Why You Must Write the First Draft First

Why You Must Write the First Draft First

Why You Must Write the First Draft First
Photo by Sigurd Decroos

Why You Must Write the First Draft First

Have you put off finishing (or starting) that first draft? What's holding you back?

There are a number of reasons you should do everything you can to finish (or start) that first draft. If you don't start the first draft, you won't be able to revise it, work further on plot and character development, feel good about making progress, or feel confident in your writing career.

Oftentimes, you have to start the draft to really know what you need for your story. When you do the planning, sometimes you won't realize that you need a stronger plot or stronger, more dynamic characters than the ones you have until you get your hands dirty writing your novel. Once you get started, you'll see that more work needs to be done.

On the other hand, if you feel your plot isn't strong enough or think some element is missing, you could put off writing that first draft forever. Years could go by before you finally decide you have enough information to go on or you give up on your writing dream. If you're a writer and you were meant to be one, putting your writing on hold because of a minor issue will lead to more unhappiness, anxiety, and regret.

What do you really have to lose by starting your first draft?

If you start before you think you're ready and when everything is figured out and in place, what do you have to lose? Will it really be a waste of time?

The trouble with unfinished writing projects (and by "unfinished", I mean "not revised or edited") is in the planning and scheduling.

If you're like me with a busy schedule, you'll need to schedule your revisions. You'll also need to believe that any progress you make toward getting that draft polished will put you closer to fulfilling your dreams as a writer. If you're worried that you'll rack up another draft that will collect dust, you need to overcome that. It's really about the revision planning and having a strong support group that will help you progress toward your writing dreams.

You must remember that there is one very important reason why you need to finish that first draft: it will make you a better writer.

Writing the first draft and doing the revisions when you don't feel ready won't put you behind. That's a lie. Any writing you do will get you closer to becoming a better writer. Your first draft is a rough draft. No one said it had to be perfect.

When you complete a book, you will go through revisions to make it better. You will move things around; you'll add things and remove things. Once you have your first draft, you'll have a better idea of what you need and what you don't need. It's not an exact science. If that were the case, everyone would be writing books.

As an editor, I work with writers throughout the entire writing process. I help them strengthen their plots and characters by making suggestions on improvements. I don't do the physical edits; the writers must do the hard writing work on their own through my help. It won't do them any good if I give them the answers. They won't be able to become better writers. But what I can do is help them strengthen their writing skills through editorial critiques and feedback.

The draft you submit to a publisher may not be the final draft of your story. The publisher may suggest changes or full revisions. That's a normal part of the process.

So, waiting until the perfect moment when you finally have all the answers will put you that much farther behind and will cause stress and frustration. It's time to send the resistance through the door so you can continue along the path to writing success.

Jody Calkins
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