Does the idea of writing a first draft fill you with fear and dread?
Do you find a million other things to do first — organizing your garage, cleaning out the kitty litter box, working on your income taxes — before you can bring yourself to write? Many people, some of them professional writers, operate exactly this way.
Starting to write is a struggle for most everyone. And so is sticking with the task, day after relentless day. It’s way too easy to become unglued by doubt. You think:
- What gives me the right to say this?
- How can I possibly produce the 60,000+ words I need for this book or thesis or dissertation?
- I’m not nearly interesting / smart / talented / determined / [add your favourite adjective here] enough for this kind of work.
I’ve felt all of those feelings, too, and I’m here to tell you there is a solution. Writing a first draft doesn’t have to be painful. It can be faster, better and easier when you know what to do. In fact, I can help turn your crappy first draft into a happy one.
In Your Happy First Draft you will learn:
Who can benefit from Your Happy First Draft
The very definition of people who work for hire, freelancers want to do their job quickly and efficiently so they can get on to the next piece of paying work. If you weren’t lucky enough to learn fast writing when you were in school, give yourself an injection of adrenaline now. Your Happy First Draft will dramatically quicken the rate of your writing and make it far easier, to boot.
People whose bosses think they can’t write
I work with many people whose bosses don’t have much faith in them. Most often, I find the problem is the employee’s lack of confidence, not lack of skill. If your boss says you don’t understand grammar or writing, they’re likely telling you your words aren’t persuasive enough. Your Happy First Draft can help you rebuild your confidence and give you a step-by-step system for discovering your inner writer.
Grad students and other academics
Writing for the academy presents specific challenges, no matter what your place in those hallowed halls. If you’re a master’s student, producing a thesis can seem daunting and threatening. And doctoral students face the longer, more punishing demands of a dissertation. Even some assistant profs quake at the publish-or-perish demands imposed on them by the tenure track. Bottom line? Most universities fail to offer enough writing support to the people in their institutions. Don’t let them leave you adrift! Teach yourself how to write, sustainably, with Your Happy First Draft.
Business owners and consultants
Are you trying to increase your business by writing a blog? Or maybe you’ve heard how a book is the new business card? Of course, you could hire a ghost writer for either task — but if you yourself have the desire to write, save your money. Let Your Happy First Draft show you how to write in easy, life-affirming steps that will take no more than 30 minutes per day.
I used to decline to work with novelists because I’ve never produced a word of fiction in my life. Finally, one determined novelist refused to accept my no. And guess what? It turns out that most of the techniques I teach non-fiction writers work equally well for novelists. Prime among them is breaking the habit of editing WHILE you write. So is the idea of managing the (usually nasty) voices that speak to you, inside your head, your critical inner editor. Your Happy First Draft addresses both of these issues.
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After several years of snacking on tasty morsels from the smorgasbord of Daphne Gray-Grant’s weekly newsletter, I have finally experienced the banquet that is her latest book. The key ingredients of this eleven-course meal are take time to plan and allow time to edit. These two steps will help eliminate the dreaded writer’s block, and writing will be fun as you cook your happy (crappy) first draft without worrying about mistakes and silly statements. I love the spontaneity provoked by writing a crappy first draft that only you will read. You too can become a happy writer.
John Faisandier, author, Thriving Under Fire
Your Happy First Draft is a wonderful, practical guide to the writing process. While many books address linguistic aspects of writing, such as syntax or grammar, very few discuss the process that writers go through while writing. Daphne Gray-Grant tackles this tricky subject with expertise based on years of experience. She provides concrete and actionable steps, ranging from daily goals one should set to what software one can use for checking average sentence length. Recommended for beginners and experienced writers alike.
With plenty of useful (and feasible!) strategies, available tools and helpful online software to overcome writer’s block, Your Happy First Draft will make you want to write again. The author’s personal, relatable situations and conversational narrative, backed up with scientific studies, make her book easy to adapt to various “writing environments.” Whether you are a professional writer or a student (like me), this book is a must-read. It shows its readers how to work effectively with who we are: acknowledge habits that hinder our writing in order to make small changes every day, so the writing process becomes enjoyable. Yes, happy draft, not painful.
Yes, you can teach an old dog a new trick — if you’re Daphne Gray-Grant. Not only has Your Crappy Happy First Draft helped me up my writing game (no easy feat for a professional writer of 30-plus years), it’s now my go-to guide for unblocking stopped-up creativity. Thanks to Gray-Grant, I’ve added no less than a dozen new techniques to my writer’s tool box. Tips for writing faster? Check. Ways to find the joy in writing? Check. Help for time management, organization, and making or breaking habits? Check, check and check again. Though it reads like a narrative with her signature style of gentle teacher, don’t be fooled: this is an indispensable resource for writers of all levels. I wholeheartedly recommend this book.
Jan Maroscher, Just Jan Creative
I received an advance reading copy of Daphne Gray-Grant’s book Your Happy First Draft for an honest review. Happy differs from other writing books — read it first! The first section discusses how to start small, write daily and refrain from editing as you write. It addresses writing fear and procrastination through using the “happy first draft” method. She continues with practical guidance. Specifically, read a favorite author and then dissect their writing, making the model yours. I used this technique, and it works! She takes us off the sedentary path by encouraging walking and thinking. Happy circles back to writing the first draft without editing, adding useful suggestions. Finally, I identified in myself emotions of fear, impatience and perfectionism to remediate. The book by itself rates five stars; add five more for videos of the chapters.
