This is the most important tip of all: It’s only a first draft, it doesn’t have to be perfect.
You know what that means? You can relax. A first draft can be bad. In fact, it will be bad. Don’t worry about it. Plow on. Don’t even think of it as a first draft. That’s too much pressure, not to mention insulting to first drafts, think of it as your zero draft.
That’s what I do.
I get a lot of people asking for tips for dealing with writer’s block. I don’t get writer’s block. But only because I’ve learned not to be bothered by writing utter, utter rubbish.1 I expect my zero draft to be the worst writing in the history of writing thus when it turns out shockingly badly, I am unconcerned. “Why, yes, it is rubbish. No matter, that’s what I was going for.”
I write myself out of trouble,2 but that also mean I write myself into trouble: my zero drafts are full of insanely repetitive passages, and thus full of redundancies. Here is a short example:
Even though he’d now taken it away I could still feel the warmth of where his thumb had briefly brushed against my shoulder.
In the final version it became this:
I felt warmth where his thumb had been.
I have no idea how many drafts the novel went through before that slim sentence emerged from the bloated one. Lots.
I also usually wind up writing something like this at least once in the course of a zero draft:
She wasn’t sure what she was doing there. What was the point? Maybe he wouldn’t meet her after all. She should have stayed in class. She should never have answered the phone. Or talked to him. Or agreed to meet him. Or been born. Why was she here? Why wasn’t she doing something more productive? Somewhere else?
In the final version it looks like this:
Yup, that’s right, deleted, gone, wiped out, obliterated, not in the book. And if I were writing the preceding sentence in a novel I’d probably pare it down and all. Unless I was going for the laughs. Sometimes repetition can be funny. But only if used sparingly.
. . .
So, there you have it my tip is to have fun with your first draft and don’t worry about writing rubbish. Expect it! You can fix it later.
Disclaimer: If this advice doesn’t work for you and you keep getting stuck it could be that you’re an outliner. Down tools and start outlining. But don’t ask me for advice on how to do that cause I have no idea. However, I suspect that once you’ve outlined and start writing your first draft then the above advice may well apply.