First Drafts: It’s OK if They Suck

So I've passed the 10% mark on my novel first draft. I know the writing is far from my best. And the further I go along, the more comfortable I am with that.

For example, right now I have a lot of "he said" / "she said" stuff going on with my quotes. I know the bulk of them will be removed in the editing process. But it's also what flows from the fingertips as I'm typing, so I decide to let them stand. I'd rather spend more time on editing later than disrupt the free-flowing thought process of the first draft.

When I'm writing articles, press releases, or other pieces for clients, I can't write that way (I often edit as I go), so this is all rather new to me. It's a rather enjoyable way to write though.

I guess my philsophy is this: The first draft isn't about creating a masterpiece. It's just about getting the overall story down (almost like putting together an impromptu bedtime story for a little kid). Prettying it up, making sure all of the details are right, things are consistent, etc - that's all a part of the editing process.

I have to wonder how most others write. I used to think people were crazy when they said not to edit as you go. But the more I write this way, the more I see their point. I mean, I've always done some editing after a first draft. Now I just allow the first draft to be much "rougher" without allowing that to make me look down on the project. I like it.

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Jennifer Mattern is a professional blogger, freelance business writer, consultant, and indie author. She runs numerous websites & blogs including All Freelance Writing, Freelance Writing Pros, NakedPR, and Kiss My Biz.

Jenn has 25 years' experience as a professional writer and editor and over 20 years' experience in marketing and PR (working heavily in digital PR, online marketing, social media, SEO, new media, and thought leadership publication). She also has 19 years' professional blogging and web publishing experience (including web development) and around 18 years of experience as an indie author / publisher.

Jenn also writes fiction under multiple pen names and is an Active member of the Horror Writers Association.

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2 thoughts on “First Drafts: It’s OK if They Suck”

  1. Thanks for your input Lillie. 🙂 I guess in a way I’m trying to look at it as climbing a series of steps.

    First I planned the concept. Then I went a bit further and outlined my characters, settings, and such. Then they were assembled into a novel outline describing what happens in every scene. Now I’ve gotten a bit “higher” to where I’m expanding each of those outline pages, and next I’ll go through the first round of edits. Beyond that is a bit too far to look just yet – trying keep my eyes on the foreseeable future for now. I’m sure I’ll have several edits after that first one to think about… like one of those optical illusion staircases that seems to never end or flip upside down. 🙂

  2. Jennifer,
    I took an online fiction writing class years ago. The most important thing I learned was that first drafts are supposed to be “pure green dreck.” As you say, get the bones of the story down, then go back and edit.


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