Your Happy First Draft may sound like an oxymoron. First drafts are thought to be messy affairs that require extreme effort and even bleeding onto the page. However, Daphne Gray-Grant asks us to trash those preconceptions — and embrace the idea that writing our first draft can be a “happy” affair: a pleasurable activity that we will enjoy doing regularly until the words add up to our desired book length. As a writer who has been handcuffed by perfectionism and procrastination, I’ve found Daphne’s techniques very freeing. Now, I can be happy knowing that a first draft is never, ever perfect. It is merely the fabric I need to weave to create the book in my heart. Happily recommended.
My corporate career involves writing on a daily basis and I believe myself to be an above-average writer. At times I struggle with the process of writing and become frustrated when the words do not flow as freely as I would like, causing delays in completing writing projects and assignments. After reading just the first few chapters of this book, I realized what was missing in my writing process. After completing the entire book, I learned new tips and techniques to more efficiently and effectively perform my day-to-day writing projects with clarity and ease. Daphne offers practical, easy-to-follow advice, with real-world examples, for both the novice and seasoned writer. This is a book that I refer to often and recommend to any writer.
Why are we taught the old “Introduction, Development, Conclusion” method from Grade 5 on and never the “process” of how to write? I’ve often wondered why writers couldn’t get their stories straight — they hadn’t learned to think right! In this book you’ll learn how to write. How to think straight and get your story organized. How to use a few painless techniques to get from blank to filled-up page, your first “rough” (very private) draft. This book offers the benefit of Daphne’s 40 years of experience working with writers and their (and her own) written work. At this price, it’s priceless!
Daphne provides thorough explanations for techniques and activities to help any writer overcome the dreaded first draft writer’s block, including developing a writing habit by starting slow, to gain confidence and success. She explains how to research, plan and develop your writing using various tools, including mindmapping, meditation and movement, to make writing a pleasure and not a chore. I loved the writing style, with her stories as well as others’ and references to additional resources. Your Happy First Draft is clear, honest, with ideas that are easy to understand and implement.
Jacalyn Holsted, On Point Thinking
Daphne lines up — and then knocks down — all of our excuses for incomplete writing projects. We’ve all heard that writing needs to be a daily habit, and Daphne expands this idea by focusing on automaticity and the multiplier effect. Her book is filled with ideas that challenge not only our excuses, but also some of the advice we’ve heard before. Glance through the book and you’ll think you see familiar themes; but if you read closer, you’ll likely find a new path around those frequent challenges.
Barbara M. Hall
We often hear about writing crappy first drafts. Daphne’s approach to writing in Your Happy First Draft is a refreshing reframing of that sentiment. I often wondered if Daphne was reading my thoughts while she wrote this book, because it felt like I was receiving personal coaching. She captures writers’ thoughts and fears as well. Before reading this book, I avoided writing out of fear of producing horrible writing. Simply implementing the strategies Daphne offers has enabled me day by day to escape the stranglehold of fear. Further, reading this book propelled my eagerness to get to my own writing each day. This book is a must-read if you experience writer’s block. The step-by-step plan Daphne offers in Your Happy First Draft will obliterate your fear of getting started and guide you on a happy journey to the finish.
Kelly Beischel, PhD, RN, CAPP, CPPC
If writing is part of your life, you must read Your Happy First Draft, by Daphne Gray-Grant. It offers a road map that will get you from blank page to finished first draft quickly, efficiently and with minimum stress. It contains tips, tools and techniques that you can use right away to cut your writing time in half and make your life easier. And Daphne backs it all up with solid research, shows us evidence through anecdotes from her own career, and peppers the text with just enough humour. This is a book you’ll want to read in one sitting and then refer to for years to come. It should be required reading for every journalism student and part of every writer’s reference library.
Your Happy First Draft guides writers toward taking the most effective action, in the most logical order, at the most sensible time, and I am so grateful! I have been writing for over 20 years and have various techniques at my disposal, but sometimes my ADHD gets the better of me and I just get stuck. For instance, I had been going around in circles on two writing projects for months, wasting time and energy but getting nowhere. In the past week, since reading Daphne’s book, I have made solid plans, written two happy first drafts (50 pages in total) and moved on to revisions for both projects. What a relief. Thanks, Daphne!
Daphne Gray-Grant provides tricks and tools to push writers to the finish line in an entertaining, easy-to-read book that should sit right close to the keyboard for every aspiring writer. Gray-Grant’s book is an extension of her weekly email tips newsletter, which is an indispensable pep talk for writers [subscribe here]. The book breaks down the writing process into preparing to write, the writing itself and what to do after, in a format that will help even the most novice scribe move through the process. This book will be a valuable resource to any writer, whether you’re looking to write a New York Times best-seller or make your quarterly e-newsletter better.
The words of wisdom and encouragement in Your Happy First Draft are a tonic to the soul of any struggling writer. Practical strategies for getting words on the page abound. As I read each chapter, I could feel my writing muscles growing stronger. By the end, I wanted to write, a feeling that is often elusive to me. In addition to Daphne’s excellent advice, the lists of resources to help produce and edit a first draft are exceptional. I will be recommending this resource to all my fellow doctoral student friends, as well as everyone I know who wants to be a better writer.