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.

Introducing Your Happy First Draft

I started my working life as an editor and I was a good one. I had a natural instinct for figuring out what writers wanted to say and for helping to make their text better — more clear and more readable. I could even apply these skills to my own writing.

But here was the problem: The qualities that made me a good editor made me a terrible writer. Even though I worked at a large metropolitan daily newspaper, I struggled to put a single word on the page. (Thank goodness I was an editor, so they let me get away with that not-so-charming shortcoming!)

When I left the newspaper, I set up shop as a freelance writer and editor. As I had all my life, I loved editing. But I disliked writing. So I spent six months in abject misery, hating every word I produced. Then I spent another year figuring out how to take my hate and turn it into something approaching like, never figuring I could ever achieve love. After many false starts, my efforts finally paid off. And the very best news of all? I not only loved the process, I also managed to double my writing speed.

When others started asking me how I wrote so quickly, I produced my first book, 8½ Steps to Writing Faster, Better. Now, after 10 years of working with troubled, writing-blocked clients, I’ve distilled my process into a new book, Your Happy First Draft.

Longer and much more detailed than 8½ Steps to Writing Faster, Better, this 216-page book is fully indexed. And it contains 23 pages of notes, with details of research and other sources you can follow up.

In Your Happy First Draft you will learn:

  • The merits of starting small — really small, perhaps no more than five minutes of writing per day, to begin with — and eventually working up to no more than 30 to 60 minutes.
  • Why daily diligence in writing is so valuable and how it will save you time.
  • How to copy the work of other writers, in the same way students hang out in art galleries emulating the work of masters like Vincent van Gogh and Georgia O’Keeffe.
  • Why going for a walk or getting some other form of exercise may be the single most useful cure for your writer’s block.
  • The surprising insights that meditation offers writers.
  • Detailed instructions on how to use a mindmap to inspire yourself to write. (Hint: A mindmap is not an outline turned sideways!)
  • How to manage the (mostly negative) emotions most people associate with writing.
  • Software recommendations that will help organize your research and allow you to find it again, quickly and easily.
  • Definitive guidelines on how to end the horrible, ineffective, revolting, frightful, self-destructive habit of editing WHILE you write.
  • The two different types of editing and detailed instructions on how to use what I call the “multiple pass system.”

Who can benefit from Your Happy First Draft

Freelance writers

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.

being your own boss

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.

Novelists

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.

Twyla Olsen

Twyla Olsen

Columbia, CA
Your Happy First Draft took me back to the joy I felt when I first dreamed of being a published author. Daphne’s expertise and experienced tips will help you to overcome writer’s block and more. Her book validates that the way to mastery is through a continued practice of maintaining a steady flow of words. Daphne shines the light on a path to accomplishing your writing goal, be it a book, a dissertation or an article. I’m on the path!
Ron Shewchuk (1)

Ron Shewchuk

Vancouver, BC
I consider myself a pretty good writer, but I often struggle to put words on the page. I'm daunted. I procrastinate. I don't know where to start. I have trouble organizing my thoughts. Daphne Gray-Grant's brilliant book has the answers I've been looking for all my life, including many I didn't know I needed to hear. Daphne manages to demystify the writing process and break it down into pieces that are easy to understand, and even easier to put to good use. Read this book and you will become a better writer.
Patsy Nester-2

Pat Bowden

Brisbane, Australia
Reviewing a book on writing can be scary. What if my review is garbled nonsense? What if I can’t think of what to say? After procrastinating, I realized that it was as simple as taking the advice offered in Your Happy First Draft. I got out my ticking kitchen timer and told my wayward brain to concentrate. Forget about social media and emails. I made a mindmap and started writing. Later I edited my review. I can assure you, dear reader, that Daphne’s strategies work! Now for my next piece of writing. 

ADDITIONAL TESTIMONIALS

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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

    Wellington, New Zealand
  • 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. 

    Omer Rosenbaum

    Tel Aviv, Israel
  • 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. 

    Agata McNew

    Texas, USA
  • 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

    Delaware, OH
  • 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. 

    Jim Thompson

    Fort Bragg, NC
  • 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. 

    Franke James

    Vancouver, BC
  • 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.

    Andrea Inman

    Cranberry Township, PA
  • 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! 

    Noel Rodrigue

    Gatineau, QC
  • 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

    Issaquah, WA
  • 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

    Chapel Hill, NC
  • 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

    Cincinnati, OH
  • 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. 

    Ruth Raymond

    senior organizational communications specialist
    Vancouver, BC
  • 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! 

    Christine Hennebury

    writer & creative life coach
    Mt. Pearl, Newfoundland
  • 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. 

    Rob Pasquinucci

    content strategist
    Newport, KY
  • 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. 

    Lisa Champion

    Sydney, Australia
  • Daphne’s appropriately titled book focuses on unleashing creativity and urges us to stop judging every sentence. Her motto is “Spill it all out and edit later.” The book is easy to read and flows like a conversation with a friend. It is packed with advice on exorcising all the blocks that writers commonly face. There’s advice on every minute aspect that would trouble a writer, right down to meditation and training the mind. The only problem I found is a formatting one. The sidebars tend to interrupt the flow, with some even placed before a sentence ends. Other than this small formatting issue, the book is excellent.

