Mark O'Neill

Spy thriller author, creative entrepreneur, daydreamer

Self Publishing Success

Beginning the first draft of your book

first draft of book

Table of Contents

Understandably, starting to write is the part that strikes absolute heart-pounding terror and fear into writers, leading to what is commonly perceived as writer’s block. Getting started is always the problem .

The longer you stare at the blank page, the more you convince yourself that nothing is going to happen. So it’s a problem that continually feeds upon itself. The solution is simply to start. It doesn’t matter if what you’re writing is a load of crap. Just get started. You can edit the stuffing out of it later. The first draft, or the second or third for that matter, is never the final draft. My books go through, on average, seven or eight drafts before I reach a final publishable version.

The first draft

The first draft is the equivalent of mixing a cake mix to make a cake. It is a sloppy unidentifiable form right now. Later, it will become the best cake ever, but right now, it’s just slop. But give it time, more preparation, more ingredients, and some time in the oven, and you’ll have something to be proud of (hopefully.) That’s the book writing process in a nutshell. The first draft is merely getting the slop out onto the page.

As you write, always resist the temptation to edit as you go. This will also slow you down considerably, as you would have to switch from writer brain to editor brain (two different beasts entirely.) The priority at the beginning is to vomit your first draft out. The editing comes later, after the first draft is finished. Resist the temptation to combine the two.

Setting a daily word count

Set a daily word count and try to stick to it. Start small – say, 500 words a day. But as your confidence increases, and you are easily hitting those 500 words, increase it to 1,000 words a day. Then 1,500, 2,000, and so on. Having a minimum daily word count target keeps your bum on a seat and forces you to get the words out before you can consider calling it a day. Hitting that target gives you an enormous feeling of satisfaction, and you can then treat yourself with whatever you like to treat yourself with.

At first, writing is hard. Very hard. But like everything else, it gets easier with practice. It’s a habit that has to be developed, a muscle that has to be trained. Keep going every day, and pretty soon you’ll be an expert.

Picture of Mark O'Neill
Mark O'Neill is a bestselling award-winning self-published author of the Department 89 spy thriller series. He has also written two other series - The Scorpion and The Undertaker. His books have been translated into German and partly into Spanish. Mark lives in Germany with his wife and dog.

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