Thursday, October 24, 2013

First Drafts

by Katy White

As I've mentioned before, turning off my internal editor for a first draft is a challenge.  My first drafts tend to take months (okay, sometimes years) longer than they should, not because I don't know exactly where the novel is going, but because I belabor every word and paragraph along the way.  I'm a perfectionist.  It's obnoxious.  And while it's getting better, the fact is that it's not easy for me to get past.  

But, as Jeanna and Gina have mentioned, National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) is upon us, and I plan to do it this year, darn it!*  So to psych myself up (or is it pump myself up?  Shut up, Internal Editor!), I've been looking up advice and words of wisdom from authors about first drafts.  Because I love quotes and used them frequently in the business world to motivate-slash-inspire-slash-make-me-look-smart, I thought I'd share with you some quotes I came across in the chance that they'll motivate-slash-inspire you and your writing journey.  

“Every first draft is perfect because all the first draft has to do is exist. It's perfect in its existence. The only way it could be imperfect would be to NOT exist.” 

Jane Smiley

“I wrote a book. It sucked. I wrote nine more books. They sucked, too. Meanwhile, I read every single thing I could find on publishing and writing, went to conferences, joined professional organizations, hooked up with fellow writers in critique groups, and didn’t give up. Then I wrote one more book.” 

Beth Revis 

Writing the last page of the first draft is the most enjoyable moment in writing. It’s one of the most enjoyable moments in life, period.
—Nicholas Sparks

I would advise any beginning writer to write the first drafts as if no one else will ever read them—without a thought about publication—and only in the last draft to consider how the work will look from the outside.
—Anne Tyler

I generally write a first draft that’s pretty lean. Just get the story down.
—Nora Roberts

I don’t fiddle or edit or change while I’m going through the first draft.
—Nora Roberts

I have never written anything in one draft, not even a grocery list, although I have heard from friends that this is actually possible.
—Connie Willis

I’m constantly revising. Once the book is written and typed, I go through the entire draft again.
—Chaim Potok

Let me back up a little and tell you why I prefer writing to real life: You can rewrite.  A novel, for example, can be cleaned up, altered, trimmed, improved. Life, on the other hand, is one big messy rough draft.
—Harlan Coben

I love all of these great quotes!  Just what I need to get me in the writing mood.  But, I would be remiss if I left out my new favorite quote about first drafts from the great Ernest Hemingway (edited for salty language):  

“The first draft of anything is (crap).”

May we all be blessed with a first draft that we love, however, um, messy.  

Happy writing, friends!

*My NaNo profile is - feel free to buddy me!


  1. I love, love, LOVE these quotations! Especially the first one by Jane Smiley. That is my goal right now: to get my first draft to exist. To be able to say “I wrote a book.” And, oddly enough, I have much more confidence in my ability to critique and edit than I do in my ability to write in the first place. So once this first draft is done I will be back in much safer territory! LOL! :-) Good luck on NaNoWriMo!

  2. I loved that quote, too. It's such a great way of looking at a first draft. Liberating, really. Good luck with finishing your first draft! If you need a critique partner, let me know!

  3. My favorite is definitely the first quote as well. And you can do it! NaNoWriMo is so good for that. I have a couple suggestions in my post next week, but here's one for your internal editor: Never ever look at the screen. Seriously. It takes a while to get used to, but I generally just stare off into space during NaNoWriMo. Don't look at the screen, and don't backspace! (Btw, I just added you to my NaNoWriMo buddies. I'm etalia.)

  4. HA! Love that last quote. So true. For me, anyway. :-)



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