Behind “The Process”: Get It Over With (Writing First Drafts)

Sometimes you have to power through your first draft

Hey folks,

One more in the Behind “The Process” series, which takes a look at the ins and outs of the fiction writing process.

Sometimes you have to power through your first draft
Photo by Adolfo Félix on Unsplash

Today I’m writing this as much for myself as anyone else. I’m still in first draft mode. For a couple things, actually. First, I’m writing another novel (yay!). I’m also trying to finish a short story I’ve been toying with for a writing contest. Toying as in, starting it, not loving it, starting over, not working on it for awhile due to blogging, novel…ing, and life stuff. But as the extra time melts away and the deadline looms, I’m getting more focused on the short story. But here’s my problem:

I Won’t Let Myself Finish the First Draft

And this is solvable. How?

Write the damn thing until it’s done!

Simple as that. Don’t get caught up in the, Oh, is this good enough? Does this sound cheesy? There’s no depth to this story… when you’re doing the first draft. It’s not worth time and agony.

These are traps we set up for multiple reasons. One, to avoid humiliation. When you’re an artist, of any kind, and you put something out there–it’s kind of like walking onto a stage naked and hoping no one laughs at you.

Stupid analogy, I’m aware, but the emotion fits, and one way to avoid that humiliation: don’t go on the stage.

Another reason we don’t finish:

First Drafts Are Embarassing

They are. When you write the first draft, you’re like, Damn this is bad. So…don’t show it to anyone. No one deserves to see how bad your first draft is. And every writer I know says their first drafts are pieces of shit.

No pulled punches. First drafts, by their nature, kinda suck. Good writers don’t writer good first drafts every time; they fix crappy first drafts and make them into beautiful works of art.

It’s like doing a pencil sketch on a canvas that you’ll eventually paint in. You don’t want to show someone the sketch; you want them to see the finished product! They can’t see the layers upon layers, depth, and–and here’s the MOST FUN part of “The Process”–the stuff that you don’t even know will be there yet!

So here’s what you do:

Keep Writing the First Draft–No Matter What!

Brandon Scott, author of the Vodou Series was on Creative Ops and said that he writes that first draft with an intensity placed on simply getting from beginning, to middle, to end as fast as possible. I couldn’t agree more. Once you get the first draft done, you can get to the truly fun parts, in my opinion–the building, restructuring, rewriting, editing….

But not until it’s done.

When Writing the First Draft:

  • First of all, write by hand, dammit! Everyone should write by hand. When you compare typing vs. writing by hand, there’s no contest which is better for your creativity.
  • Don’t focus on proper spelling, grammar, syntax, or any of the things computers like to put lines and highlights around. Only focus on what’s going to happen next.
  • Don’t worry about dialogue, or sentence structure. You can have some plain-ass blah-blah-blah the whole way through.
    • You’ll come back later and add the dialogue and description and variable sentence patterns and details that add depth of character and plot.
      • In fact, I almost guarantee you that you’ll come back to the first draft with ideas upon ideas of how to improve it…after you finish the first draft.
  • First drafts are a starting point. It’s a story in its infancy. You raise it right, then send it out into the world when you’re both ready.

Alright. OK. Enough farting around; I’ve got a first draft to get through.

Good luck to all of us. Happy drafting, writers!


Christopher Tallon writes, podcasts, and…wait a second. Are you actually reading this? HIGH FIVE!

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