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Self-Publishing For Profit: Writing the First Draft

Ever imagine the theme song to "Jaws" as you sit down to write? Instead of staring at the blank page, resolve to start inspired, start in the middle (or the end), write like no one is reading, and save the editing for later.
A profile of a head with post-its that have question marks on them.

Often, the hardest part of writing is staring at that blank page. Instead of feeling full of promise, the first page can feel rather intimidating. If you've already decided to self-publish for profit, that blank page can feel even more threatening. I mean, someone is actually going to be reading what you put on that page. Scary, huh?

So how do you get over the blank page blues and get started on that first draft? Here are a few tips.

Start Inspired

There's nothing that squashes creativity more than being forced to do something—writing included. Writing that's forced usually sounds like it. Start your first draft when you are feeling inspired, not because you feel like it has to be done right this instant. If you're not feeling inspired, try taking a walk alone with nothing but your own thoughts—by the time you get back, you might have an idea that will propel you past that first page. Or, try listening to some music. Figure out what gets the creative juices flowing for you and start there.

Start Writing Like No One is Reading

Nothing shuts down the creativity more than having a critic before you even get started. Don't write like someone is going to be reading over your shoulder—it will go through several rounds of revisions before it's read by a lot of people, anyway. If it helps, you can even write “no one is going to read this version” or “this is not for the book” at the top. (Don't laugh. It's a tip I heard years ago that I've used before.)

Remember that You are Writing, Not Editing

It's extremely tempting to go back and fix that typo in the last paragraph, especially since it's underlined in red (thanks to spell check) and is just screaming at you. Don't do it. You should have two completely different frames of mind when writing and editing. When writing, just write. The first draft is all about getting it down on paper, and all criticism of yourself should be turned off. Otherwise, you may shrug off great ideas too early. When you're editing, you're thinking critically, not creatively. Editing is best reserved for after all the ideas are on the page and you can decide which are good and which are not so good.

You Don't Have to Start at the Beginning

The beginning is daunting because it's the first thing someone will read when deciding whether or not to buy your book. Want to know a secret? You don't actually have to start at the beginning. When sitting down to write my first novel, Kaleidoscope Me, I didn't start with page one. I started with the scene that had been replaying itself in my mind. Begin with what you are inspired to write. It may be the beginning, or it may even be the ending. You can stitch it all together later.

Putting words on that first page is often one of the tough parts of writing. Start with what inspires you, whether it is a character, a scene or a metaphor—you don't have to start writing the beginning first. As my college creative writing professors always said, turn off your inner critic for that first draft and just get ideas down on paper.

So, what's next up on the WAHM series Self-Publishing for Profit? Taking the red pen to that first draft: revision.

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