First Drafts

Every story begins with an idea. Then sometimes a brainstorm or outline, or not, depending on how and whether the author likes to plan their books.


And then the first draft comes along. Sometimes, that’s when the problems start.

For me, the first draft is a time to get the ideas onto the page, but it’s also a time when I constantly catch myself trying to write perfectly. Which isn’t even possible in the most carefully edited and revised draft, let alone the first one.

The thing is, the first draft isn’t meant to be perfect. It’s meant to be where the ideas go from the author’s head onto the paper or screen. The writing technique doesn’t matter nearly as much as just having the stuff visible. As a friend of mine used to tell me, you can’t edit what’s in your head. Get it out, and then worry about how good or bad it is. You can’t fix your brain, you can only fix what’s on the page.

I get hung up on that a lot. One thing reviewers often ding me for is the pacing of my books. It’s either uneven or too slow. So when I’m writing the first draft, I keep stressing about getting the pacing right, and then the pace of my actual *writing* slows way down, to the point where sometimes I get discouraged and stop working on the thing altogether.

That isn’t useful, and it isn’t going to get the book done. It’s a hard habit to break, though. I have to completely shift my thinking from “My publisher won’t accept this if I don’t do it right” to “I’ll have plenty of chances to do it right, so for now, let’s just get it done.”

Just getting it done is the reason first drafts exist. Everything can be fixed later, once the story is written.