5 Tips for Breezing Through a First Draft

“Writing is a hellish task, best snuck up on, whacked on the head, robbed and left for dead.”
–Ann-Marie MacDonald, author, The Way the Crow Flies

Can’t write? Intimidated? Scared out of your wits? Facing a first draft can produce a cold sweat.

Do as Ann-Marie MacDonald says: sneak up on the task. Here are five tips on what to do when the words won’t come.

1. Write “notes.”
This is a way to trick your brain into writing. You’re not writing the real stuff, just writing down a bunch of notes about your subject for the ad, Web page, or article. And with a little work those notes can be crafted into copy.

2. Create an outline.

Get organized: Make a list, bullet points, or an outline. This gets you into the writing process.

3. Write the easiest part first.
Almost every piece of writing has something easy or “boilerplate.” Write it first, even if it’s at the end. In fact, write whatever you want in any order. Then piece it together and move things around. I used to waste a lot of time (and sweat) trying to perfect a headline or opening before moving on. No more.

4. Select quotes and pickup material.

Are you using quotes or other attributed material in an article, white paper, or report? Start there. This helps build writing momentum. I often know which quotes I’ll use, so I just plug them in. Then I write the setup for the quotes. A draft begins to take shape.

5. Write it, fix it.

Anne Lamott calls it sh—y first drafts in her hilarious writing book, Bird by Bird. Take it easy on yourself! Give yourself permission to write badly. This will loosen you up so you can get that first draft down. Then rewrite, edit and polish.

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