Jul 19, 2010

My Advice About Writing the First Draft of Your Novel by Marilyn Meredith

Back when I was teaching writing I always told my students, “Vomit out the whole book then clean the mess up afterwards.” Kind of gross, but it got the point across.

Whether you are an outliner or a by-the-seat-of-your pants writer, once you know where you’re going with your novel, it’s best to just sit down in front of the computer and get started. Write one page, and then the next, and keep on going until you’re through.

I’ve heard of some writers who keep going back over that first chapter, trying to make it perfect, and never moving on to the second, and then third and so on. There are also writers who say they never edit, what they write the first time is exactly how it should be. Good for them—but I know that what I’ve written the first time is going to need work.

I follow my own advice and just keep on writing. I try to stop in the middle of a scene, so when I get back the next day, I know exactly what I want to write next. This is really helpful for preventing writer’s block.

Once I’m done, of course the book is far from perfect. That’s when the rewriting begins.

I belong to a critique group—one I’ve belonged to for thirty years—and I take each chapter, after I think I’ve got it in fairly good shape and read it to the group. I think of them as my first editor. They are pretty good at giving me good criticism, finding errors and inconsistencies. Often they point out things they don’t understand, or that might be missing.

In the case of Lingering Spirit I remember that my group pointed out a scene that went on far too long. They were right and I tightened it, only leaving in what needed to be there.

Because this particular book was actually published a long time ago as an e-book I think, though I’m not sure, it went through some sort of editing process before being published. This time around, the book has been edited once again, both by me and my publisher, Oak Tree Press.

Just remember, you can’t begin the rewriting process until you’ve finished that first draft.



Marilyn Meredith is the author of nearly thirty published novels, including the award winning Deputy Tempe Crabtree mystery series, the latest Dispel the Mist from Mundania Press. Under the name of F. M. Meredith she writes the Rocky Bluff P.D. crime series, An Axe to Grind is the latest from Oak Tree Press.

She is a member of EPIC, Four chapters of Sisters in Crime, including the Internet chapter, Mystery Writers of America, and on the board of the Public Safety Writers of America. Visit her at http://fictionforyou.com and her blog at http://marilymeredith.blogspot.com


  1. Back again, and I hope that my advice is useful to some aspiring authors who read this. Thanks for having me again.

  2. Thanks for hosting Marilyn today. A reminder to all readers that Marilyn is running a contest with this blog tour. The person that comments at the most blog stops during her tour will have a character named after him/her in Marilyn's next Rocky Bluff P.D. novel set for release in 2012.


  3. I so agree!

    We are blessed with a great writing group. We run the first draft by them for initial comment, but we usually end up doing at least one more complete rewrite just before it goes to the publisher.

    With mysteries, it is important to check the same things as any novel: the arc of the story, the arc of each character, the completion and resolution of plot lines, continuity, etc. But with a mystery, I feel we have an obligation to explain all the red herrings and other suspicious activities. I hate finishing a mystery with questions still lingering. (Unless, like in our first one, Murder... They Wrote, there is deliberate ambiguity. Several readers have told us they each had a few doubts about a character - and all of them named different ones. It's exactly the response we wanted. And we worked very hard to achieve it.)