Writing Advice: The Messy First Draft

It has recently come to my attention that a lot of people who’re enthused to write become quickly disillusioned with the craft because of how unlike their ideas that first draft ends up looking. To you I say: Do not despair.

The way I – and many actual writers – use the first draft of a short story or novel is for the sole purpose of sketching the skeleton of whatever you’re setting out to write. Whether you take your time drawing in some of the details, filling out a number of the blanks – that’s your decision. It comes off as secondary, in any case. The basic tenant of your first draft is to get the idea out there before it fades away into some obscure corner of your mind or disappears entirely.

We’ve all had those – brilliant ideas that didn’t survive the test of time because of our unwillingness to write them down.

The key to doing the first draft write is this: just write. Don’t second-guess yourself, don’t go back and edit, and don’t second guess your choices. Just put the ideas on paper.

There’ll be plenty of time for all that later.

And if the idea of a crappy first draft still horrifies you, do me a favour. Write the first draft of a short story in one go. Then, take your time to edit it – but don’t forget to save that rough version of your story. Take a week for the second edit, a week for the third one, maybe a week between the two. Once you’re done, go back and reread that messy first draft.

The improvement over it will make you feel so much better!

Writing isn’t glamorous – and the first draft is particularly dirty, filled with spelling errors and inconsistencies and a plethora of other mistakes. It’s your job as a writer to turn the sliver of potential underneath into something worth reading!

What’re you waiting for?

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