Three Questions to ask to kickstart your first draft

Okay, so you’ve pitched your book and someone has come alongside you to help you out with it. The outline is polished and the story is poised to take flight… but why is it so hard to get it on the page and actually start the first draft? 


Maybe you’ve felt this way before. In theory, publishing a book sounds so fun and exciting, but when you sit down to write it, it morphs into a much more daunting task. This idea does not come from a lack of talent or ability– it’s a lie! You can do it, and it is fun and exciting. 


However, an empty page can be intimidating. Even the world’s best writers have struggled to write and to formulate their first draft. How did they overcome it? They started to fill the page. They let their words take shape, find a place on the page, and breathe. And then– when it wasn’t good– they erased it and replaced it. 


The first draft may not be the best draft, but it is foundational because without it, no one can ever read your book.


Here are three questions to ask to kickstart your first draft: 


1) Where did it all start?


This question might truly be one of origin– maybe, you remember passing a football in your backyard and dreaming of when you would play in the NFL. The story you are writing could have started in your childhood home, so picture the place and the nostalgia that surrounds it, and put it to words.


Possibly, it started later as you sat riveted in your college biology class, knowing that you wanted to be on the front end of healing people and making their lives better. Explain that revolutionary moment, where the class you took put you on course for the rest of your life. 


Use your foundation as a springboard to tell the rest of your story. Starting is the hardest part, but once you do it the rest will flow from there.


2) Who motivated me and got me here?


No matter what your story entails, you’ve likely had a team of people that have gotten you there. People along the way who have cheered you on and fought for you when everything seemed impossible. Write about them. Put what you love about them on a page, because sometimes it can be much easier to talk about someone else’s impact on you than your contribution. 


Maybe, though, the people that influenced your story were adversarial. Explain to the people in your corner– that is, your readers– what it felt like to stand alone when it seemed impossible to stand at all. 


In Clayton Echard’s 180 Degrees, he talks about what it was like stepping from the limo to the limelight, and how the both his supporters and detractors were invaluable in his journey of self-discovery.


Start with the chapter that highlights the people that pushed, pressed, or challenged you. The ones who helped shape your story into the story that people need to hear. 


3) Why does my first draft matter?


To put it simply, your first draft matters because the world needs to hear your story. No, your first draft might not be the one people see– but that’s okay! It’s a lot easier to build on something than to create a bestseller from nothing. 


Your first draft matters because it is the blueprint you will use to tell the story that will change somebody’s life. Your personal story is the most powerful tool you have to influence others and change the world for the better. 


At first, your draft might look like a hodgepodge of your mind– complete with some random memories, a couple encouraging words from a mentor or loved one, and a rough map of how you got from where you started to where you are now. 


Just be patient with it, and even let it breathe for a second. One day it’ll look messy, and the next day when you revisit it, you might be able to give it some shape and breathe some more life into it. No good writer has ever had a good first draft. 


One of the most prolific children’s writers of all time, Roald Dahl once reflected, “Good writing is essentially rewriting. I am positive of this.” So, next time you read Matilda or Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, just remember you’re not reading Dahl’s first words.


You have time and you have space to “word vomit”– if you will– and then go clean it up later. The best authors in history stared at the same blank page that you look upon now. You are capable and ready for this, so start the draft today. Streamline can help!


Picture of Lucy Nickel

Lucy Nickel

Lucy is a Content Writer at Streamline Books. She lives in Branson, MO and loves writing and editing as work and hobby, in addition to film and media production.