103 Bracing Quotes to Propel You Through Your First Draft

Tough NaNoWriMo?

Feeling lost and haunted by wordcounts unmet?

Or wishing NaNo was your thing in the first place?

I see you.

There’s hope. Writing doesn’t need a strict timeline to happen. There doesn’t have to be some grand “starting day” for words to start hitting the page, and there certainly doesn’t have to be a designated month when writing happens.

Your story can still get written.

I’m calling it. It’s time, right now, to stop concentrating on the past and start thinking about your story.

Maybe that sounds impossible. You’ve been trying all month to just think about the story, but too much thinking and the wordcount doesn’t get met, or you just end up seeing everything that’s wrong with what you’ve already written. And you’re beyond frustrated.

Yep, I see you.

You need a quick, invigorating shower in the words of those who have gone before.

So get ready to snap your head back into writing-readiness with the advice and encouragement of authors, editors, and agents.

17 minutes, and you’ll be raring to write again.

*Initiating first draft mindset…*

1. I’m writing a first draft and reminding myself that I’m simply shoveling sand into a box so that later I can build castles.
Shannon Hale

2. Your first draft is your imagination’s private journal.
MJ Bush, The Perfection Intervention

3. We begin to judge our work too early and think we need to achieve perfection. Inevitably writer’s block will come knocking because we can’t meet those expectations. We need to give ourselves permission to fail so we have the freedom to explore, experiment and improve.
Lynda R Young, 5 Reasons to Shed the Genius Within

4. Creativity takes courage.
Henri Matisse

5. Most of all, I remember: the purpose of the first draft is to figure out what story you are telling.
Darcy Pattison, Awful First Draft: It’s Hard to Trust the Process

6. Making writing a big deal tends to make writing difficult.
Julia Cameron, The Right to Write: An Invitation and Initiation into the Writing Life (affiliate link, no expense added)

7. The first draft is the fastest, and invariably the most important. In the first draft, I write for myself, and always with the door closed. No one ever sees those words.
Mary Jaksch, How To Start A Novel

8. No one will read what you don’t give them, so the only judge in the first draft is you.
Allison Beckert, What to Expect From A First Draft

9. People mistakenly expect to hit the bulls-eye on the first pass. Abandon the idea that your first draft should be anything but exploration.
Gregory Ciotti, How to Write with Substance

10. If you are willing to do something that might not work, you’re closer to being an artist.
Seth Godin

11. Don’t think about making art, just get it done.
Andy Warhol

12. As soon as I stopped over-thinking my process, my infernal internal editor shut up, my characters started talking to me again, and my writing improved vastly. Turned out the very thing I thought was helping me be a good writer was holding me back.
K.M. Weiland, Are You Over-Thinking Your First Draft?

13. It is perfectly okay to write garbage—as long as you edit brilliantly.
C. J. Cherryh

14. The worst enemy to creativity is self-doubt.
Sylvia Plath

15. One of the big lessons for me was realizing that whether I took 7 months or 7 days, my first drafts would essentially have the same weaknesses and strengths so…I could quit worrying about it.
April Kihlstrom, How Writers Write – An interview with April Kihlstrom

16. The main thing is to find a way to turn off that pesky inner editor.
Jeanne Ryan, 7 Things I’ve Learned So Far

17. [Premature editing] can destroy a great idea and turn inspired writing into drudgery.
Scott Maiorca, Woo Your Muse by Killing Your Inner Editor.

18. Give yourself permission, via bargaining, to edit it later. Guarantee that promise with a promissory, in this case the hash symbol #.
Andy Shackcloth, How to keep writing when your inner critic screams

19. Do you really believe you aren’t capable of improving this scene if you don’t do it right now?
MJ Bush, The Perfection Intervention

20. Simply refuse to look at anything you have written until the last page is done. Period.
James N. Frey, How to Write a Damn Good Novel (affiliate link, no expense added)

21. A word after a word after a word is power.
Margaret Atwood

22. When I am writing, I write. And then it’s as if the muse is convinced I’m serious and says “Okay. Okay. I’ll come.”
Maya Angelou

23. Before you write, sit down and close your eyes and then picture yourself writing.
Neal Martin

24. There is simply no other way to write. It is a brutal act of faith. In writing, we must unleash a mess onto the page and then reach inward and grab hold of every last thread of trust, believing without sight that: “It will be beautiful. You’ll see. Just don’t walk away.”
Christin Taylor, The Blank Page: Making a Mess

