Sunday, February 12, 2012

First drafts

I wanted to talk about first drafts today... because that's where I am... in my novel and in my life, I think. I wrote my second novel (gee that sounds weird) during NaNoWriMo last November. It's a great idea, for sure, and I think that at times I can be a great writer... but man this draft! I've been trying to get up the courage to edit/re-write the pile of jumbled up copy I produced in November... ever since I finished it, actually. I think I've finally gotten into a groove (this past Friday, actually) where I'm not afraid to look at it... but it's a MESS!

Anyone else feel this way?

So what I keep hearing from other writer friends is that first drafts are always a mess. That should make me feel better... really... it should.

Anyone else feel this way?

Author Annie Prouxl (Brokeback Mountain) says of drafts that "for a story like “Tits-Up in a Ditch” it was probably fifteen or sixteen drafts, with some paragraphs going through sixty drafts before they got right. Even then, when the story is apparently finished I see changes that must be made." Huh. Sixty drafts on some paragraphs. Boy wouldn't I like to see what the first draft looked like.

Anyone else?

I guess what it comes down to is that I am a closet perfectionist. So I'm utterly embarrassed every time I look at the mess that is my first draft, and HORRIFIED at the thought of showing it to someone else. I am worse than ashamed to think that my writing could start out looking as bad as I think that it does... and so then I lose the willpower to follow through and finish it.

Anybody... Bueller...?

I have been working on that feeling that everything I produce should be perfect right out of the box. Because.... damn it, it was a good idea! It still is a good idea! And yes, it needs work... and no, I'm not a prodigy... but that doesn't mean I can't get there given a little elbow grease. And it can be fun! And my self-worth is NOT based on first drafts. And Yours isn't either! Whew. There... I feel better now...

Anyone else?


  1. Oh man, I am SO there with you. I can't closet my perfectionism anymore, I just have to embrace it and learn to work around it.

    I've always felt I had to tinker before sharing, but I've recently accepted that this is not always necessary ( but I still prefer it). Don't give up on your MS before you share, though! There may some kernels of greatness in there (or wrongness, of course) that a crit partner or beta reader (*ahem,* hello, friend) might catch that you would completely overlook otherwise. This happened to me *twice* this week.

    Of course, I do completely understand not wanting to expose that rocky, true first draft. It does have to get to a *certain* place before sharing is even helpful (like, if you know it's wrong and a ton of things need to change, it's just... too much). For me, first drafts (all of the whopping 2 that I've written) have been more of a backbone for the story than the thing itself.

    But yeah, needing to be perfect "right out of the box" is something I am guilty of that just KILLS me. It's crippling! I have to work really hard to get over it.

    Is this comment long enough? Haha.
    Love you!

  2. My big thing is "what if somebody reads this draft and laughs at the mistakes?" I'm supposed to be a grammar whiz, and I've been studying fiction writing for over half my life. But you know, I'm going to make mistakes. and I'll attempt things that sounded GOOD at the time but are really just a hot mess. So when Ithink of my super-grammar-writing friends looking

  3. my other issue? trying to figure out *which* draft i'm on. i've been working on my manuscript for three years - and i'm considering the my current version draft 3... but it might be draft 2, or 50 ;)

    it's hard not to be a perfectionist when it's your own masterpiece. i say, write and revise in the best way that works for you!

  4. Hello, Fairbetty. I'm a fellow campaigner.

    From the first draft of my novel to publication it's hard to say because word processing makes it so easy to tinker and tweak, but I'd say at about 12 drafts.

    I'd also say that if you learn to do great pre-work (outlines, exercises, sequence and beat sheets) you'll cut down on those drafts.

    But, creation is always messy. :-)

  5. You are not alone. (!!!) I wrote a post on this topic once:

    Also, welcome to the campaign!

  6. I don't think I've written anything that I didn't tweak at least a little. First drafts are supposed to be rough - just write it all down any old way and edit later. If you try to write it perfectly right away, you'll just drive yourself crazy, and you probably will never finish it.

  7. First drafts are for fun. Polish is work.

  8. Yep. The same can be said about #1 best sellers, too. No draft is perfect the first time around. In all likeliness, it never will be, but that's okay. You do your best and you practice your craft. Each sentence gradually gets better than the last.

    I gave you a shout-out on my blog today! :)

  9. I hear you. Even after working my first draft over and over (maybe it can't be called a first draft yet?) I still think it's too much of a mess to show anyone.

    Welcome to the Platform Building Campaign!


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