Your Happy First Draft is here!

Reading time: Just over 4 minutes

If you’ve ever wanted to be a happier writer, my new book will give you encouraging, practical support….

At last, it’s sales day. My latest book Your Happy First Draft is available today. Finally!

Even if you’re not interested in buying, I hope you’ll take 60 seconds to watch the book’s brief promotional video. Everyone who’s seen it has used words like ‘fun,’ ‘uplifting’ and ‘charming’ to describe the feeling it generates. I hope you agree but even if you don’t please tell me your reaction in the comments section, at the end of this post.

If you are interested in buying, be sure to do so before Oct. 1. If you do, you’ll get a special bonus — a series of seven daily emails from me with extra tips and encouragement for establishing the writing habit.

To give you a taste of the book, here are the first 750-or-so words. (If you want to read more, you can see all of the introductory chapter on my website, link at the end of the excerpt.)

Your Happy First Draft


I first read Dorothy Parker’s witticism “I hate writing; I love having written” when I was sixteen years old, curled up in a chair in my bedroom. Feelings of enormous relief washed over me — as if my younger brother had been in a bad car accident but doctors had just told me he was going to be okay. I was relieved because I felt the same way about writing as Parker did. It was a horrible, distasteful job but as soon as the words were on paper, they miraculously turned into fun. I could play with them. And if Parker, a famous American writer and critic who said snidely clever things about people like Katharine Hepburn — “she ran the gamut of emotions from A to B” — could give voice to such contradictory feelings about writing, well, I could harbour such feelings too.

My relief lasted until my next essay was due. Because guess what? I still had to write. Eventually, I came to terms with the challenge of writing — I’ll tell you the story in this book — and I have spent the most recent part of my career working with others who mostly hate(d) writing too. I give people a system that makes an apparently unlikeable job more fun. And, after a few weeks of coaching, the majority of people tell me they suddenly enjoy writing.

Why does writing terrify so many? The heart of the problem is we aren’t taught how to write. It’s as if we’re subjected to a massive sink-or-swim class. We get thrown over the edge of the pool, into very deep water. Some of us learn to float or tread water because of ability or the help of an uncommonly wise teacher. But the majority of us drown. We sink to the bottom of the pool with barely a glub. But here’s a secret we should all have learned in Grade 3. All of our fears about writing are never true of a first draft, because no one else ever needs to see it. In this book, what I’ll be asking you to do is to satisfy yourself with a first draft that isn’t any good. In fact, it may even be demonstrably bad. But then, at least, you will have something you can edit.

Does this idea sound crazy to you? If so, I ask you to think of some real writers and imagine how they work. Perhaps you picture these writers to be deeply self-assured, the way Margaret Atwood or Jonathan Franzen carry themselves — as if they’re the best-informed, most literate people in the universe. They’re like Robert Duvall as he strode across the beach in the movie Apocalypse Now. Bombs were exploding around him, but chin forward, shoulders thrust back, he announced, “I love the smell of napalm in the morning.”

Or possibly you see writers as depressed, alcoholic artists crippled with self-loathing — think Ernest Hemingway, Dylan Thomas, Sylvia Plath — who transformed their pain into words of solid gold, before they eventually killed themselves.

Or then again, maybe you see writers as deeply literate, brimming with clever ideas, lovers of words and never at a loss for one. Oscar Wilde, perhaps, or Charles Dickens. They are supremely well-read and able to strike memorable aphorisms such as “Education is an admirable thing, but it is well to remember from time to time that nothing that is worth knowing can be taught.” Or they create unforgettable first sentences such as “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief…”

Real writers, you may think, don’t hesitate. Don’t become frustrated. Don’t stare at blank computer screens. Don’t shake their heads at their inadequacies. Don’t struggle with what to write. Don’t even need to consult a thesaurus. They work eight or more hours each day, feverishly transcribing their text, which has sprung — unbidden — from their minds. A few weeks later, they ship their manuscript off to their editors for some (perhaps unnecessary) polishing. And, several months after that, they hold a published book in their hands.

Because most of us would-be writers have read many books — we have shelves bursting with them in our offices and bedrooms — we imagine these works came out of other writers’ brains already typeset, perfect-bound and free from errors. Do I need to tell you these perceptions are wrong?

“Let’s face it, writing is hell,” William Styron (1925–2006), author of Sophie’s Choice, reported to The Paris Review in 1954….

To finish the introductory chapter, go here.

Please be aware that I have chosen not to sell the book via Amazon or through bookstores. The only place to get it is the sales page on my own website. (I happily share the reasons for this strategy with all the writers I coach.) 

And as a bonus for US buyers, I’ve hired a US-based fulfillment house to mail my books to them. (I’ll continue to do Canadian orders — and other international orders — myself.) This division of labour will prevent slow-downs at the border and speed delivery for all involved. Delivery remains free in the US and Canada, and a flat fee of $15 is charged for everywhere else in the world. If you prefer, you can also buy the digital-only version.

I’ve emailed all buyers of my previous book, 8½  Steps to Writing Faster, Better, offering them a discount on this new volume if they buy before Oct. 1. If you bought a copy of the earlier book but didn’t receive the invitation from me, it’s likely because your email address has changed. No problem. Just send me a quick email and I’ll be able to look you up in my records and provide the discount.

I’m so happy to be able to put this book into your hands. If you have ever struggled with writing, I know it can help you. Here’s where you can see my book sales page. And be sure to check out the reviews from advance readers.


My video podcast last week aimed to help people who were having difficulty with mindmapping.  Or, see the transcript, and consider subscribing to my YouTube channel. If you have a question about writing you’d like me to address, be sure to send it to me by email,  Twitter or Skype and I’ll try to answer it in the podcast.


How do you stay happy while you’re writing? We can all learn from each other so, please, share your thoughts with my readers and me in the “comments” section below. Anyone who comments on today’s post (or any others) by Sept. 30/19 will be put in a draw for a copy of my book, 8 1/2 Steps to Writing Faster, Better.  Please, scroll down to the comments, directly underneath the “related posts” links, below. Note that you don’t have to join Disqus to post. See here to learn how to post as a guest. It’s easy!

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