WRITING: Your sucky first draft

SUCKSYou will write a sucky first draft.

Just accept it. You may think that you are the exception to the rule and that your first draft will be perfect. We’ve all stubbornly thought that at one time or another. But it’s not true. If you keep editing your first chapter before finishing the rest of the manuscript, that counts as redrafting. You can’t get out of this situation with cunning loopholes.


You, sir, are a specimen of true beauty.

We all want to just breeze through the writing process and condense it to a movie montage of us typing away, hard at work, probably with a cute pair of glasses that we don’t need or own in real life, and maybe using a typewriter because we’re just fancy that way.

To be honest, if there were a way I could harness that montage power for my manuscripts, I absolutely would. But writing is a gruelling process that you have to trudge your way through.

There’s a wonderful quote by author Shannon Hale, which reads: ‘I’m writing a first draft and reminding myself that I’m simply shovelling sand into a box so that later I can build castles.’

I cannot sum it up any more perfectly than that. Four for you, Shannon Hale.

liquid paper

Let’s pretend that never happened.

Your first draft will have inconsistencies and confusing parts. Maybe a character’s name changed partway through and all your careful use of the find and replace function missed out a couple of instances. Maybe you had a really cool idea and had a character remember it later in the manuscript but you forgot to go back and insert the actual event at the beginning. Maybe you accidentally misspelled a character’s name or any number of little things that will make your first draft less than perfect.

That is totally okay. That is what the second draft is for. And the third. And however many other drafts you need. Pulling a story from your imagination and setting it to paper is a kind of magic. And if you’ve ever read Harry Potter or pretty much any other fantasy book, you know that magic takes practise.

So don’t be disheartened by the fact that your first draft is sucky. That means you have the chance to make it better.


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