The Critical First Draft

The Critical (yet it doesn’t mean squat) First Draft
a.k.a. Simple advice for those who wish to write.


How can something be important yet not mean much? If you have ever written a book, you totally understand the title of this piece.

When I started writing Something To Dream On, I knew where I wanted it to end up, but how to get there was elusive. No matter what I wrote, it sounded wrong, lame, and just plain horrible.

First drafts are the hardest, most intimidating part of writing. I know I have said this before but, frankly, anyone who thinks books are cranked out beautifully on the first try has watched too many episodes of Castle. Writers struggle. Let me tell ya, getting that first draft out is a killer! Sometimes you struggle from the beginning. Other times the story flows and all is great until you smack into a brick wall coated in Crazy Glue and get stuck. Seriously, I’ve had thirty-three thousand words fly out in a few days before I shut down and could not pound out another word for weeks.

Why does this happen? It is because we all hit a point where what we are writing “sounds stupid” to us. Sometimes that feeling hits a few chapters in. Other times it hits during the opening sentence. Just know that it is going to hit and you have to ignore the inner voice that tells you that what you are writing is rubbish. The writing isn’t bad; it is unpolished. Writing is like taking a big lot of rock hard dirt and deciding to plant a garden. First you have to shovel in a whole bunch of nutrients and manure, and then you start planting and watering. Growing concepts from the seeds in your mind and helping them to flourish takes nurturing.

Think of the first draft as bringing in the dirt. Then plant all the seeds that will add mystery and intrigue. Let everything sprout and grow (the second draft), and then come in with some clippers and start shaping the bushes and pulling the weeds (the third draft.) Just like any beautiful garden, writing takes time. It’s hard not to give up when your words do not meet your expectations, but remember that much like manure, first drafts stink. Focus on getting the words down, develop the basic story, and then add all the things that will make it beautiful.


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