Tag Archives: First Drafts

First Drafting


First drafting.

The place where I give up.

I am so much better at taking an existing first draft and threading new bits in and rearranging and fixing and rewriting, than I am at getting that first draft down.

And I pretty much always stop at 30k. I have A LOT of books that have hit thirty thousand words and are waiting patiently for me to return to them some time this century. Because, for me, making up those first weird and wobbly bits is the most unsatisfying and difficult. It is the part where it feels the least like something worthwhile or book-like. It feels, in short, like a mess.

The problem with giving up before the first draft is done is that I am essentially quitting before I’ve even started. A first draft isn’t writing a book any more than an artist’s preparatory sketches and studies are the final painting hung in a gallery.

A first draft is not the finished product, and expecting it to look like one is another step on the downward stairs to the cold and lonely cellar of self-rejection.

Basically, don’t let your first draft overwhelm you. This is not the place for perfection.





You never were a genius

You call it outlining, I call it first drafting.

Some people like to have an organised outline that follows a neat path through scenes that are All There For A Reason. And that’s fine, but it’s not how I work, and that’s okay too. Everyone has to have their own madness. So this post is for the people who feel like maybe they’re doing it wrong.

You’re not.

My first drafts are prose vomit, idea diarrhoea. They are all the filth and beauty and wrong turns and right turns and stupidity and genius that’s in my head, hammered out as fast as I can. First drafts are where I take chances, make leaps of logic and time, trust my subconscious, my story, my characters. If I don’t pour it all out as quickly as possible and let myself make godawful mistakes, then I have nothing to fix. When I start getting scared of writing (and more honestly, scared of failure, of people pointing and laughing and asking me what is this shit?) then I have a little mantra that I like to repeat.

Let it be hypocritical. Let the words lie to me, contradict themselves. Let the story tell me one thing and do another.

I say this to myself, and I feel the calm descending. Because it’s okay. First drafts are like people, they have hidden agendas and they lie and they don’t always make sense. And that’s where the strength comes from. The beauty. The art.

And yes, this means that when I have that first draft done and dusted, I have a mess of revisions to go through, but you know what?

Every revision takes something I thought was broken and makes it better. Every revision surprises me with some hidden twist in the thread of the story that wouldn’t have been there in the first place if I was so scared of writing rubbish that I never took the chance to slam it down.

Write dirty

Revise hard.

(I feel a sex comparison coming up but because I am technically an adult I shall refrain)

(Or possibly not)