25. Good stories are not written. They are rewritten.
Phyllis Whitney

26. The first draft is a skeleton….just bare bones. The rest of the story comes later with revising.
Judy Blume

27. I finally made a huge poster that read: “GET TO THE END OF THE STORY” and taped it to the wall behind my computer. This simple trick helped me push forward to the end.
Jan Ellison, 9 Practical Tricks for Writing Your First Novel

28. Every hour spent writing is an hour not spent fretting about your writing.
Dennis Palumbo, Writing from the Inside Out (affiliate link, no expense added)

29. The act of writing is an act of optimism.
Edward Albee

30. A writer must have all the confidence in the world when writing the first draft and none whatsoever when editing subsequent drafts.
T. Davis Bunn

31. Don’t get it right, just get it written.
James Thurber

32. Better to do something imperfectly than to do nothing flawlessly.
Robert Schuller

33. I expect my zero draft to be the worst writing in the history of writing thus when it turns out shockingly badly, I am unconcerned. “Why, yes, it is rubbish. No matter, that’s what I was going for.”
Justine Larbalestier, NaNo Tip No. 2: The Zen of First (Zero) Drafts

34. One of the greatest benefits of writing a truly awful, lousy, no good first draft is that it can only get better from there.
Martha Alderson, 7 Reasons to Write an Entire 1st Draft before Going Back to the Beginning

35. I generally write a first draft that’s pretty lean. Just get the story down.
Nora Roberts

36. Skip around. Don’t force your thinking to go in any one direction. Allow your thoughts to develop on their own. If you get a new idea, start writing about that idea, even in the middle of an earlier one. You will be able to organize the writing in the next draft.
David Bedell, Writing the Discovery Draft

37. When in doubt, make trouble for your character.
Janet Fitch, Pep Talk from Janet Fitch

38. Obstacles. Conflict. Pain and suffering. Sometimes, being stuck on a story is just because things are too easy.

39. First drafts can be written in present tense.
Christi Craig, 3 Ways to Work Through a Difficult First Draft

40. Then I write every chapter I’ve outlined solely in dialogue.
Anne Greenwood Brown, Kicking Out a Fast First Draft

41. One KEY way to keep the momentum going is to constantly have unanswered questions.
Jody Hedlund, An Important Technique for Adding Momentum to a Slow Plot

42. Write down every question that comes to mind, whether you plan to answer them right away or not, or even if the question seems irrelevant. What you’re doing is making a list of prompts specifically for your story.
Alina Sandor, Stuck in the Middle of Your Story? Try Prompts!

43. My inspiration tends to come from two words. The two most important words to a writer: “What if?”
Beth Revis, Where My Ideas For Novels Come From

44. All you need to do is write one word after another. Don’t think about the whole novel, or about what you’ve written, just think about the next word.
Karen Woodward, 11 Tips On How To Become A Better Writer

45. Freewriting, or stream-of-consciousness writing, is a great way to practice silencing your inner editor long enough for your subconscious to push ideas to the surface.
Cheryl Reif, Do What You Can’t: 10 Writing Skills Worth Practice

46. Writing speedily can help you get out of your own head and into the characters.
Becca Jordan, 29 Reasons to Do a Writing Challenge

47. Yet, one mistake we make is we don’t tackle the novel when we’re tired. We believe our work will be better if we’ve rested. This isn’t necessarily true.
Kristen Lamb, Can Being Tired Make Us Better Writers?

48. No real writer likes what she’s writing ALL the time, or even MOST of the time. The important thing is to stick with your story until the end. That’s when the magic happens.
Meg Cabot

49. If you feel paralyzed while working on a rough draft, think of your work like a maze. Sometimes you have to write down a dead end to discover that this is NOT where the story needs to go.
Hugh Howey, A Rough Draft Can be A Maze

50. An essential aspect of creativity is not being afraid to fail. 
Edwin Land

51. Bad writing precedes good writing. This is an infallible rule, so don’t waste time trying to avoid bad writing. (That just slows down the process.) Anything committed to paper can be changed. The idea is to start, and then go from there.
Janet Hulstrand

52. Just start writing all willy-nilly and see what comes out. Pretty please? I KNOW you have an awesome book inside of you. But we all have to write like 3,000 lines of crap before our book comes out.
Jenny Hansen, The Most Important Writing Lesson I Ever Learned

53. Write with abandon and no constraints for first draft.
Francesca Lia Block

54. Negativity is the enemy of creativity. 
David Lynch

55. What amazes me is that most days feel useless. I don’t seem to accomplish anything—just a few pages, most of which don’t seem very good. Yet, when I put all those wasted days together, I somehow end up with a book of which I’m very proud.
Louis Sachar, On Writing

56. Instead of punishing myself when I won’t or can’t write, I reward myself when I can.
Jody Torpey, 5 quick tips writers can use to avoid procrastinating

