You Need to Write a Shitty First Draft

Every Writer Needs a Shitty First Draft

And here’s why.

I remember being told in school to write a draft of an essay, story, report, whatever and I remember I hated doing it. It was the extra time that it added to an assignment that I didn’t want to do. My writing always seemed to be full of gold right off the bat…although my teachers knew otherwise.

A shitty first draft is something that is rough and it needs to be a part of every writer repetoire, no matter if you’re a poet, journalist, song writer, whatever.

Some people don’t get that concept. I know so many writers are dead set on getting everything perfect the first time and sometimes that’s okay, but most time it’s not.

It actually hinders you from finishing something. I learned it the hard way. Putting too much emphasis on getting it perfect the first time puts in those blocks to stop you from actually writing and stopping you from getting anywhere with what you need to.

Anne Lamott is a wise woman. She wrote all about shitty first drafts and how writers, even the very successful ones, write shitty first drafts, they are essential to getting good second drafts and amazing¬†third drafts. There isn’t a magic formula, some writers have the ability to throw things onto a blank document and get it right the first time. Sometimes this may even mean that you need to open a black document and just write, use your stream of consciousness and let it go wild. The best nuggets come from the jumble of mess.

I wish I could say that I was one of those lucky writers who have gold spilling from their fingers at a moments notice, but I’m not. With most of my drafts I go through writing time and time again, I strip my writing back until I think I can’t strip it anymore and then I keep editing.

I get sick of looking at my own writing and how much it hurts to do so.

I’m neurotic and make up excuses to myself about why I can’t keep going (like waiting for feedback to get back to me).

The only exception to my perfectionism are my role playing posts and blog posts. I write as I go and I generally know that they’re okay. I will look over them once or twice, make sure they’re pretty readable and go from there.

Right now I’m in Okay Second Draft Mode for my novel, I have looked at it to death and I need to let if breath a little more. And that’s hard for me to say out loud, because I love my novel. I have spent so much time on it but it needs to have some time to breath. And it needs time for me to get over hating certain parts, it’s a first novel, it’s setting up the world and so much more, but I know that it’s hard for me to read. It may not be for others, but for me it is. I need to find a way to get past that.

Being perfect is a writer’s biggest downfall, we will never get a piece perfect, there will always be some way that we can better our writing. A lot of writer’s I follow don’t go back and read their own books, especially if there is a long list of them, because they want to keep adding and changing it. Recently I spoke to a writer that I know and she brought up something really poignant to me. She has a trilogy that’s been published, I’m trying to get my hands on one book to complete my collection (I’m neurotic about covers, which is another story on it’s own), but she decided that she was going to back and read her novels and has since decided to split the stories up.

There is so much, in her eyes, that she feels needs more work and expanding on, and I’m sure that in the eyes of readers doesn’t but as writers we seem to almost be hardwired to have perfect pieces but we can’t get any semblance of perfect without a shitty first draft.

Here are my tips for getting through that first shitty draft:

Sit down and do the work

We often forget that we need to sit down and stumble through those words. Write the crap that spews from our fingers that sounds unintelligent and clumsy. It’s only when we do that we find that we can have the gold waiting for us.

Let it stew

With any good shitty first draft we need to let it stew, let it bubble. Sometimes this means walking away from it for an hour or for a day, even a month, whatever you need depends on just how long the piece is and how long you feel is necessary. Giving it some distance will allow you to really cull it back and find the beauty in the piece.

Don’t expect perfection first go

Just because you think you’re amazing at getting it right, don’t think that this is something that you will get right the first time. Let that process come.

Let it flow

Don’t second guess yourself, let the beauty of it all unfurl and make it happen for you. Just let it all flow beautifully and happen naturally. You’ll thank yourself later for it too. Trust me.

Over to you, do you beat yourself up about drafts and shitty writing? Secondly what is one thing that you would change if you could about your process.


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