understand.

There are e