Why Are First Drafts So Bad?

By on June 4, 2017
Why Are First Drafts So Bad? Writer's Life.org

Your first draft probably isn’t that great. There we said it. You probably knew it anyway, but perhaps it’s time to figure out why.

Writing an initial draft of any novel is usually a slow, painful and agonising process. It takes time, gives you sleepless nights, makes you feel emotional, tired, and foolish, and by the end it’s no surprise that most writers feel emotionally drained and wonder whether they should just give up altogether.

What we must remember is that first drafts are supposed to be bad, and it doesn’t matter that they are.

First drafts are bad because we haven’t censored ourselves.

We are always told to initially just ‘get the story out’, and this means trying as hard as we can not censor ourselves, and to let the writing flow. We write quickly and carelessly in order to get the story there on paper - of course, it’s not going to be great when we decide to look back over it.

First drafts are bad because we have censored ourselves too much.

Of course, on the flip side, we have days where we can’t help but agonise over every single word. This doesn’t help our writing either, and it becomes forced and disjointed. When we get to these parts we often wonder why we bothered wasting so much time trying to be perfect

First drafts are bad because they are overwritten.

It’s so hard to complete the first draft without having overwritten in some (or many) parts. We are trying so hard to get our point across that we use far too many words and tell our readers what’s going on rather than showing them.

The first draft is bad because it is full of spelling and grammatical mistakes.

There is no way that our first draft is going to be flawless. Poor grammar and punctuation, as well as prose littered with spelling mistakes makes our first draft look very unprofessional indeed!

First drafts are bad because there are parts where the story becomes boring.

When you read back over your first draft, do you find yourself skimming over certain parts, or lifting your hand to conceal and yawn? There are going to be parts where you weren’t really concentrating, where you go off on a tangent or the pace just slows right down. These are the parts you need to pay attention to when re-drafting your book.

First drafts are bad because our characters fall short.

In our first drafts, our characters aren’t nearly as good as they are going to be. Just think of them as not being quite fully formed yet, and you’ll be able to put them right at a later date.

Just remember:

First drafts are practice rounds - you might have to go right back to basics but that’s OK - you can have as many goes as you like!

First drafts are where you learn your lessons - you’ll learn so much from writing your first draft, and each chapter that you write and edit will make you a better writer too.

First drafts are simply the beginning

Remember, you have all the time in the world to finish your novel so don’t despair even if your first draft seems terrible - just take your time, and remember, doing it properly is so much better than rushing it, and in the end, you’ll have a manuscript you can be proud of.

Bethany Cadman -author of 'Doctor Vanilla's Sunflowers'

Bethany Cadman -author of 'Doctor Vanilla's Sunflowers'

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