The Power of the First Draft

Nov 14, 2013

Usually when we talk about first drafts, we talk about how hard they are. How fast we can write them. (Hey there, NaNoers!) How much they suck. But really, when you think about it, first drafts have incredible power.

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A first draft is where your core story idea is at its freshest, where it's still pure without having been touched by critiques and rewrites. It's where your creativity is really at its peak. You plan to go off one way, but then--surprise!--right in the middle of that, something different flows out of your fingers and the story is going somewhere you didn't anticipate. It might be a little chaotic, but its a sort of chaos like the night sky-- the stars are everywhere, but if you look closely, there are patterns in them, and they're beautiful. That first draft is where so much of the magic happens, where so much of you gets poured into a brand new story that's never been told.

On my very last draft of Unhappening, some comments my agent made reminded me of something in my first draft. I went back, reread a section, and realized something important had somehow gotten lost in all my 15 subsequent drafts. I ended up pulling some things from my first draft right back into my final draft, and it solidified major thematic and character points. It made me glad I saved each and every draft of my book separately, so I could look back on the simplicity and chaos and beauty of my first explosion of creativity on this idea and make sure it was still there in the final product.

So, my friends, as we NaNo or don't NaNo, and as we continue to write in general, I think we should stop bagging on that first draft. I usually enjoy rewrites more than the first draft, but I'm remembering now why I also love drafting so much. Do you prefer first drafts or rewrites? Are you working on a first draft or a rewrite now? What are you loving about the magic of either one as you write?

P.S. On a whim, I started tweaking with my blog design...and ended up staying up until 1 am and creating a whole new look. What do you think?

21 comments:

ilima said...

First drafts as stars...I like that. I need to remind myself this more often. I get down on myself a lot for crappy first drafts.

Michelle Merrill said...

Great post! And you know how much I love first drafts. Rewrites are my nemesis. Yay for surprise character choices and magical first drafts :)

M. R. Buttars said...

I don't like rewrites, and I love my first draft-until I read it. ;) Thanks for this. A great reminder as I get ready to draft a new story.

Donna Hosie said...

Preach it! I'm reading through a first draft right now and I'm pleasantly surprised by how NOT crap it is, lol!

Danielle Raye Zeissig said...

Writing a fast first draft like with NaNoWriMo, I don't feel I do my best writing. But I get a lot of words written because I'm trying not to stop and think too much, and I get a lot of good ideas out onto the page. I plan quite a bit, but I still feel like I'm feeling my way through the story with the first draft and I enjoy that experience. But I enjoy rewriting much more, when I can take the time to make my writing prettier:)

A. B. said...

I love my first drafts. They are messy and painful, but so worth it. I'm in the middle of one right now that I know has an accidentally ressurecting character, and an entire scene that got hopped. It would make absolutely no sense to an outside pair of eyes. But I have to love where you start.
Arround draft 3 or 4, I start to hate the book. I want to throw it out a window, burn it ceremoniously... anything because I'm not happy with the way it's changed, but isn't done yet.
I get back to loving it around draft 6 :)

Happy Writing!

Haneen I. Adam said...

I'm a rewrite girl, but Nano has made me enjoy first drafts for the first time, yet again I think this is because my current project is very interesting and far less complicated as my first one.

Carol Riggs said...

Oh yessss! Great points. I have to KEEP reminding myself to avoid my editing hat until I'm done with my first draft. Because I love the flow of things and the creativity--until I start analyzing whether it's working, and what I need to change. I need to let myself enjoy the high at first, THEN tidy it up!

David P. King said...

Whoa! You're blog changed! Nicely done, Shallee (going all pro!).

I'll keep bagging on that first draft, though. It motivates me to finish it so I don't have to think about it anymore. :)

Suzanne Furness said...

I love the magic and unexpected nature of first drafts. That anticipation of seeing where the story will go and what the characters will say.

Emily R. King said...

Couldn't agree more! Drafting is like magic!

Tanya Lynne Reimer said...

Love the new look here!!! Whoo hoo!

I love every stage. The first draft is my drunken bliss stage. I feel powerful and insane. It's raw and emotional and it says exactly what I can't.

The rewrites are great because they make sense of that and pull it together and the magic comes alive and it says exactly what I want.

The final draft (before the polishing and the crits get a hold of it) leaves me euphoric because it finally looks like a story, and it says I can do the impossible.

Stina Lindenblatt said...

Great new look, Shallee.

I prefer editing, but I am enjoying working on my current first draft. So much so that I don't want to stop to edit my ms that is due in Jan. My betas are getting it back to me this week. I would be happier if they waited a while longer. :D

akossiwaketoglo.com said...

I will always prefer first drafts because I don't question things as long as the plot is flowing and the words are coming out. It's such a great feeling. When I revise (which comes with re-writes) I have to question every little decision the characters make and such.
I'm glad you save all drafts. I do the same too. :)


~Akoss

Elizabeth Seckman said...

I love writing first drafts. It really is a magical time where rules don't really apply.

Romance Book Haven said...

Great points. First draft once done is just the starting of the hard work.

Nas

Medeia Sharif said...

Those first drafts are magical. Among the chaos, there is a story that came from the inside of us.

Milo James Fowler said...

Your blog looks freakin' great! My first drafts are sloppy copies. It isn't until draft 3 or 4 that I can share them with other human beings.

akossiwaketoglo.com said...

I know I already left a comment but I just wanted to stop by and say Happy Thanksgiving!!!

~Akoss

Crystal Collier said...

I write in layers. Yes, I outline beforehand so I know major points and how I'm getting there, but each draft incorporates another level of depth. I love first drafts, but as a perfectionist, they also kind of turn my stomach. I've had that experience though, going back and finding something truly inspiring in an early draft. It's then you think, "Hm, I may not be half bad after all!"

Royce A Ratterman said...

Love the new blog's look!

Great post - I love the first draft process... pouring out the story as it flows.

 
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