5 Strategies for Completing a Novel First Draft: Confessions of a Pantser

The next few Fridays will feature guest posts on the There Are No Rules blog. If you’d like to join the party, pitch a guest blog post idea to robert.brewer@fwcommunity.com with the subject line: Guest Post Idea for No Rules. Simple as that, and we’ll get working on it together. Today’s guest post comes from S.K. Lamont, who had a busy writing regimen in 2015.


In 2015, I completed four first draft novels and found many successful strategies to produce a first draft quickly. Coming from a coaching background, I have helped many people install effective habits and achieve their goals. Now being a fiction writer myself, I apply these strategies to my own writing and have found them to be highly successful.

Here are my top five strategies for completing a first draft.


Make a decision. The truth is, writing 2,000 words a day is a pretty serious commitment, therefore you have to make it a top priority. If you don’t, then nine times out of ten, any number of things will come along and hijack your writing time. Because if you’re not taking your writing seriously, then why should anyone else?

Set writing goals. At the beginning of last year, I made a decision to write six first draft novels, and to have one of these drafts ready for querying come January. I also set a daily writing goal of 2,000 words a day, six days a week.

Get consistent. Carve out the best time of day to write, and stick with it, hold your feet to the fire. At first, it will be tough, but it will become easier over time.

Be flexible. Of course, we all know as soon as we set a goal, something will come along and mess up our plan—life happens, so stay flexible. If you are being consistent, most of the time, you are making progress.


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Don’t think, write. I know this sounds crazy, but your creative side already knows the story you want to write. The only thing that stops the words from getting on the page is your thinking mind, analyzing everything, questioning everything.

First word that shows up is right. Just throw it on the page, and you can tweak it later. Right now what is most important is getting the words out.

Never look at a blank page. It’s like looking into the abyss, and it will swallow you whole. As soon as you sit down, WRITE, let nothing stop you or get in your way.

Fix it later. Believe it or not you will be able to read your own mess, so if anything slows you down, ditch it and keep running.

Time yourself. I personally love to time myself and try to out do my own word counts. Sprinting with others can be a lot of fun too.

Outrun your inner editor. This is your creative time and not your editors, so leave him or her standing in the dust, as you sprint towards the finish line.

Write like no one’s watching. Write with wild abandon and with tears streaming down your face if need be, and put all that wild crazy stuff down on the page. Later, you get to decide what and if you want to share it with the world.

Capture distraction monkeys and put them in a cage. Turn off the internet and all notifications, I turn off wi-fi, airplane mode is great too. If you need to do research, make a note in your draft and move on! Jot down any brilliant ideas that decide to show up in a notebook and keep going.


Take a break. Feel stuck, slowing down—get up and move! I usually get up every twenty-five minutes and move for five minutes. Whether it’s stretching, dancing or doing jumping jacks, I get it done, then get back in the hot seat and let those fingers fly.

Music is your friend and inspiration. If you’re feeling bogged down, or are about to write an epic scene, get up and crank the music. I love to dance, so I let the music infuse me, I am deep in my imagination and have had whole scenes play out in my head this way.

Eat a quick snack, or have a tea or coffee. I usually have a snack ready to go that I can enjoy in my five-minute break. Try and make snacks healthy, learn what foods and drinks give you energy, rather than steal it.


I pray just before I write. I know that may seem bizarre to some, but I truly don’t think I’m all that clever. Sometimes these crazy stories just show up out of nowhere. I do not take responsibility for them, which takes the pressure off. Doesn’t matter whether they’re good or bad. I step back, bow my head and let someone greater than little old me take the reins. I’m not here to tell you what to believe, I’m just sharing what works for me.


Just write. Lastly, if I had one piece of advice to give to my fellow would-be pantsers, it would be this—just begin, there is wisdom in this, you want to write don’t you, so write! A great adventure awaits you!

I would love to hear what works for you or anything else you would like to share, please leave your comments below.


S.K. Lamont

S.K. Lamont

S.K. Lamont, originally from Scotland now resides in the Blue Ridge Mountains. She uses her longing for her homeland to write exciting adventures in wild Scottish landscapes. She is also passionate about dancing, working in clay and has an unhealthy obsession with tea.

She lives in Asheville, North Carolina with her husband, five children and her crazy Jack Russell.

Connect with her at sklamont.com and on Twitter @sk_lamont


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14 thoughts on “5 Strategies for Completing a Novel First Draft: Confessions of a Pantser

  1. harry123

    I am a writer and I love to spend time in reading stuff related to my friends on the internet. This post is very impressive for me which is about 5 Strategies for Completing a Novel First Draft. I think these strategies really helpful and I will must work according to these strategies.
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  2. TeriBeth

    “Fix it later.” This is what I need to remind myself to do over and over again. I get so bogged down in trying to get each word right, that I freeze up and interrupt my flow of thought. Great snacks and music are good too. 🙂

  3. jezebellydancer

    This is all a rehash of what you can find (and so much more) at Nanowrimo.org (national novel writing month). However, it is international with writers from almost every country on the globe. Nano is set up to help writers write a first draft (i.e., 50K words) in a month. November is the official month, but they also have Camp Nano in April and July where you set your own goals. You get weekly pep talks from established authors, loads of forums to ask questions, commiserate, or just hang out with other writers. AND it’s free–although they need your donations to keep the site up and running. There are also regions you can join to meet local writers and get together with them face-to-face for write-ins. There are also word sprints and chats to keep you writing.

    I can’t believe you write this article and didn’t mention Nanowrimo at all. It is a godsend to writers who need a big push and helps you stay accountable.

  4. James Stack

    Never see a blank page as a blank page – great advice. It’s a ski slope no one else has yet to leave tracks and I’ll be the first; it’s a clear body of water waiting for me to dive into it; it’s a finish line I’ve come to that needs me to break the tape and cross it; it’s a door or window that all I have to do is open and the adventure begins. This is all great advice. You’re awesome!!

  5. KarenDoll

    Excellent article, S.K!! I LOVE lists and love checking off the completed tasks even more so. I prefer order and am a bit of a neatnik. So with that being said, you’d think I’d be a planner when it comes to writing…no siree Bob! I try. Oh, I do so try, try, try again, Bob I am, but to no avail. So, I confess…I am a panster too! Fellow pansters of Platchall unite!!

    Yes, this is sage advice, S.K. especially for those of us who fly by the seat of our awesome panster-ness!

    I love the suggestion to take a break when needed — move, have a quick snack, visit the chicken coop, pull up your pantsters, whatever it takes to get the creative juices flowing.

    Kudos to you-dos S.K. 🙂

  6. Brazenbookbug

    ‘Your creative side already knows the story you want to write.’ I love that! Even though I am a compulsive planner, this advice can work for me, too! Perhaps it works especially for folks just like me. Refreshing and inspiring post. Gotta go…. I want to write!

  7. S C McCole

    Great advice! Outrunning my Inner Editor is a feat on these feet.
    My favorite quote: “Write with wild abandon and with tears streaming down your face if need be, and put all that wild crazy stuff down.”


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