57. Celebrate the completion of the first draft. Actually, celebrate each step of the writing process if it’s your first manuscript.
Beth Hill, The First Draft—What it is and What it isn’t

58. Here’s the thing: The book that will most change your life is the book you write.
Seth Godin, What to Do When it’s Your Turn: (And it’s Always Your Turn) (affiliate link, no expense added)

59. Discipline is remembering what you want.
David Campbell

60. Writing the last page of the first draft is the most enjoyable moment in writing. It’s one of the most enjoyable moments in life, period.
Nicholas Sparks

61. As a draft, [an idea] becomes a physical, tangible manifestation you can refer to and build on.
Bryan Hutchinson, Why Your First Draft Is NOT Crap

62. Even if you feel like you are alone, you aren’t. The story’s characters want you to tell their story.
Scott Myers, Zero Draft Thirty: The Despair of the Blank Page

63. All kinds of information about your MC will come up while you’re writing your first draft. Maybe she lives in a noisy apartment building. Or her mom is a gung-ho Amway seller. Or her next door neighbor is recuperating from a terrible accident. Or she feels a deep hatred for Smurfs. This stuff will spill out in your first chapters. Let it.
Anne R. Allen, Do’s and Don’ts for Introducing Your Protagonist

64. There is no rule on how to write. Sometimes it comes easily and perfectly; sometimes it’s like drilling rock and then blasting it out with charges.
Earnest Hemingway

65. If a character wants to go in a direction you hadn’t anticipated, by all means go check it out. See where that scary road leads. It might lead to a better story. It might lead to fixing a problem you had earlier (or will run into later) in the story. Or it could be a dead end. But guess what, dead ends are okay. Dead ends make you a better writer. Just go back the way you came and find a new route.
Cris Freese, Fruitless First Draft Struggles

66. I have no qualms about skipping things in the first draft.
Phillip Drayer Duncan, A Discussion About My Writing Process: Part 3 – The First Draft

67. I draft quickly and then revise, a lot.
Erin Morgenstern

68. I don’t recommend that you do major revision during the writing of your first draft. The temptation to stop and make major changes is constant, and it can drive you bats. And most of the time these changes aren’t the best thing for the story that’s trying to bubble up from your writer’s mind.
James Scott Bell, Revising Your Novel

69. The less time you devote to making every word perfect in the first couple of drafts the less painful future cuts and revisions will be.
Martha Alderson, 7 Reasons to Write an Entire 1st Draft before Going Back to the Beginning

70. The first draft often is really fast, and I’d be terribly ashamed if anybody ever saw it.
Jonathan Dee

71. Once you feel more confident about what you’re going to say, stop and write a quick outline of it. Then, write your first draft.
Bryan Collins, 7 Barriers to Writing You Can Leap Over Today

72. Having a clear idea of what you want to write will help you stay focused while you write your first draft.
Pamela Hodges, How to Write a First Draft

73. So in the first draft, I’m inventing people and place with a broad schematic idea of what’s going to happen. In the process, of course, I discover all sorts of bigger and more substantial things.
Peter Carey

74. Be prepared to discover that the story is not going to be exactly how you pictured it. I think that is one of the most exciting things about writing – enjoy it!
Wendy Orr, Getting Through the First Draft

75. Our passion is our strength. 
Billie Joe Armstrong

76. Passion is one great force that unleashes creativity, because if you’re passionate about something, then you’re more willing to take risks.
Yo-Yo Ma

77. We have to continually be jumping off cliffs and developing our wings on the way down.
Kurt Vonnegut

78. Even if you plot your books, sometimes you won’t know what is coming until the words appear on the page. Something happens when you commit to the page, to the word count goal and you write through the frustration and the annoyance and the self-criticism. Creativity emerges.
Joanna Penn, 5 Ways To Get Your First Draft Material Out Of Your Head And Onto The Page

79. Step into a scene and let it drip from your fingertips.
MJ Bush

80. Write the first draft as if you’re out for a spontaneous night with a devastatingly handsome man you met abroad. Run wild, take chances, and don’t even consider the possibility that you’re making the wrong choice. Just go for it.
Christine J. Schmidt, How To Break Up With Your First Draft

81. Keep your head in the clouds and your hands on the keyboard.
Marissa Meyer, Pep Talk from Marissa Meyer

82. The secret of it all, is to write in the gush, the throb, the flood, of the moment – to put things down without deliberation – without worrying about their style – without waiting for a fit time or place. I always worked that way. I took the first scrap of paper, the first doorstep, the first desk, and wrote – wrote, wrote…By writing at the instant the very heartbeat of life is caught.
Walt Whitman

83. Think of nothing else but your story.
Liane Moriarty

84. Writing begets writing.
Dennis Palumbo, Writing from the Inside Out (affiliate link, no expense added)

85. If you hit a wall, just keep writing. Sometimes our brains are like water pumps. We need to prime them and get through the goo before the creativity flows. Just write. You can fix it later.
Kristen Lamb, Editing–Are You Butchering Your Creativity?

