Ten Rules for Writing First Drafts

Since I’ve been writing all day and have only two finished paragraphs and a whole lot of messy stuff on my page, I thought this poster was an appropriate reminder of what the beginning steps of writing look like.

The main thing to remember is that the first thing you write will not be wonderful, no matter how miraculous it seems after you’ve worked all day to produce it. You’ll arrive back at your desk in the morning and catch logical absurdities, unclear grammatical constructions, and blatant typos, then you’ll go on to commit more.

Keep typing. Keep revising. Eventually you may have something wonderful, but it will all start with that rough draft. Write on!

10 Rules for Writing First Drafts
Like this infographic? Get more content marketing tips from Copyblogger.

How to Kill Your Book: An Anti-Marketing Guide

Doom your book to oblivion with these helpful tips!

© Vladacanon | Dreamstime Stock Photos & Stock Free Images

Want to make sure your book languishes in obscurity? Or if it’s already popular, that it fades quickly away? If you’d like to ensure that your writing remains (or becomes) unreviewed, unshared, and unseen, these tips are for you.

1: Be very secretive about your unpublished manuscript. When you query agents or editors, let them know you hold the copyright to your work. Be sure not to give away details such as the complete title, character names, or plot outline of your work in the query. Assure them that your manuscript is very funny and certain to be a bestseller, as your mother, your dentist, and two of your children couldn’t stop laughing when you read a paragraph aloud. Emphasize the fact that no eyes but yours have ever seen the entire manuscript because it’s the original work of a highly creative genius whose voice must be preserved at all costs.

2: Don’t allow an editor to change a thing. After all, ain’t is in the dictionary and there’s no good reason not to use an apostrophe to indicate a possessive. Plus, longer is better. If Gone With the Wind sold over a million copies the first year with only 1037 pages, your 3789-page epic should at least double those sales.

3: Invoke your copyright at every opportunity. If a fan recommends your book, comments on its plot or characters, or even mentions the complete title in an article, blog, or social media post, be sure to respond with the news that your work is under copyright protection. If they quote a line or two, even in a complimentary context, threaten to notify your intellectual property attorney and possibly file a lawsuit.

4: Defend your work vigorously. If someone makes a neutral or negative comment about your work in a review, blog post, bookstore site comment, or social media outlet, be sure to launch a vitriolic attack on them so that readers will understand what idiots they are for not adequately appreciating your masterpiece. Teach them not to disrespect your work by posting rude comments on their blog and social media streams.

5: For children’s literature, require that teachers and librarians get signed permission from you to share your book during story hour. You might also make them sign an agreement that they won’t share the last page, as you want to leave readers hanging so they’ll run out to buy your book. Make sure teachers, fans, or librarians don’t recommend your book or share a story-hour-reading online– you wouldn’t want to accidentally reach new fans who might keep the book alive.

6: Be one of “those” authors. Carry your book everywhere with the title facing out. Always mention that you’re an author and you just happen to have a copy on hand and you’d be happy to take cash, check, debit, or credit. If the customers in line behind you seem impatient, just give them an evil stare and let them know you are an AUTHOR. If you get the opportunity to do a book signing, be sure the bookstore meets your publicity demands and refuse to sign any extra books for future sales. Be rude to people who look at your book but don’t buy it.

7: Choose your heirs carefully. If you’re getting older, be sure to leave your work to a family member who knows nothing about publishing or marketing, but who will protect your copyright at all costs. Make sure they don’t allow your book to be reprinted or e-published, as you want the first editions to hold their value. Leave your heirs this list of helpful tips so they can ensure that your work dies with you.

If you have other helpful tips, please feel free to share them. Many authors have already doomed their work by acting on these time-tested ideas, so fresh, creative ways of killing a book would doubtless be welcome.

Note: Image courtesy of © Vladacanon | Dreamstime Stock Photos & Stock Free Images

Originally published May 14, 2012; updated 2/2017.

Writing Advice from Ray Bradbury

Author Ray Bradbury has done it all– novels, non-fiction, short stories, and more. In “Telling the Truth,” the 2001 keynote address at Point Loma Nazarene University’s Sixth Annual Writer’s Symposium by the Sea, he shares frank, practical writing advice. He’s laugh-out-loud funny, occasionally profane, but his advice is profound and well worth absorbing.

