Our topic this week is first drafts, and let’s be honest: I am not a trained writer. I don’t have an MFA or a background in journalism or even an English major. So it might amaze you that my novel (now titled The Queen of Hearts) was in near-flawless form when I finished its first draft. Revision? Ha! I had to look up the meaning of the word. I’m not saying I managed to hit every one of the guidelines listed below, y’all, but I came darn close. It takes a special kind of literary genius to accomplish so much right out of the gate, but I’m not selfish. To commemorate my foray into the novel-writing world, I have compiled a list of tips—based on my initial manuscript— for anyone out there who might be struggling with their own first draft. You’re welcome.
1. Use Lots of Adverbs
Adverbs are how you describe things. Use them liberally and festively: people love that. Just ask Stephen King or Elmore Leonard.
2. Do Lots of Telling
This helps the reader know what’s going on. Don’t assume they’ll figure it out from the action.
3. Use Curse Words for Emphasis
Here’s a famous example from Ernest Hemingway: “The first draft of everything is shit.” The more cursing you have, the more badass you sound, especially if you write cozy mysteries or Christian fiction.
4. Jargon is Important
This is key if you have a business-y type protagonist: “Don’t bother me while I’m actioning my deliverables, Jane. Management has instructed me to pivot off our legacy brand message to get HIPPO buy-in on this layout.” See how realistic you sound?
5. Exclamation Points are Exciting
Yes, they are!!!
6. Use Dialogue to Convey Essential Information
“My job as an Orthopedic Surgeon allows me plenty of opportunity to rendezvous with my slinky mistress Jezebel, the 5’ 9” OR nurse.”
7. Suddenly, All Hell Broke Loose
If you have a scene that isn’t going anywhere, just insert this sentence.
8. Check to Make Sure Every Sentence Verb
See what happened there? A good editor might catch things like this in a later draft but you can’t count on it.
9. Use Similes Creatively and Copiously
Her hair was dark like the octagonal black squares of a new soccer ball and her eyes were as cerulean as a crayon.
10. Everybody Loves a Good Prologue
Throw in a prologue (or two) to whet your readers’ appetite. Bonus points if you open with a dream sequence, someone who just woke up, or a description of the weather.
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