Help! Perfection is getting in the way of my first draft.

Welcome to  story and chai’s “Ask an Author.”  Here, we’ll respond to questions we’ve received about the writing and publication process, as well as new questions, which you can ask us on twitter, Facebook, or through email (jazobair AT comcast DOT net).  Sometimes we’ll ask other authors to “guest answer” your questions as well. We hope this is a helpful feature for writers at all stages of the process! 


Question: I have a great idea for a novel but each time I sit down to write, I end up deleting everything I write because I hate what I see in the scene. I know first drafts are never great but how can I even get to the first draft if I keep deleting the first sentence?

Aisha: I completely understand this frustration. For many years [yes, years!] I stared at a screen, typing out a few words, paragraphs, sometimes even pages, and then striking the delete key on everything I wrote, deeming it unworthy. For me, I’ve learned, that the secret to getting that first sentence to stick and for more sentences to follow is not to write the opening scenes on a laptop but instead, with a good old fashioned pen and paper. Somehow a blank page in the moleskine is less daunting than a glowing screen. Maybe it’s because pen and paper is how I first learned to write. Maybe it’s because this is how I first created stories as a child. Or maybe its because it’s way too easy to hit ‘delete’ on a keyboard versus pen and paper, but the process of putting pen to paper helps ideas and sentences flow freely. Once the first few pages, or chapters are solidified on paper and the vision of the book grows legs, I take the story to the laptop and continue writing there. Writing a novel’s first few pages is a fragile place where self-doubt looms high but perhaps writing it out with pen and paper will help erase the curse of the blinking blank screen. Good luck!


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Aisha-Saeed-12-199x300Aisha Saeed is a contributor to story and chai, focusing on YA books and writers. She is also a mama, lawyer, teacher, and maker and drinker of chai. She is a contributing author in the New York Times featured anthology Love InshallahAisha has been blogging for a decade at her website, and her writing has also appeared in places such as The Orlando Sentinel, BlogHer, Muslim Girl Magazineand Red Tricycle. She also writes a monthly column, Literary Mama, at Her debut YA novel WRITTEN IN THE STARS will be released in 2015 by Penguin/Nancy Paulsen Books. She is represented by Taylor Martindale at Full Circle Literary Agency.

You can connect with Aisha at her website, or follow along on FacebookTwitterInstagramPinterest, or Tumblr. You can also reach her by e-mail at   

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