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  • Writer's pictureToni

Keep writing first drafts but never publish your novel? Break the cycle.

Do you keep writing first draft after first draft, put them in a drawer, and then start something new? And you can never seem to start revising or self-editing, and you never publish any of these books, either?

You might be a serial first drafter.

If this sounds like you, the tips in this post can help you break the cycle and finally publish a book. Let’s go!

You can finish a first draft, so why can’t you seem to publish?

There are various reasons you might get stuck in the first draft stage.

  1. Fear. You’re afraid of revisions/self-editing, of sharing your writing, or of publishing itself.

  2. Lack of confidence. You’re stuck on the idea that the book you’ve just finished isn’t “good enough” to revise or edit, so you write the next new idea, certain that this one will finally be good enough.

  3. Lack of knowledge. You have no idea where to even begin revising, so you just…don’t.

  4. Abundance of ideas. You’re packed full of so many wonderful ideas that revision feels like a waste of time—you’d rather write something new!

So how do you break the first draft cycle?

If you’re afraid…

If you’re afraid of revisions, try starting slowly with a first draft reread. You’re almost certain to find some things you’d like to improve, and that’s often just enticing enough to get you to start the revision process.

If you’re afraid of sharing your writing, check out this blog post for some ideas on how to overcome your fear of sharing your writing. It’s okay to start slow here, too, with one or two trusted people or just a few chapters at a time.

>>And if you’re looking for a safe person to get feedback from, I’m here! My editing style is down-to-earth and kind, while also being matter-of-fact and realistic. You can find out more about how I can help you with your novel here.

If you’re afraid of publishing, try educating yourself more on the publishing process and the experiences of other authors. You could also talk to a mindset coach or therapist to help you get over any limiting beliefs that are holding you back.

If you think your first draft isn’t even worth revising…

You’re probably being to harsh on yourself, honestly. We are our own worst critics, always. Come back to the draft after some time away from it, and you may be surprised about how much you actually like it.

Image text: No first draft comes out perfect and ready to publish. All books need revisions. | Toni Suzuki, SFF Editor | Edits by Toni

Also, a quick reality check: All books need revisions. No first draft comes out perfect and ready to publish—every author needs to revise and self-edit to get a final draft that’s ready for the presses.

And if you’re still struggling, I can help you see the worth in your book and gain confidence as you begin your revision journey. If that sounds like what you want for your book, you can learn more about my Editorial Evaluation service here, or you can book your slot here.

If you don’t even know how to begin revising…

Start with a full reread of your novel! That’s the first step to any revision process.

And if you’re still stuck, you can download the free draft-by-draft revision guide I made just for authors in your situation! It takes you through every draft and asks questions to help you focus on the revision tasks for each one.

If you have so many ideas you can’t stick to just one…

You don’t have to! You can revise two or more different stories simultaneously. Or you can revise one story while first-drafting a different one. Nobody said you have to focus on just one book all the time! (Okay, probably somebody said it, but here’s your permission to ignore that advice and do ALL the writing and revising you want!)

Juggling two projects at the same time can slow the progress of each, but if that’s what breaks the first draft cycle for you, then I say it’s worth it!

Image text: Juggling two writing projects at the same time can slow the progress of both, but if that’s what gets you through your revisions, then a slower pace is better than no progress at all! | Toni Suzuki, SFF Editor | Edits by Toni

Or, you can try other strategies like outlining your next book but not starting the draft until you’ve finished revising the current one. Or brain dumping all your shiny new ideas into a notebook. Or recording the story ideas in a voice memo on your phone. Anything to get them out of your brain and stored somewhere so your brain knows they’re safe and it can refocus on revisions.


Now finally, I want to leave you with this: There is no problem with serial first drafting if you’re happy doing that. If you hate revisions and never want to publish and like writing first draft after first draft, go on your merry way!

But if you’re trying to break the first draft cycle, I hope at least a few of these tips help you out.

Remember also that I can help you if you’re stuck, so don’t be afraid to reach out!

Happy revising!


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