Write Life Saturday: how long does it take you to write a first draft?

A lot of you will have heard of the massive November writing event, NaNoWriMo. This event is where people write 50,000 words in the space of one month. In both 2012 and 2013, I surpassed the 50k and proceeded to finish the whole first draft. Yes I am bragging, even though MANY people did way better than that.

It’s a process which ranges from this:


To this:

If you’re not a writer (I know a lot of you aren’t!), writers are weird, okay? We range between loving to write and hating it, or at least I do. Sometimes I think something I write is pretty good, and then when I re-read it I’m like whyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy did I think that was good???

But theΒ GREAT thing about first drafts is that none of that matters. It’s going to be awful anyway, so why spend a long time on it?

I haven’t written that many first drafts, or not proper ones, anyway. Three were the result of a NaNo period – two during the Novembers and one during Camp NaNoWriMo July last year. The fourth was during two months before November, where I wrote about a thousand words a day, give or take.

And even at that kind of pace I’m all like:

^^^In fact I think this dude has the right idea.

But if I’m not pushing myself like that, I really tend to lack motivation. The second draft I’m working on now? Yeah, I started it at the end of 2013 and have written 33,000 words.

That’s okay! I’m happy with my progress. Because it’s not a first draft, it’s bound to take longer.

I think it’s important not to think too much during a first draft. If you start overthinking, you start censoring yourself – some of my best ideas seemed stupid to start with before I fleshed them out and they became things I still really like. Reading first drafts back is not fun. It’s actually kind of scary.


There is such a big different between each of my drafts, and I know that each one is better than the last. I also know that some people like to draft slowly, while others prefer to do it quickly (or ridiculously quickly, like a certain someone I know whose name I will not mention *cough*CAITDREWS*cough).

How long does it take you to write a first draft? I’d love to hear from you! I mean, maybe I’m doing it wrong. I’m not sure there’s a wrong way to write, though.Β 


17 thoughts on “Write Life Saturday: how long does it take you to write a first draft?

  1. I’m a little strange when it comes to a new idea. I usually get them some time between 3-5am in the morning, in a kind of dream, but not a dream. I can see the entire story, usually with every character, the characters name, features, personality. I know the beginning, the middle and the end. I’ve learned I must wake up & at least jot down the theme, MC and main sub-characters and the genre. Then, when I’m properly awake, I read my notes and the entire story replays in my head.

    I then start typing. I don’t worry about spelling, or grammar, or voice or anything, I’m kind of obsessed with getting what’s in my head on the laptop as quickly as possible. It helps that I’m a pretty fast typist, around 65-70 wpm, and because I’m not stopping too often for spelling or grammar, I think I type even quicker than that. I’ve usually got my first draft done within 3 weeks. The best I’ve done is 9 days, where one week I typed 50K in four days.

    But then the real work starts.
    Unlike other people, my first draft is UNDER word-count. With me trying to get every word out of my head and onto the laptop, I find I often have incomplete sentences, paragraphs and even missing pages… they are still in my head but in my frenzy to type, I miss putting them on the screen.

    My second draft is slower, usually 3-6 weeks. this is my first read through, where I correct spelling and grammar errors and “fill in the blanks” so to speak. After that, I leave the MS alone, anything from 1-3+ months. I’m usually also working on short stories or have another MS that needs my attention, or life gets in the way.

    When I come back to the new MS WIP, I re-read yet again, with fresher eyes, this is where I finally get the word-count and often the story – right. after that it’s off to CP / BETA readers, sometimes a few chapters that are bothering me, sometimes the lot.

    From inception to query ready, it takes me 12-24 months, depending on what else is happening in my life and the speed with which CP’s can reply to me.

    • That is an IMPRESSIVE speed. I would love to have ideas like that too! Alas, my ideas come from hanging out washing and scrolling through Tumblr. Also, I don’t think I have the self-restraint to type without worrying about grammar and spelling – while I try to ignore my inner editor, I don’t think I’d be able to do it to that extent! Thanks for sharing your writing process πŸ™‚

  2. I have never written a first draft. I have tried a LOT though. There are bits and pieces of this first draft and that first draft. I just can’t seem to stick with one story without deciding that I actually like what I’ve written. I’m writing another one right now, actually. A whole three pages.
    Just a question, do you write by hand or on the computer?

