Tuesday, January 15, 2013

First Drafts

Hello everybody!

First off, I want to thank all of you who helped me with the cover!  I REALLY, REALLY appreciate your feedback.  You’re wonderful! Thank you so much!

I’m terrible at making decision, but – thanks to your assistance – I have selected the third version for the cover of Riddle in Stone. 


Second, I want to recap why I’m blogging. 

The main reason is because my publisher and agent told me to.  Robbie does what he’s told. 

Good Robbie!

But I’m also hoping that I can help any of you who want to become published.  I’m not an expert or anything by any means, but I’ve learned a few things over the past couple years and some of it may be of use to some of you.

So what I want to talk about today is “the first draft.”

You see, I think one of the biggest issues new writers (including myself) have is that we get discouraged easily.  We write something one day, read it the next, and think, “Holy crap! This sucks!”

And it does.  

That’s where most of us give up. We throw the paper in the recycling bend and vow never to write again!!!

Sound familiar my dear reader?

I think it was Hemingway who said, “First drafts are shit.”

No matter who you are or how long you’ve been writing, your first draft is going to stink compared to the final draft.  That’s just how it is!

Writing is rewriting. 

And rewriting….

And rewriting….

And rewriting!

I have to remind myself of this now because I’m beginning the third manuscript of my series and I keep getting very discouraged whenever I go back and read the pages I’ve written.

They’re horrible!  Absolutely HORRIBLE! I can picture my incredible wife reading them and saying, “Honey, I love you. But this is all crap. Please move out.”

But first drafts are supposed to be horrible. That’s their function.
The first draft is a skeleton. It’s where you put the bones of the story.  The second, third, fourth, and tenth drafts will be where you flesh out the story, adding details, correcting spelling errors, and so forth.

I’ve written about fifty pages of my third manuscript and there are incomplete sentences all over the place. There are scenes that are half finished.  I have characters who are named “X” and “Y.”  I introduced a character and I have no idea what his purpose is. I don’t know what he’ll do in the rest of the story. He just popped in!  If he doesn’t do anything worth doing, I’ll kick him out. Most of those fifty pages will be deleted by the end anyway!

And that’s okay….

First drafts are shit.

The joy of first drafts is that you get to see, in rough cut, where everything is going and who turns into something unexpected.  Maybe this strange character who popped onto my page will be brilliant and steal the spotlight.  Maybe he’ll deserve his own story. Who knows?  That’s the magic of writing!  

First drafts are the creation stage. Everything after that is the “fixing” stage.

Please don’t give up because the first draft is beyond bad.  Keep writing and fix it all later. Follow the stream and find out where it takes you!

Well, that’s my two cents worth for today.  Thanks for stopping by. And thanks again to all of you who have helped and befriended me over the past month or so.  You’ve made my writing, and life, much better. Thank you all very much!

See you in a few days.


  1. And also some people get stuck in perfection limbo, where they obsess over perfecting their earlier chapters instead of just moving on, never finishing the first draft. Most first chapters will usually be dropped or rewritten by the time the writer reaches the end of the book anyway, so there is no reason for perfection. Just get the story down, perfect it later.

    1. That's a really important point. They want everything to be perfect or they want to know exactly how the story is going to unfold, so they spend all their time working on outlines or they are paralyzed by all the different twists their manuscript COULD take.

      Good points, K.E.!

  2. Thanks for the encouragement. I thought it was just MY first drafts that sucked. I suppose in reality, we rarely get to see anyone else's first draft aside from our own and that's probably a good thing!

    1. You know, I keep hearing that! Very funny.

      No, all first drafts suck. They have to. Imagine putting all this effort and time into the PERFECT first chapter. Then when you finish the second chapter, you realize that something different needs to happen in the first, and so on.

      Crappy first drafts are a way to sketch out the story without burning a whole bunch of time re-writing the "perfect" prose you already put down.

  3. This is a great post! This was a huge thing that I had to realize in order to stop bashing my own work. Somehow, growing up writing, I always thought that successful authors just wrote their books out perfectly the first time. Looking back, that was a silly thought, but at the time I really thought it was true. And thanks to that misconception, I thought I sucked, and it's a big reason why I always gave up on everything before I even got halfway through. I'm getting close to finishing my first complete first draft ever now, but I have to admit, I'm -extremely- apprehensive of the idea of actually having to go through it, edit, and rewrite. I've been keeping my spirits up with the idea that it's the first draft, so it's -supposed- to suck. But here's a frightening thought - what if I take the time to rewrite it and rewrite it again and it -still- sucks? :D I'm just telling myself that that won't happen...

    1. I'm glad you liked it, Wish! Hopefully it helped.

      You asked a really good question...what if it still sucks after you rewrite it and rewrite it. I think that's where studying the craft comes in. The very fact that you know it suck is a good sign. That mean you can see crappy writing.

      Too many people write something and think it's BRILLIANT when it's not.

      Good writing begins with the realization that we all write crap at times.

      But you also are bringing up the issue of confidence in what you do. And unfortunately, I can't speak to that. I have very little. To tell you the truth, I'm terrified that my book will stink and nobody will like it. I don't know...I suppose we just keep trying, right?

  4. Great post! Thanks for the giggles today. I AM feeling like shit - not just my rough draft of book #2 of my WiP. Needed to laugh.

    Anyhoo. After reading this, I'm guessing you're a total pantster. I'm a planner to a fault - it honestly keeps my first drafts somewhat decent & in order. I'm finding, though, that writing a sequel is TOUGHer to say the least.

    Looking forward to checking out your pile of shit - er book. ;)

    1. Thanks Terri! That's a wonderful compliment. Your blog is really, really good.

      And yes, I'm a pantster. I have no clue what I'm writing. It all just develops on the screen in front of me.

      You know, for me, writing the sequel wasn't too hard. But I would think that writing a PREQUEL would be. With a sequel you can end up wherever you like. But with a prequel you have to make sure it jives with the other books!

      Thanks for stopping by Terri! I'll let you know when the book is available :)

      Thanks for the support!