Monday, June 5, 2017

Why Are First Drafts So Bad?


Why Are First Drafts So Bad? Writer's

Your first draft probably isn’t that great. There we said it. You probably knew it anyway, but perhaps it’s time to figure out why.
Writing an initial draft of any novel is usually a slow, painful and agonising process. It takes time, gives you sleepless nights, makes you feel emotional, tired, and foolish, and by the end it’s no surprise that most writers feel emotionally drained and wonder whether they should just give up altogether.
What we must remember is that first drafts are supposed to be bad, and it doesn’t matter that they are.

First drafts are bad because we haven’t censored ourselves.
We are always told to initially just ‘get the story out’, and this means trying as hard as we can not censor ourselves, and to let the writing flow. We write quickly and carelessly in order to get the story there on paper - of course, it’s not going to be great when we decide to look back over it.

First drafts are bad because we have censored ourselves too much.
Of course, on the flip side, we have days where we can’t help but agonise over every single word. This doesn’t help our writing either, and it becomes forced and disjointed. When we get to these parts we often wonder why we bothered wasting so much time trying to be perfect

First drafts are bad because they are overwritten.
It’s so hard to complete the first draft without having overwritten in some (or many) parts. We are trying so hard to get our point across that we use far too many words and tell our readers what’s going on rather than showing them.

The first draft is bad because it is full of spelling and grammatical mistakes.
There is no way that our first draft is going to be flawless. Poor grammar and punctuation, as well as prose littered with spelling mistakes makes our first draft look very unprofessional indeed!

First drafts are bad because there are parts where the story becomes boring.
When you read back over your first draft, do you find yourself skimming over certain parts, or lifting your hand to conceal and yawn? There are going to be parts where you weren’t really concentrating, where you go off on a tangent or the pace just slows right down. These are the parts you need to pay attention to when re-drafting your book.

First drafts are bad because our characters fall short.
In our first drafts, our characters aren’t nearly as good as they are going to be. Just think of them as not being quite fully formed yet, and you’ll be able to put them right at a later date.

Just remember:
First drafts are practice rounds - you might have to go right back to basics but that’s OK - you can have as many goes as you like!
First drafts are where you learn your lessons - you’ll learn so much from writing your first draft, and each chapter that you write and edit will make you a better writer too.
First drafts are simply the beginning
Remember, you have all the time in the world to finish your novel so don’t despair even if your first draft seems terrible - just take your time, and remember, doing it properly is so much better than rushing it, and in the end, you’ll have a manuscript you can be proud of.
Yes, we all know our first draft is just the beginning. Since I was still using my old computer when drafting of my memoir began, I started with long-hand notes. This made it easy if my ideas came to me at night when I was unable to sleep or while watching TV or something.  But as you may know, stuff that is written by hand on two sides of notebook paper is often equal to full typed page (depending which computer and word processing system each of us has). 
Yesterday on my blog, I stated that my original draft when typed was only 87 pages and has since increased to 197 (excluding the title page and table of contents in both cases). Having got a new computer and new word processing system has seemed to account for the increase in pages.  I thought I'd lost my story for good, or was going to have to retype it all over again, until I remembered the email attachment I had made so that I could send the initial draft to others to read. It was still in my email folder, so I copied and pasted it onto my new computer word processing system.  

When I had originally typed the document from my handwritten notes, I deleted some things I felt were repetitive, which may have accounted for the initial low page count that someone I know said was too short for a book, maybe an article for magazine (Not sure if any would publish a first-time writer). Instead of being overwritten, mine seemed to be underwritten!  But I knew it could increase the length somehow and have succeed in doing so. 

I did find a lot of typing errors and omitted words when I first typed the story, but I was expecting that to be true. 

I honestly wouldn't say my very first draft was "bad," nor would I say that about anyone else's (should I ever read one).  Rather I think a better way to say it would be to tell that person "It's good for your first draft." After all, you have to keep writing and take time doing so until you get something you think works best.  


  1. First drafts can leave you ready to tear out your hair.
    I try to think of it in terms of being a rough outline.

  2. First drafts are a wonderful starting point.

  3. Isn't that the truth about the boring section.
    The good thing though is we tend to work harder on those particular segments. And hopefully end up with something even better than our 'grabber' sections.

  4. PS Did I ever mention, I love the background on your blog.

  5. First drafts are full of hidden gems though, waiting to be polished and made beautiful. :)

  6. I love first drafts. They're full of potential.

    Mine are usually underwritten too. And repetitive. That's what makes the rest of the drafts fun, sorting out story, mining the gems, and sculpting something great out of the chaos.