  3. Oh, I am ridiculously jealous *hides away in shame*
    I’m new here, but I absolutely love your stuff. (I mean it’s interactive! Holy cow, it’s awesome!)
    I’m a teen writer, too – er. Wannabe writer. I have so little time to actually write. And I’ve been working on first drafts for two stories for the last… Well I started them in middle school and now I’m almost out of high school. So it’s been a while. I suppose I technically am working on a second draft of the first idea. Because I totally trashed the “first” draft and it went through some major changes, so I just wanted a clean slate.
    I am a two-time loser at NaNoWriMo. I thought I was doing so well last time, but I fizzled out after a week because of school (which is sadly a priority). So the fact that you actually have experience with first drafts and are working through second drafts… Definitely jealous. But yay for you! I’m definitely rooting for you! And as a side note, I love your button πŸ˜€

    • Yay! I’m so glad you like it, you just made my day πŸ˜›

      I feel you with not having much time to write. I’m in year 11 this year which means I have to study a LOT more. I’d rather just write and read all the time, but unfortunately I can’t 😦 you’ll get there eventually, though! I guess you just need to keep trying. You’ll probably find a story that resonates with you and be able to write the whole thing. It takes a while but that’s what happened to me πŸ™‚ happy writing!!

  4. Aw, yay ^.^
    I’m actually in 11th grade, too, so I know what you mean. But I am writing when I can. I actually love it because I recently came up with a brand new outline for one of my original stories and I just want to take it and run but I haven’t had a chance to start typing it yet. I have a few scenes written the old-fashioned way (in pencil in the middle of class) and a bunch of notes and outlines. It has yet to become a document on my desktop. But thanks for the encouragement! I may be slow, but one day I’ll be finished (:

    • LOVE it when new things happen like that! I got a fantastic idea for a second draft the other day and couldn’t get it out of my head. Writing things down in class is a great way to make sure you don’t forget them – the amount of great ideas that have probably disappeared because I didn’t write them down…one day you will! Just keep swimming… πŸ™‚

  5. Haha, I thought this was only me … my brilliant ideas suddenly looking stupid!
    It depends upon the story really, and the time available (whether I’m writing it during school or summer) If I’m reaaaally determined I write it in school πŸ˜› Yes, homework takes a toll for the worst. But mostly I take around a month, more or less.
    Loved your post! (The Benedict Cumberbatch gif totally got me!)

    • Summer is such a great time for writing. I should probably be swimming or something, but it’s always reading and writing for me! A lot of people seem to say around the month-ish mark, so I’m guessing that’s pretty normal? It feels fast to me, though!

      As for the Benedict Cumberbatch gif, I couldn’t resist πŸ˜›

  6. Me? *looks innocent* What…what are you talking about? YOU MEAN 2 WEEKS ISN’T NORMAL OMG I’VE BEEN LIED TO ALL MY LIFE.
    Okay, okay….sooo, you know me when it comes to first drafting. Hey, but in my defence, I just edited/rewrote 900 words and it took me, wait for it….3 freaking hours. -_- Slay me now.

  7. One of my goals is to finish a full-length first draft. Last year, I tried to do that in NaNoWriMo, but November is usually the “throw all the possible homework you can at your students” month for us, so I wasn’t able to write much. 😦 But I have so many ideas in my head and I really need to write them down! Gah. I need some motivation to help me write (like food), haha! xD So jealous that you’re already working on a second draft, lol! xD

    • That’s what I’m dreading this year, since I’ll have my first year 12 assessments during November D: chocolate is in fact great motivation for almost anything, so definitely try that! Second drafts are hard, dude. And all the drafts after that. Writing is hard!

  8. Pingback: What Happened This Week: British relatives | The Loony Teen Writer

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