Here is a quick outline of a few primary points. Don’t miss his talk, though. It’s peppered with wonderful anecdotes, interesting people, good humor, and vivid language.

  1. Write short stories, not novels, first.
  2. You may love another author, but you can’t be them.
  3. Study high-quality short stories by classic authors (he provides specific recommendations).
  4. Stuff your head with good stuff.
  5. Fire the friends who don’t support you.
  6. Live in the library, not in front of a screen. He “graduated from the library.”
  7. Fall in love with old movies.
  8. Do what you do with love, and write with joy. If writing starts feeling like work, scrap it and start something else.
  9. Don’t focus on making money, but on writing. The story of his trip to New York City and the sale of his first two books is inspiring.
  10. You can deal with the ten things you love, hate, fear, or almost remember by writing them into stories.
  11. Surprise yourself. Type what comes into your head–intuition and word association can spark many ideas. You don’t know what is in you until you test it. Bradbury said his first film wasn’t good, but it was a beginning.
  12. You write for readers. What you’re writing for, even if you don’t know it, is for at least one person to love what you do. And you must love it too.

I love his opinionated commentary about short story writers, perhaps because he shares my taste for classic authors, metaphors, and stories that go somewhere.

If you've never read anything by Ray Bradbury, my pick for "must read" is Fahrenheit 451.

My favorite tip is to “stuff your head with good stuff.” He suggests that if you read one short story, one good, classic poem, and one essay before bedtime for the next one thousand nights, you’ll have a wealth of material to work with. I’ve been teaching for years that “input must come before output,” and Bradbury offers concrete examples of how to make it happen.

Bradbury’s joy in reading and writing are contagious, and mental snapshots of dandelions, King Kong, Bill Gates (“I don’t do Windows”), an enthusiastic barber, a destroyed face, and Gene Kelly are vivid reminders of his gift. This video is part of the University of California Television (UCTV) series.

Libraries raised me. I don’t believe in colleges and universities. I believe in libraries . . . I went to the library three days a week for 10 years. (Ray Bradbury)

What’s the Best Way to Start Writing?

Sharpen your pencils and get creative!I don’t know about the best way for everyone, but for me, I know that it’s the magic of the first line that makes it happen. There are things that must happen before the first line arrives, and that’s sometimes the tricky part.

Here’s a bit about my writing process– The Magic of the First Line. After you read about it, I’d like to hear about the method that works best for you. Feel free to post on your own blog and link back in the comment section so that others can read your ideas as well.

The only thing certain about writing processes is that there’s not a single right way that works for everyone, but reading about the way that others do it can be an inspiration. So… read along, and share your thoughts!

Twitter Weekly Updates for 2010-08-21

  • Started the day with a visit from a gutter installer. Somehow having trouble re-gathering scattered thoughts & remembering what to do… #
  • In the absence of clearly defined goals we become strangely loyal to performing daily trivia & ultimately become enslaved by it. DS McGregor #
  • New #NAIWE Update for writers & editors: Member Interview, Deadbeat Client Bill, more – http://grsnip.com/0BWa # Continue reading

Twitter Weekly Updates for 2010-08-14

  • My 21 y/o just called to get exact radius, circumference, & surface area of the earth. Obviously has his mind on something other than work! #
  • RT @HomeschoolBlogs: Newbery Award Winners from 1922-2010: This is from An Unconventional Librarian… http://bit.ly/cj6eoN #
  • RT @RachelleGardner …good editing leads to 30% more reader-engagement … http://bit.ly/bv6Zn1 – True- find good editors @ http:naiwe.com # Continue reading

Twitter Weekly Updates for 2010-08-07

  • Have discovered an amusing cottage industry in eastern Europe: register a US trademark & get offers to reg it there for only $2415.50 or so. #
  • Really, really tired, and can’t quit yet. Should have cloned myself while I still had energy. Maybe tomorrow for my #writegoal. #
  • To see the Summer Sky
    Is Poetry, though never in a Book it lie –
    True Poems flee.
    – Emily Dickinson #quote # Continue reading