Latest News

Reasons Not To Write

If there's one thing I've found over the past few years of being a writer and being friends with writers, it's that there are a million reasons not to write. At the time, the reasons seem huge and valid and important. How can you write when this is happening? You think that if you solve the problem, you will be able to write again, but here's the thing - there will always be another excuse to replace the first.

Examples of reasons not to write include:

  • "I don't have a title - I can't write without a title!"
  • "That character in that one scene at the end of the book doesn't have a name. I can't start writing the novel if that character doesn't have a name."
  • "I don't think I have enough subplot to write this."
  • "I don't know my secondary characters well enough to write about them yet."
  • "I don't know what my main character's parents do for a living yet."
  • "I can't figure out my main character's motivation!"

Oh, the list goes on and on. Believe me, I have said most of these at some point, but I'm here to tell you that these are not reasons to avoid writing at all - especially not to avoid a first draft. Because all of these things are things you can address later in revisions.

I know. That's a scary thought. How can you write a first draft when you know from the start that you'll have to revise so much of it? It's daunting. It's frustrating. Why not just wait and write the first draft as perfectly as possible to avoid major revisions?

Because there is no perfect first draft, and if you keep waiting to write until every detail is ready, you will never start writing. There will always be a reason to avoid writing. There will always be a detail out of place or a sticking point or something that seems massively important to hold you back. If you wait until you have everything perfect, you will be waiting forever. One excuse will be replaced with another each time you think you've solved the problem.

I have this problem. I want my first drafts to be GREAT. I don't want to think about big things I'll have to change later. But with three books through the editing process with my publisher now, I can tell you that no matter how great my first draft was, I still revised A LOT. If you're going to revise anyway, isn't it better to get the first draft out of you and worry about it later?

I've taken on a new mentality with writing. It's easier said than done, but I'm going to try it out. The idea is to have fun with your first draft. It's the time when you can do whatever you want, you can write anything and not stress about it. Enjoy it. Embrace it. Save the stress for revisions and edits. That's the time to think about this stuff, when you have something to work with in front of you.

Make the clay first. Sculpt later.

So what are your reasons not to write? I think my most common one is "I can't write without a title!" But what about you? What keeps you from plunging into a first draft?
Kody Keplilnger

Kody is the NYT bestselling author of The DUFF, Shut Out, and A Midsummer's Nightmare, all from Little Brown/Poppy, as well as Lying Out Loud, Run, and the middle grade novel The Swift Boys and Me, from Scholastic. Born and raised in Kentucky, she now lives in NYC.

Posts by Kody

website twitter instagram facebook tumblr youtube

  • Blogger Comments
  • Facebook Comments


  1. LOL My most recent one was, "I don't have a clear enough idea of the villain yet--he's very slippery."

  2. I haven't actually used it as an excuse not to write yet, but I have a thing with titles too... A good title can be a big motivator for me and (I tell myself) things start to click once I find the title. So maybe this could be a problem in the future. Hmmm.

  3. My greatest reason for not writing is so I can focus on my homework get good grades and hopefully get into a good college. In another year or so hopefully I won't get to use this excuse anymore. I guess it wouldn't kill me to take 10 or so minutes out of burying myself in AP homework to type out 1k of my WIP.

  4. "But I never finished that abandoned project from three years ago! I shouldn't start a new one until I've finished that one, despite the fact that I have no interest in it anymore and don't even know where I was going with it."

  5. Mostly other work! I do like to outline first, and I like the outline to make sense before I write a draft. Play, fun, I'll keep that in mind!

  6. For the record...I don't really read much in the genre you write. After reading this post, I decided to give it a try. I bought the Duff on my Kindle this morning and finished it about five minutes ago. You've changed my mind :)

    Also, I loved this post. Thanks for the encouragement!

  7. My new excuse. "I'm pregnant and I don't want to do ANYTHING." LOL

  8. Sometimes I stop writing because I don't know what the book is actually "About". Not little a about, but big A "about". Then I lose the will to keep writing, for a while anyway.

  9. My own procrastination is the reason I don't write most days.

  10. I love this line, Kody: "Make the clay first. Sculpt later."

    Very, very true!

  11. Mine is almost always- I don't know where I'm going with this character's ARC. I'm working on trying to tone down my excuses for not writing though!

  12. I have a real issue with getting the first scene (or even sentence) right. I know as a reader, I have a short attention span and want the first page to grab me, so I'm paranoid that agents or readers (one day?) might read it and give up. That and the motivation thing.

    @Alexa - I totally agree. My characters' ARCs tend to not so much be an ARC as a spiral of destruction...


Comments are moderated on posts two weeks old or more -- please send us a tweet if yours needs approval!

Item Reviewed: Reasons Not To Write Rating: 5 Reviewed By: Kody Keplinger