86. One thing that helps is to give myself permission to write badly. I tell myself that I’m going to do my five or 10 pages no matter what, and that I can always tear them up the following morning if I want. I’ll have lost nothing—writing and tearing up five pages would leave me no further behind than if I took the day off.
Lawrence Block, The Liar’s Bible (affiliate link, no expense added)

87. Writing the first draft and doing the revisions when you don’t feel ready won’t put you behind. That’s a lie. Any writing you do will get you closer to becoming a better writer.
Jody Calkins, Why You Must Write the First Draft First

88. A first draft has nothing to do with talent. A first draft is about work. Editing, revising, polishing, and knowing when to test the waters is talent.
Allison Beckert, What to Expect From A First Draft

89. You have to finish things — that’s what you learn from, you learn by finishing things.
Neil Gaiman

90. Truth is guys, writing the first draft is hard, and oftentimes it doesn’t come out anything like the way you imagined.
Ava Jae, Why First Draft Writing Sucks

91. If you’ve been studying the craft, you’ll naturally be inclined to show more than tell, write snappy dialogue, and be aware of how much backstory you’re allowing in. That’s great. But don’t let yourself get caught up in those details. Keep the forward momentum going.
Rachelle Gardner, 4 Tips For Writing a Quick First Draft

92. I had expected that at some point during the first draft a light would go on, and I would understand, finally, how to write a book. This never happened. The process was akin to blindly walking in the dark, feeling my way only by touch, and only recognising dead ends when I smacked into them.
Hannah Kent

93. Creativity is allowing yourself to make mistakes. Art is knowing which ones to keep.
Scott Adams

94. I think I realized very early on that you can spend a lot of time constructing a really perfect scene in final draft and just end up throwing it away because you didn’t figure out that mathematics of the story first.
Brit Marling

95. If you’re having trouble finishing a book, it might be that you’re trying to fix it as you go. Just finish the story, no matter how terrible you think that first draft is.
Kimberly Willis Holt

96. A novel is written, after all, in a series of small, manageable scenes and chapters, not necessarily in a month.
Jordan Rosenfeld, Be a More Productive Writer While Also Achieving Balance

97. Yes, that 5000 word day was amazing. But you know what, that 600 word day, when I spent hours staring at blank pages, but started to solve a major story problem? It was every bit as important.
Talia Vance, In the Quagmire of the First Draft

98. You will never work through writer’s block if you walk away from your typewriter. That will only make it easier to walk away the next time.
James N. Frey, How to Write a Damn Good Novel (affiliate link, no expense added)

99. You should LOVE your crappy first draft. You should worship it. You should seek to create it as soon as you possibly can.
Daphne Gray-Grant, The JOY of the crappy first draft

100. The most important thing in writing is to have written. I can always fix a bad page. I can’t fix a blank one.
Nora Roberts

101. Mighty things from small beginnings grow.
John Dryden

102. Each day, the blank pages ahead loom large, and each day you must write away the fear anew. 
MJ Bush

103. But words do not write themselves.
Jeff Ford

Just Keep Writing.

You can do this. There is nothing in you preventing you wholesale from finishing.

It doesn’t matter if you change process every scene.

This one’s overwritten. That one’s underwritten. Yep, underwritten. Overwritten. Dialogue only? Written. Total tell-ish list of actions and reactions? Still written.

Stop judging your progress and start celebrating it.

Then get back to writing.

All affiliate links are included because I fully believe the books are worth reading.

Side Note: How to Write a Damn Good Novel, II: Advanced Techniques For Dramatic Storytelling was the first book I read on how to write fiction, and I still regard it as one of the BEST writingcraft books out there. In case you wanted to know.

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103 Bracing Quotes to Propel You Through Your First Draft, 5.0 out of 5 based on 10 ratings
About MJ Bush

Developmental Editor.
Founder of Writingeekery with 10,000 monthly readers.
I help writers like you master the craft.


  1. Mandy Dowd says:

    Great. I copied a bunch of these into my work agenda where I keep writing hours scheduled. I would copy them all, but I should get back to writing. ; )

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  2. Inspiring. And the best take-home – Just do the work it takes. Thanks for this.

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