back in the saddle again: seven steps to a first draft


How do you get back into the writing routine, when you’ve had a reeeaallly long holiday?

I haven’t abandoned writing altogether, though you couldn’t tell by reading this blog.

I continued to put together my regional SCBWI weekly e-newsletter.

I blogged. Kind of.

I guest-blogged.  Once.

Took notes, researching my next opus.

Wrote e-mails.

Grocery lists.

But I haven’t entered that strange place where you inhabit another body, walk around in another world.  I’m kind of itching to get there.

Got a premise.

Got the main character.

Now, how to re-enter the realm where reality, imagination, symbolism and other universes collide?


And more importantly, bring something back.

Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you…


1.  Read books about what you want to write.  Is it a middle-grade novel about sibling rivalry?  Read other such novels, psychology books, parenting magazines, memoirs, watch movies.  Train your brain to ponder the subject subconsciously.

2.  Engage in a monotonous physical activity: walking, jogging, swimming laps.  Let your mind manhandle the ideas you’ve put into it.  Or womanhandle, if necessary.

3. Write long-hand in a cozy journal-like book.  (You find them at dollar stores for–wait for it–a dollar!)  Don’t look at the page as you’re writing.  Want to use three lines of space for extra-upper-case letters?  Go ahead.  A whole page for an exclamation point?  Brilliant!  Let it be messy.  Let it be whatever wants to spill out of your brain.

4.  Once you have a premise, ask yourself:  Why do I want to know about this?  What has happened in my life that makes me find this interesting, or challenging?  Write about the circumstances, the feelings, the outcome, what you wished the outcome had been, what you had feared the outcome would be.

5.  Blindfold yourself, open a word document, and go to town.  Do not, under any circumstances, peek.  Let the bilge run rampant across the screen.

6.  Have a character in mind?  Write his biography.  Interview him.  Psychoanalyze him.  Watch him through binoculars.  Look out through his eyes.

7.  By now you probably have enough material to play “What if?”.  What if Main Character had a little sister?  What if it was twin little sisters?  What if it was quintuplets?  What if they were sick, and his parents had to leave him with his grandmother?  What if his grandmother was a fugitive from justice?  What if she had been an eco-terrorist in the ’70’s?  And meanwhile, the healthcare cost for the quints drains away Main Character’s college fund.  You get the gist.  Before you know it, you have a great big hairy, almost unwieldy but unmistakable first draft.


About Lisha Cauthen

Lisha Cauthen writes YA novels for guys that girls like to read too.

Posted on January 5, 2009, in mind, writing and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. ceylanthewriter

    Sounds good. Thanks for posting. Keep writing and keep positive.


  2. Great list! I’m ready to start writing another novel. Reading in the genre I write, long walks, and blind(folded) dates with my laptop have worked for me in the past. Keep writing!

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