Lousy First Draft: You’re Missing the Point

Everyone loves to talk about the lousy first draft.

Nearly everyone gets it wrong.

Yes, ignore spelling, punctuation, grammar in your first draft.

But also ignore everything you know about writing except this: tell your story.

The primary purpose of writing without stopping, spewing an unrefined first draft, is to not give yourself time to edit, even to think.

Only time to feel.

Getting the story down in one shot means leaving the emotions in that we normally selfconsciously or unconsciously edit out if we write slow enough to do so.

As soon as you know your story, any part of it, write it down, quick as you can.

When you know more, write more.

When something changes, change it.

Time enough later to clear up inconsistencies, organize the timeline, refine character and dialogue, polish scenes.

Your first draft may be your only chance to get enough real emotion into your story. And without real emotion, nothing you engineer will be as good.

(Also, the faster you write, the less aware you are of Resistance. A story already told is slightly less subject to its assault.)

11 thoughts on “Lousy First Draft: You’re Missing the Point

  1. You nailed it. First draft is all about emotion. It’s that special kind of magic that we wish we could put in a bottle. The first draft is special. No other draft is like it.

    Embrace all the mistakes and while you’re at it, embrace the emotions.

    Excellent! Thanks!!!

  2. Is this how you wrote your first book? I admit, this is a lesson I knew instinctively decades ago, and promptly forgot the moment I started writing fiction.

  3. It’s the only way I know how. I threw everything, including the kitchen sink, into that first draft. Afterwards we went to work by shaping it and crafting it into a better story. But the emotion stayed. No matter how much editing we did we never touched the emotional part of the story.

  4. I hired an editor. She’s a dear friend and I was one of her first clients. She has an amazing eye for detail. I would suggest hiring an editor. A good one can take your story to the next level. The hard part is listening to them. 🙂

  5. I write memior, both short & long form. I also write short stories for shitz n giggles. The emotion is always broad and the writing is cathartic.

  6. I’ve only recently discovered the work of researcher James Pennebaker about the specifics regarding writing’s therapeutic value. It ain’t anecdotal, that’s for sure.

  7. I have too strong a perfectionist streak I guess, to be able to just write and keep on going without looking back at every red squiggle the pc makes when there’s any error. And stop to correct! I’m sensing, too, a subtle underlying message generally questioning what, and why about what I’m writing about something I believe I remember. I have more difficulty getting emotion into my writing that any concern over too much. I discovered this when I’ve read my earlier writing that reads like a report. I’m still trying to break away from that.

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