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From the Blog: 4 Tips on Completing a First Draft as a Young Writer

Completing a first draft is always full of challenges, but it can be especially daunting for a young writer tackling it for the first time! Today, Riya M. Cyriac, the Executive Director of The Young Writers Initiative, is here with a few tips to help young writers finish their first draft: 

Packed with school, work, extracurriculars, and the impending doom of adolescence, young writers seem busy enough. Nevertheless, as The Executive Director of The Young Writers Initiative, I’ve seen so many amazing young writers submit their full manuscripts to our services, and others struggle to finish their first drafts. So what’s the secret? Here are 4 of my best tips on completing a first draft as a young writer.

1. Decide whether you count progress based on word counts vs. chapter counts.

For some people, setting daily goals based on word counts is their tried-and-true method to get words on the page. For others, that may not have the same effect. Whenever I face a milestone roadblock, I set goals based on chapters instead of word count. For me, writing a full chapter is longer than writing 1677 words. When I set a goal that is content based rather than numerically based, I feel more propelled to complete that chapter in one or two sittings. When I write with this thinking in the back of my mind, I’m able to get into the zone instead of obsessively checking to see if I’ve met my wordcount quota for the day. Evidently, my writing becomes more story driven, and I write more words. My enthusiasm is heightened and I’m able to get deeper into my workflow because I’m starting and stopping at a very natural place. Both methods have their pros and cons, so find which one helps you get in the zone.

2. Outline in chunks, not in full.

When I outlined my most recent novel-in-progress, I didn’t sit down and outline all 67 chapters at once. That was too daunting and inflexible to me, especially because I knew that I would probably change a crucial plot point or two that would drastically change the outline. Instead, I outlined my novel in chunks.

A chunked outline is when you break your story into parts and outline it chunk at a time. You outline part 1 first, then write that part. Depending on where the story is after part I, outline part II, write, and continue the process. In my experience, this makes my outline far more useful. As a young person, I have no idea how much my writing will grow, so I want my storytelling skills to grow with me. 

3. Make yourself fanfiction/fan art.

Young writers ooze with creative energy, but we also need to learn how to harness that.  If your book is starting to bore you, take a break from the conventional plot and write a scene you are super excited about, like the final battle or the love confession. The unfortunate drudgery of the middle is often where unfinished first drafts come to their end. You don’t have to write chronologically, so feel free to jump around. If you’re staunchly against that, write a scene that won’t appear in your book, like a pre-preface or alternative universe. When you do this, you’re getting your creativity flowing again, thus fighting off the boredom bug. You can also create moodboards, playlists, character sketches, and other creative outlets that get you back to loving your book. 

4. Find a strong community (like The Young Writers Initiative!).

Writing is often penned as a solitary art, but it doesn’t have to be! There are tens of thousands of young writers on Instagram, twitter, and other platforms that face the same struggles that you do, whether it be finishing a draft, publishing their work, or learning more about writing.

At The Young Writers Initiative, we aspire to educate, service, and inspire young writers. We get the struggles of taking on the writing and publishing world while being young, especially the financial and educational barriers. We offer free editing, beta reading, cover designing, book reviewing, and consulting to writers 25 or below. We also publish a quarterly literary magazine, Juven, publish anthologies, host contests, a summer camp, mentorship, workshops, and several events. If you’re looking for a community of writers, join our discord! There are so many opportunities out there that will support your endeavors as a budding novelist. You got this!

If you’re interested in The Young Writers Initiative, visit our website and follow us on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook @tywiorg.

(For more articles like this, explore the NaNoWriMo blog!)

Riya M. Cyriac is the Executive Director of The Young Writers Initiative. She is a 17-year-old budding novelist and poet. Her fiction has been published in a variety of literary magazines, like the Lumiere Review and Anser Journal. She is currently working on the third draft of her novel.

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