Writing Life: First Drafts

I am no pro when it comes to writing. I have never published a book or worked in the industry to give any sort of founded advice. Having said that, I do consider myself a writer and with that come certain opinions and thoughts about the topic of writing in general. So, since I have been more interested in creating discussion posts for the blog lately, I’d like to introduce this new feature to talk about the writing life as well as updates on my very own work in progress – Arcadia!

Sharing your writing is always terrifying, no matter if you are a seasoned writer or a newbie. I’ve mentioned this a couple times, but the version of Arcadia that I am constantly uploading right now is only the first draft. Most writers wouldn’t do such a thing! They might show that draft to a trusted critique partner, but most likely they will polish it up beforehand. Quite a few people have called me brave for doing what I do, but I don’t think it’s any braver than sharing later versions. There’s a certain expectation that comes along with first drafts. The general advice is to just get the project done and fix whatever terrible mess you made later on in editing. But does that really work for everyone? Does it always have to be a bad first draft?

We are all different people, obviously, and therefore we also have different ways of writing. I know quite a few folks who have to plot everything meticulously before they can even start thinking about writing their chapters. I, on the other hand, need to just write whatever comes to mind with a rough idea of where I want the chapters to end. While so many people don’t share their unfinished/unpolished work, I need the affirmation and interest of my friends and sometimes random strangers on the internet to keep me motivated to write. There is no right or wrong way to go about it. It’s basically a general – you do you! Does that mean that I think my first draft is perfect? No! I am trying my best to make it a coherent story, but I still make mistakes. Some of them are small, others will cause a bit of problems later on, but that is what editing is for. It’s only normal to not get it perfectly right from the get go, however, I do have the hope that I won’t need a gazillion more drafts during the process of editing. I’d like to think that whatever I am putting out in the world now isn’t utter garbage!

Thinking back to my first finished story Break Up Buddy though, I know I did not care as much about how the first draft ended. And I needed that freedom for the story to be shitty! First of all, I wrote it during NaNoWriMo and I was determined to win. It was 2014 and my first time really participating. I got super competitive with myself in reaching the daily word count and that it was more important to me to get the story done rather than make it a good story in itself. That’s basically what that entire event is for and I loved it. I enjoyed participating so much, I met great people and I FINALLY got that story out of my head. It was an important step for me, but then I reread it all a couple months later and it was just terrible! (Utterly cringe-worthy for the most part to be exact) I never got through that process of editing it, simply because I had to change so much, I didn’t know how to handle it. That’s why I am now trying to get it “more right” on the first try than I did back then. I am taking time with the chapters and I know I will still need to work on it, but it won’t have to be an entirely different story to get done.

This is all just my personal experience. If you are someone who works better with not caring so much during the first draft – go you! We all work differently and shouldn’t be held to certain expectations or feel constrained by what others do or don’t do.

So, up to you! Are you more someone who just lets things happen and fixes them later, or do you prefer to do everything “right” from the beginning? Let’s talk!

23 thoughts on “Writing Life: First Drafts

  1. I’m a bit of both I think. I write the whole thing in my mind before I actually type it, but allow myself to be spontaneous and make changes as I actually write.

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  2. I never start writing until I have at least a complete rough draft of the story. Any problems I have writing are almost always the story structure, not the writing itself. If I start already knowing the story, all I have to do in the revision process is add things, instead of rewriting things.

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  3. This is such a good post, Kat! I’ll be eager to read more of your writing perspectives for sure 🙂 I think I’m just like you, I’m trying my best to make it right and have ideas of what I am doing and where I am going overall – even if sometimes I let my writing flow surprise me with new ideas and directions, I’m mostly a planner and need to, well, HAVE A PLAN of where I am going next. For now, it’s kind of easier with what I’m doing so far, since it’s not my first time thinking, writing or exploring this story. But, yes, I’m dreading the editing part and definitely want to do it mostly right at the beginning, even if I am not fooling myself too much with this. Hell, I realized one of my MAIN CHARACTER’s name changed from the beginning of my WIP to now…. #oops.

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    • Thank you! As with all my features, I never know how regularly I will actually post, but it’s something I am excited to talk about now.
      Editing is just the worst for me. I am okay with changing dialogue or filling out scenes, but cutting stuff and creating new elements that will ultimately require changes all through the novel are my nightmare.
      Hahaha name changes are a big thing!

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  4. I prefer to try to do everything right from the beginning too. One of my projects is rewriting an older WIP, and it’s such a mess that I decided to just completely start over and change lots of plot points, character backgrounds etc. and it’s really tiring haha, so since then I started planning more (but I don’t plan out everything and still like to just write without a plan now and then) and try to make sure things make sense and not just think ‘oh future Michelle will fix that’ because future Michelle will NOT be happy 😂

    I love this new feature Kat! Can’t wait to see all the new stuff you’ll come up with for this feature!

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    • Future Kat is also always royally pissed when present me decides to just leave stuff to be fixed later. It just doesn’t really work for me.

      I am not sure how regularly things will appear in this feature, but I liked the idea of it 🙂

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  5. Well, personally I don’t think even for the same writer the first draft always has to be bad. For me personally I’ve written things where I’m happy overall with the first draft- and even though it always needs an edit, it doesn’t always have to be agonising. On the other hand, my current WIP and other things I’ve written in the past have shown me that my first draft can be a total hot mess 😉 I don’t think there’s even a right or wrong way to do things for one writer- again I personally think that every book is different and needs to be handled differently. I think a lot of the time, it can come down to wanting a more “free” writing style and sometimes wanting something more “controlled”. Also writing is such an evolutionary process that it’s never gonna be the same twice- cos either you’ve learnt something from the last time and you implement that like a pro, or you try and experiment and end up feeling like a novice again (I hope that made sense lol!). And I really like your work- I can’t believe it’s a first draft- it doesn’t read like one!! Awesome post!

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  6. I hear you. I constantly read or hear things where people advise, ‘just get the first draft written, don’t correct anything, leave it, word count is what you want, just keep going until the end’. My brain blows a fuse. Maybe it’s because I do a lot of professional writing for my day job, official letters, reports, training tools etc. A lot of that has to be good the first time around, especially if I’m told, “I need a disciplinary letter, Stage 3 for so and so based on their last two incidents…oh and I need it in less than an hour, they’re coming in.”

    So I have developed over the years to edit as I go, swiftly. Writing fiction is a completely different experience, but I can’t help myself nipping back a couple of lines to restructure a sentence or change a word choice. I don’t think I’ll ever be any different. It doesn’t seem to hinder me so much. My main problem is having too many ideas and wanting to write ten things at once.

    Of course I do still write a first draft. I let a few people have a look at it and make suggestions. I’ll implement those in a second draft, then leave it for a couple of weeks before I go back for a final polish. I find the second and third parts of the process easier because I’ve taken the time to edit earlier. I think blurting anything onto the page is a bit of a false economy, you probably have to spend as much time editing later in the process anyway. So what difference does it make when that time is spent?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks so much for your thoughtful comment. While it’s true that fictional writing is different from other kinds, I completely understand your process considering your background. And I also agree with the fact that it shouldn’t matter so much when you spend that editing if you are going to do it anyway. Editing is my nightmare though, I am struggling with it no matter the situation/timing.


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