KNOWHOW To Write a First Draft 3


  Our First Draft series for middle grade continues with Sophie Wills, who debuted last year with the hilarious and brilliant The Orphans of St. Halibuts, sharing more of her wisdom with Jo E. Verrill and KnowHow.

So, you've started getting something on the page (see part one and part two here) -  but how do you keep going until the finish line?

Staying on course

I stay on course by considering the short time I have left on this earth. Also, my husband now works from home, and it’s awkward if I’m on Twitter every time he walks past. 

Find what works for you

If following a particular method starts to fill you with dread when you sit down to work, maybe it’s not for you. It’s easy to read someone else’s explanation of how they do things – constructing three acts (or is it five?) with colour-coded spreadsheets – and feel disheartened because that leaves you feeling flat, like you’ve got to do someone else’s accounts. 

It’s hard to produce a whole novel, and almost impossible if you’re not enjoying it. Come to know what fires you up, gets you in a good mood, and use it. Break the rules: you can skip scenes that aren’t inspiring you right now and go to the one you’re really looking forward to writing. Finally, allow the first draft to be terrible, and trust yourself to fix it later. 


So, remember...

  • This is about what works best for you - make it enjoyable 
  • Come to know what gets you in a good mood, and use it
  • Don't be afraid to write a terrible first draft - trust yourself to fix it later



Sophie Wills lives on the edge of south-east London with her family. Her debut middle-grade, The Orphans of St Halibut’s, illustrated by David Tazzyman, was acquired at auction by Macmillan and was published on 1 October 2020. She is represented by Kate Shaw at The Shaw Agency. You can find Sophie on Twitter @SophsWills and her website is


Jo E. Verrill is an enthusiastic writer of humorous books for children, and an advertising and broadcasting standards consultant.

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