Writing Tip: What Your First Draft Should Look Like


I’m currently in the process of first-drafting a new manuscript, something I haven’t done in over a year. And I’m quickly remembering all the fun that can be had with first drafts–and also, all the challenges

I have always been a slow drafter, mostly because it’s very, very hard for me to continue writing something I don’t believe to be really good. My inner editor wants to go back over every word I’ve written and ensure it’s the best it can be before moving on.

But this is bad. This is why my first manuscript took SO LONG to complete. And why it was so hard for me to edit properly–because I’d been over every passage so many times I practically had them all memorized. So this time around I’m doing it differently, and I want to share my new strategy.

Which is:

Write it all.

I was recently writing a scene where a character is walking through a garden for a secret meeting with a pretty important secondary character. I was describing the garden and the weather and the smells pretty in depth. Then I stopped and worried that I was putting in too much description–the point of this scene was the tension of the two of them meeting up where they weren’t supposed to be. I paused in my drafting and went back over the scene I’d just wrote…

…and then I made myself stop.

The first draft is supposed to have everything in it. All the too-long descriptions, all the extraneous background info, all the non-crucial dialogue. The point of first drafting is to get it all down.

Cutting out the stuff you don’t need is what you do in the second draft (and the third, fourth, fifth, etc.) Editing has no place in the first draft. After all, you need to get the story down in order to have something there to edit. Wait until you have the whole picture–the completed first draft–to go back in and decide what you don’t need.

It’s possible I’ll look back on that scene and decide that that all the description works. Or more likely that I’ll cut out what I don’t need–but leave in the things that I do. And I wouldn’t be able to leave in the things that I do need if I don’t have them there in the first place.

So whether your NaNoWriMo-ing or just plain old writing a story for the first time, my advice to you is simply this: just write. Don’t worry that it’s too much–it’s supposed to be too much. Just get it down as it comes to you. Silence your inner editor–for now. Save her strength–you’re definitely going to need her later on down the line.

What other first draft tips do you have?

Photo by Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash

4 thoughts on “Writing Tip: What Your First Draft Should Look Like

  1. Very good tip and, just as you say, difficult to stick with. I am also working on a new manuscript and finding it difficult to shun my ‘inner editor’. Good luck with the words. Danny


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