If You Want to (Finally) Finish Your First Draft, Stop Doing This

Don’t stall out on that first draft. We’ve lost thousands of riveting, moving, and potentially life-changing novels to first-draft purgatory. The last word of the first manuscript is a milestone many authors never reach because they get stuck in the cycle of tweaking and perfecting their story before it even has a chance to breathe. They revisit the same sentence over and over again in an unrealistic attempt to make it “just right” until they are so paralyzed with doubt that they shelve the project altogether.

In the red-eyed, frenzied midst of novel writing, every author forgets a crucial lesson: the first draft is never the last. It is but a rough skeleton waiting to be fleshed out and molded into a masterpiece. But that masterpiece will never come if you spend all of your creative energy on building its bones.

The key to finishing your first draft? Stop trying to make it good.

Self-censorship and perpetual editing are the enemies of progress. They rob writers of their voice and creativity, stifling the very essence that can make a story come alive. Instead of constantly second-guessing yourself and agonizing over every word, you have to put one metaphorical foot in front of the other and just keep writing.

Yes, there will be awkward sentences, plot holes, and characters that need more development. But that is all part of the process. The magic happens in revision. You just have to get there first.

What is Self-Censorship?

Self-censorship is when a writer limits their creativity and expression due to fear, doubt, or self-imposed rules. It can manifest in many ways, such as:

  • Constantly second-guessing word choices
  • Avoiding certain topics or themes
  • Watering down the story to make it more palatable
  • Excessively editing and revising
  • Refusing to take risks

While some level of self-editing and critical thinking is necessary—for example, fixing a misspelled word or questioning a character’s motives—self-censorship takes it to an extreme and ultimately hinders the writing process. Because it stems from a lack of confidence and trust in one’s writing abilities, it’s most commonly experienced by first-time authors. But even seasoned pros can find themselves subconsciously blocked.

Benefits of Not Censoring Your First Draft

The first draft is where the story takes shape, and the writer truly discovers what they want to say. By not censoring yourself, you give your creativity free rein and room for the real story to emerge. If that sounds scary and chaotic, that’s because it is. But kicking self-editing to the curb will undoubtedly result in a far deeper, more authentic novel.

Need more convincing? Here are just a few of the many benefits of writing without self-censorship.

You’ll Surprise Yourself

When you fully immerse yourself in the writing process and let go of perfection, you’ll be amazed at what your mind can come up with. Unrestricted writing allows for unexpected plot twists, unique character developments, and creative solutions to story problems. Embrace the unknown and let your imagination run wild—you never know where it might take you.

You’ll Take More Risks

Self-censorship is the enemy of risk-taking. When you constantly worry about how others will perceive your writing, you may shy away from taking bold chances or addressing controversial topics. But a truly remarkable story often pushes boundaries and challenges societal norms. By writing without censoring yourself, you’ll have the freedom to explore these themes and ideas without fear. After all, you can always edit them out later.

You’ll Maintain Momentum

If you have yet to experience that near-euphoric feeling of being in a state of creative flow, self-censorship is to blame. The constant stopping and starting disrupts the natural rhythm of your writing and can make it difficult to pick back up where you left off.  When you let go of perfection and just write, the words will flow more easily, and you’ll reach the end of your first draft in no time.

Stay Out of First-Draft Purgatory

If you have a half-finished first draft that’s been collecting virtual dust on your desktop for who knows how long, you’re not alone. As a book coach, I work with tons of first-timer writers who stalled out on their manuscripts because they couldn’t get past the first draft. So, if you need an extra push to get back to the page, book a session with me. Together, we’ll tackle whatever mental roadblocks are standing between you and completing your novel.

Click here to learn more.


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Story Coach, Story Development

I’m Pam, Your Story Coach

I help busy professionals write and polish the book of their dreams. Let’s bring authenticity to your speculations, flow to your structure, and heart to your words.

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