Writing too many first drafts

If, like me, you have a short attention span, you might like first drafts. I usually write mine quickly, and by that I mean in a month or so. The WIP I’m working on at the moment is shaping out to be longer than the rest (probably will end up being 80 or 90k) so it’s taking me a bit longer.

I love writing first drafts!

I love meeting new characters, exploring new worlds, seeing my shiny ideas on paper. Scrolling through all my brilliant words. Well, okay, not brilliant. It’s a first draft, after all. So first drafts are a lot of fun.

But there is such thing as writing too many of them. 

Let me explain myself properly. I don’t mean that writing a lot is a bad thing. But writing a lot without going back to those first drafts is certainly not going to be useful. When I was a tiny wee thing, I used to begin stories and abandon them halfway through. Leaving a first draft is kind of like abandoning ship, really – just a more grown-up version.

Let’s face it, the prospect of writing an entire manuscript is daunting. It makes me want to do a bit of this:

I’ve written five first drafts that I consider good enough to keep working on (there were some before that, but let’s not mention those). Of them, I’ve re-written two of them completely. And it was hard. It was very, very hard to go back to that story and write the whole thing again.

But it’s worth it. It’s worth it to have a second draft that is SO much better than the first, that you can read without wanting to gouge out your eyeballs. I mean, some parts you may still want to do that with, but that’s what editing is for.

First drafts are all well and good, and they’re fun to write – for me at least. But don’t neglect them, people! Don’t shove them in a drawer and immediately start the next Shiny New Idea. I have a sort-of process where I write a draft, then rewrite/edit. Find a system that works for you, that’s basically what I’m saying.

Because a first draft may be super-useful in terms of figuring out your story/characters/themes/whatever, but ultimately, it’s going to need a LOT of work. This, I think, is one of the problems with NaNoWriMo, at least for some people – they churn out all these drafts and then do nothing with them. I mean, if you’re only writing for fun, there’s no problem with that.

But for anything else, focusing only on first drafts is a sure way to never get anywhere.

Yes, it may be painful to go back to a story and rewrite it. But if you still believe in it, it will be worth all that time, all those words. If you’ve got a story you want to tell, it’s all worth it. 


book balancing

Emily is currently working on her Alice in Wonderland retelling, Wanderland. It’s going to be quite long. She feels like crying when she thinks about having to rewrite it. Also she is resisting the temptation to write ALL the first drafts, because those abandoned ones need some love.


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