3 Things to Know about Writing a First Draft

“Almost all good writing begins with terrible first efforts. You need to start somewhere,” Anne Lamott. (Photo of red pencil)

To be a successful writer, you have to be a successful rewriter. Because, really? Most rough drafts are really rough. At least that is how I write.

Some writers I know polish their first sentence. Then they rough and polish their second sentence. Eventually they have a first paragraph that is shiny and amazing. Me? My first paragraph is generally pretty solid and my first chapter tends to be strong as well.

But the deeper into the project I get, the messier things become and that’s okay. Because it is important to . . .

Keep Moving Foward and Adding New Words

So many people in this business are going to tell you that you can’t sell your work if it isn’t perfect. It has to be flawless and amazing.

This thought causes a lot of writers to freeze up. They just can’t get that first paragraph down. I’d like to encourage you to change your perspective. Your manuscript needs to be as strong as you can make it but that isn’t going to happen on the first try. There will be problems with your first draft. So just get it down. Keep moving forward and adding new words. Just do it.

It Isn’t Going to Be Perfect

Your first draft is most likely going to be far from perfect. I say “most likely” because every once in a while you are going to create a poem or a picture book, an essay or an article, and the first draft will be amazing. It happens.

But 99% of the time it is going to be a hot mess. And that’s okay. Because once you get it down, you can start to fix it. But that can only happen when you’ve fiinished a draft.

Part of the problem is that when you are roughing Chapter 6, you are going to realize that something should have been included in Chapter 5. That is why it is important to . . .

Keep Track of Future Changes

How I do this differs from day to day. Sometimes I write notes to mseyf. FIX THAT TYPO. SHOULD READ MYSELF. Clearly, I wouldn’t actually do this when I make a typo. I would fix it. But the notes that I do write to myself vary a great deal. PLANT A CLUE ABOUT THIS EARLIER ON. WHAT TERM DID YOU USE IN CHAPTER 1? BRILLIANT TRANSITION GOES HERE.

Every once in a while, a scene pops into my head. It is something that should have gone before my current chapter. In such cases, I don’t write myself a note. I simply write the scene and put it wherever I think it should go.

That may change but a lot is going to change between the first draft and the end. The key is to get it all down so that I can start reworking it.