Loving Your First Draft

7:00 AM


First drafts are the worst.

They're also the best. (this post is going to be incoherent because it's late and I shouldn't be writing when I'm half-asleep, but hey. I do what I want.) 


I love first drafts. They suck, but I love them. It's my favorite part of the writing process: not planning, not having to plan, writing wildly, not having to worry about something being good or not, learning all about these characters for the first time, being surprised as plot twists and storylines appear out of nowhere and ruin everything, all of it. I'm a pantser to the extreme so everything comes as a surprise. It's a glorious mess.


Sometimes, though, I look at that first draft and I want to throw it out a window, burn it, scatter the ashes to the four winds, and never speak of the thing again. I told you I was too tired to write coherently, didn't I? As fun as they are, first drafts are just going to suck. They are. They're full of plot holes and underdeveloped characters and every other horrific thing you could imagine and they're kind of painful to write. You'll read those lines you were proud of about a month later and want to scream. I've written seven of these first draft things. Some are better and more coherent than others, but that's just how it goes. 

The tricky part of the whole thing is learning how to love that first draft as it is, so you don't give up on it. 

NaNoWriMo is coming next week. NEXT. WEEK. I'm still screaming over that because it always creeps up on me. One of my favorite things about NaNo is that it pretty much forces you to write a sucky first draft. You're writing quickly; you don't have time to worry about that editing business or you're finished. 

NaNo in a gif. 
So pretty much what I'm getting to is that you have to love your first draft. 

Don't give up on it. So many people give up on those adorable little plot bunnies because it gets to a point where it's not new and exciting and fun anymore. I get it, really I do. I've done that before. I regret it now, but I have. It's easy to move on to the next thing. Sticking with a draft until it's done is the worst. But you've gotta do it, and learning to love that stupid little trainwreck of a half-finished document is the most helpful thing you could do. 

Just think about it. This thing you're writing is kinda beautiful, even with all the plot holes and plot chasms and underdeveloped characters. As messes go, it's a pretty gorgeous one. You're writing a novel out of your own imagination. These people came from you. You're discovering brand-new 'people'. You're creating a story. It's not perfect but heck, it could be if you stick with it. You might not have a plot, but that'll come. In the words of the wise Shannon Hale, you're dumping sand into the sandbox so you can make sandcastles later. You're laying out the beginnings of something that's going to be great one day. 

You can't have a good story until you've had a sucky beginning to figure things out. 

How do you feel about first drafts? 

27 comments

  1. I think I love my first drafts quite often. All the beauty shines out through the raw corners. It's when I look back after revisions that I cry and weep because I can't see that light anymore, and especially when looking back at novels I've decided to set aside. But yes, loving your work is the first step to success! (Well, the second. The first is to do the work.)

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    1. *whisper-shouts* Thought I might let you know I emailed you about Matryoshka alpha-reading? Hope to hear from you soon! :D :D

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    2. Hahaha, yeah...first drafts are my favorites while I'm writing them, but revision is a whole different story. *sigh*

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  2. Wow, I really needed this. First drafts are so incredibly hard for me, because I look at them and only see the awfulness and how hard it will be to fix it and how the characters are all flat as cardboard and the idea really can't be as good as I once thought it was...and even though I know it's not true, it's incredibly hard to continue. Thanks--this was really encouraging.

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    1. I'm glad it was helpful! I think it's a struggle for all of us. :P

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  3. I feel much the same about first drafts. ;) I'll be slightly cheating at NaNo this year. Writing 50K words on my current 10month old WIP A Rose Long Awaited so by the end of November it'll be just about done.

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  4. I'm working my way through a first draft right now, and it's going painfully slow, and it's an absolute mess.
    It is beautiful though, and sometimes fun I'm a panster too. Where the story goes always surprises me.

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    1. Ahhh you've got this! First drafts are messy and difficult, but of course necessary in the end.

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  5. I have a love/hate relationship with first drafts. Because as a pantser, I never really know what's going to happen, and it's so much fun just writing it for the first time and letting the characters start forming themselves and all of the unexpected plot twists. However, they are also an absolute nightmare when they're finished and I normally want to burn them and never think about it ever again.

    Yay first drafts.

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  6. I really love this perspective<3

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  7. I can't answer the last question, as I've never actually...finished...any draft.
    Yep, I'm a terrible person, indeed flittering from WIP to WIP, disregarding the fact that, hey, I could finish this thing. Except I pants so do I even know when the end is in sight?
    That's why I'm doing NaNo: if I act accordingly, it's going to force me to love something, because I cannot abandon it during next month xD
    I love love love your blog posts, Aimee. There's so valid and truthful and EXACTLY how I think lol (you're not inside my head are you >.>) Just kidding, and happy NaNoing!

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    1. Awww, thank you! It's hard to stay with one thing, and I've totally floated around before. Good luck with NaNo!

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  8. Ah, yes-- the first draft.
    I really, really love writing first drafts, in spite of all the writer's block and confusion and simultaneously feeling like YOU'LL NEVER FINISH and like it's way too short. But I really hate how sucky they end up being and how much editing they require.
    Or maybe I just hate the editing... *glances shiftily at WIP*
    Anyway, you're advice is, as always, the best, and I am saving this post so I can read it again and again throughout NaNo and after NaNo and basically keep myself sane (hopefully). *nods*

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    1. SAME. It's my favorite part of writing (because I loathe editing). xD

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  9. My plot bunnies are more often than not the thing I fall in love with. I create the characters, then see what messes I can throw them into.

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    1. Haha, same. That's one of the best things about writing!

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  10. Writing first drafts is probably the hardest part of the writing process, at least for me. You're making something out of what's in your brain and transferring it to the physical world. I like to think of it like mining clay from you imagination to later make into a beautiful sculpture.

    storitorigrace.blogspot.com

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    1. It's the easiest thing for me, I think...that's kind of how I am in everyday life, too. Pantsing everything and hoping it works out.

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  11. My first drafts are horrible, spiralling, chicken scratches, sticky, gooey, black holes of suckyness. But writing it is so much fun! It's like going on this really long, sometimes really painful road trip knowing that at the end your vehicle is going to be a wreck at the end, but hey, it sure is fun now! Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

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  12. Forget first drafts; so far I haven't even felt that satisfied with a draft 'til I got to a fifth round. But I think your point is still the same: it's not really about what you have and what you're making now, it's about how it's better than you had before (in the case of first drafts that's nothing to having something, with other drafts it's just getting better each time) and letting perfection take its own sweet time. Not that we'll ever be perfect. You know what I mean.

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    1. Right! I'm never happy with the drafts I write, but I guess I'm figuring out how to love them for what they are anyway? And I do have endless amounts of fun with my first drafts.

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  14. I stumbled across this at the perfect time. Giving up on my NaNoWriMo story seemed really easy but this gave me the encouragement I needed and made me smile.Thank you!

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hey. hey. talk to me. i'm a fan of comments and flailing with you. go for it.