    Shobha Nihalani

    Hong Kong
olena

Olena Kuzhel

Ludwigshafen am Rhein, Germany
The book describes practical steps to “find inspiration every day at 9:00 a.m.” It is easy to read, not only because Daphne avoids using sophisticated methods, but because she shares her own life story of how she became a happier, faster writer. She clearly shows that becoming a better writer is a step-by-step process, not a skill you have to be born with. After finishing the book, for the first time in my life I produced more than 1,000 words of my master’s thesis in less than two hours, writing that normally takes me days or even weeks. Daphne gave me confidence that I can write as much as I want and with a quality which I can imagine by just going “bird by bird.”
Alex de Siqueira (1)

Alex de Siqueira

postdoc, Berkeley Institute for Data Science, Berkeley, California
Daphne's new book, Your Happy First Draft, is one of those books you didn’t know you needed until you start reading it. Her tips on preparing yourself before sitting down to write, writing a first draft fast, and then thoroughly editing the text I am finding very useful in my daily work. I was resistant at the start, but her ideas on mindmapping and keeping a writing diary are a good start to beat the fear of the blank page. Her life stories and experience will show you a delightful way to approach your writing, and you will have a lot of fun in the process. It’s already one of my favorite books about writing!
Marie Gettel-Gilmartin

Marie Gettel-Gilmartin

Portland, Oregon
Now Daphne’s back with her latest book, Your Happy First Draft, teaching us about the importance of getting that first draft on paper, guiding us through the process, and providing excellent tools and techniques to take our writing to the next level. Your Happy First Draft is JAM-PACKED with practical tips that will help writers of all levels—from those who are fresh out of high school to professional writers like me with years of experience. She teaches how to write a happy first draft, how to whip it into shape, and how to move it towards publication…and, along the way, she helps make the whole process far less painful!

What will you get when you order Your Happy First Draft?

Order the BASIC edition and you’ll receive:

Your Happy First Draft e-book.

This 216-page e-book describes how to make writing your crappy happy first draft a joyful and rewarding experience. In 11 chapters (plus intro and conclusion), Your Happy First Draft describes a wealth of practical ideas to make writing faster and better. Among other tips, you’ll discover why “small” is a beautiful habit, the value of daily diligence and how a super model can help you. Stories from people I’ve coached help guide the way, and 23 pages of notes and a detailed index make the book substantial and easy to use. 

Buy the PREMIUM version and you’ll ALSO receive four bonus items:

Bonus #1: Your own printed and bound copy of Your Happy First Draft
Hate printing e-books? As a premium buyer you’ll get your very own reference copy of the book, professionally printed, with a glossy cover and perfect-bound binding. This is the ONLY way to get a printed copy of the book. It’s not available in regular stores or through Amazon. Delivery is free in Canada and the US and carries a flat fee of $15 elsewhere in the world.

Bonus #2: Twelve videos – one for each of the main chapters
My weekly Write Question video has proven so popular, I’ve also created an exclusive series of videos related to Your Happy First Draft. Buy the premium version and you’ll receive a link to a hidden YouTube page containing all 12 videos — one for each chapter.

Bonus #3: Daphne’s dynamite e-booklet 72 Ways to Beat Writer’s Block
With tips for preparing better, for dealing with distractions and for playing better mind games, you’ll receive a wealth of practical ideas you can use immediately. This e-booklet is not sold separately.

Bonus #4: “How to Bring Storytelling to ANY Type of Writing”
In this helpful and easy-to-read PDF, writer Casey Hibbard — author of the book Stories that Sell — describes how to bring storytelling to any type of writing. Looking at the five key elements of storytelling, Hibbard describes how you can use each element to engage your readers and make the writing process more interesting to yourself.

Regardless of which version you buy, you get:

Daphne’s 100% turnaround money-back guarantee
If, after getting your purchase, you feel you have not received your money’s worth, simply return the materials to Daphne and you’ll get your money back, no questions asked. This guarantee is valid for one full year from your date of purchase.

Your Happy First Draft

Regular versionPremium version
Your Happy First Draft e-book: This 216-page e-book contains 11 chapters (plus intro and conclusion), 23 pages of notes and a detailed index.  
Bonus #1: Your own printed and perfect-bound copy of Your Happy First Draft for your bookshelf and easy desktop reference ($16 value) 
Bonus #2: A total of 12 five-minute videos — setting you up for success in the themes you’ll discover in each chapter. ($75 value) 
Bonus #3: E-booklet 72 Ways to Beat Writer’s Block ($12.95 value) 
Bonus #4: “How to Bring Storytelling to ANY Type of Writing,” a PDF by storyteller Casey Hibbard ($5.95 value) 
$49*
(Regular version)
$59*
(Premium version)
free-shipping* Prices are charged in US dollars unless you and your computer are based in Canada — in which case you’re charged in Canadian dollars + GST. Bulk pricing available for orders of 10 or more. Email Daphne for details.