Introduction to Writing Your First Draft
Whether you’ve gone through every step in the Thriller Outlining Series or not, you’re here for a reason. Maybe you’ve taken your own road in outlining a story. Perhaps you’re a pantser and are looking for ideas on how to start your first draft. Or maybe you’ve stumbled on to this post and are curious about the whole thriller writing thing.
For whatever reason you’re here, I’m glad you’re visiting and have an interest in outlining a thriller. Before we get into the tools and methods for starting your first draft, let me remind you of the first 6 blog posts in this series.
The Thriller Outlining Series is a high-level step by step system to outlining a thriller. It’s true you could use the methods I’ve shown for any genre of fiction, but as thriller writers, we’re kinda biased and tend to provide examples using the thriller genre.
Below is a link to every post in the series. If you see one that interests you, please click on the title and check it out. Each post has attachments or links to templates, books, or tools, we recommend for that particular step. We hope you like them.
Your First Draft (you’re here)
If you’re ready to write your first draft, there are a few things you should already have decided for your story. Here’s a quick list. Some are totally obvious, but not everyone is on the same level.
Story Concept – You need to have a clear understanding of what you’re going to write. Even pantser’s know ahead of time before they begin writing.
A Detailed Understanding of the Thriller Genre – Mystery is not a thriller. A Romance is not a thriller. Sci-fi is not a thriller. Each of these genres has their own way of telling a story. It may be obvious, but you should understand what a thriller is and what a reader is expecting to read.
Character List – Every character in a story has a particular reason for being. Make sure each of your characters has one. If they don’t, dump them. You don’t need them. We really like Dramatica’s explanation for character archetypes. Check it out if you have time.
Be Familiar With Proper Story Structure – Every great story follows a particular structure. This isn’t the whole outliner/pantser debate type of construction. This is actual story structure that every writer, both outliner, and pantser follow. If you’re not familiar with this, please enroll in our free online course: Thriller Story Structure 101. This course will give you enough to understand the basics.
At this point, a pantser could start writing with the information from above. If you prefer to outline your story in greater detail than you should have decided on at least one more thing.
Scene Outline – In the last post in this series we talked about scene building. If you’re a detailed outliner like me, you’ll want a detailed scene outline. I write out every scene with an immense amount of detail. In fact, my completed outlines are often around 20,000 – 25,000 words. Consider having a basic scene outline ready before you begin writing your first draft. It will make the process more enjoyable.
The fastest way to succeed as an author is to write more books. How do you do that with a day job, family, school or all your other time commitments?
The secret is efficiency.
Tools You May Need Or Want Before You Begin Writing Your First Draft.
The name of the game is organization. Assuming you have a quiet place to write, clean desk, note cards, (if you use them) scratch paper or notepad, ( I use a notebook to jot down ideas that I can’t use at the moment, but have potential for later use) and a PC or Mac, there are a few other items I highly recommend.
I use each of these on nearly a daily basis, and I can tell you, it helps a lot. In full disclosure, some of these are affiliate links, and I will earn a commission if you make a purchase.
Scrivener – Simply the best organizational software for writer’s on the planet. Nuff said.
5,000 Words Per Hour: Write Faster, Write Smarter Kindle Edition – This book is the sole reason I write 3000 words every single day in as little as two hours. No joke. It’s a quick read, and a simple method to implement. It may be awkward in the beginning, but give it an entire week, and you’ll be shocked at how many words you can pump out. This book comes with a link to an excel document so you can track your writing. Using too is simple!
Pacemaker Press – I track everything. I’ve just started using the free version of this software, and so far it’s been great. I cannot recommend purchasing the pro version yet because it’s too new to me, but the free version is helpful for tracking. (This is not an affiliate link. Again, I won’t provide an affiliate link to anything I don’t currently use or have used in the past. Not my style).
Writing Your First Draft
If you have the tools from above and have a completed outline, there isn’t much else to do but write. Most writers start in the beginning and write until their done. It’s really that simple. Just follow your outline and start typing (or dictating). In my experience and arguably the experience of many authors, there is a more significant chance of failing if you do something you shouldn’t be doing, rather than what you are to be doing. So, here is a list of what not to do when you sit down and start writing your first draft.
What not to do
Research while writing – This is not the time to research. If you come to a scene where further research is required, mark that section by using TK. When you finish writing your first draft, you can search your draft of “TK” and conduct the research. FYI, “TK” stands for “to come.”
Don’t stop writing until you’re done – That could say, “Don’t start another project until you’re done writing this first draft.” Your only goal is to finish the first draft. That’s it. By the way, don’t worry about word count either. That comes later in the revisions.
Do not rewrite or edit – Especially for you newer writers. Do not edit or rewrite while you’re working on the first draft. There will be plenty of time for that later.
Do not read your story until your done – It’s okay to read a few scenes from the day before to get your head into the right place, but don’t read from the beginning until you’ve finished the entire draft.
Don’t get discouraged – Your first draft will suck. There is no way around it. Even the pro’s go through it. Just like learning to walk, you’ll get better every time you try it.
To Let the First Draft Rest or Not?
I wasn’t going to talk about this, but after a few private messages from members of our Fiction Formula Facebook Group, I thought I better make a mention of it.
Some writer’s let the story sit for a couple weeks and up to a month before they start making revisions. I’m one of those writer’s and here’s why.
If I don’t let a story sit and do my best to forget all about it, then I’m somewhat blind to glaring errors. I can read an entire chapter that is full of problems and never see any of them. That’s because it’s all too fresh in my head. I remember writing the chapter or scene, and all seems well. However, when I wait a couple of weeks, I’ve allowed myself time to forget the story and in all likelihood have started another outline, so when I get back to the first draft, it’s pretty new to me. Sure, I remember some stuff, but the writing is fresh.
If you’re a newer writer, I suggest you wait at least two weeks before you start revising. It will save you money in editing fee’s later for sure.
Listen, I know this has been a long, long series, but I hope you’ve found it useful. There are indeed areas within outlining I could dive more in-depth, and I will as time allows, so check back from time to time and read up on the new content. In the meantime, if there is something you wanted to learn regarding outlining, but didn’t, feel free to leave a comment below.