A good first draft?

I cannot tell you how many times I have heard an editor, a writer, or an agent make this absolute statement: “There is no such thing as a good first draft!” While I understand the point they are trying to make, I disagree with this all-inclusive judgment on all manuscripts we writers write.

a good first draft

When I wrote my first novel Swords of the Six it was far different from the final draft. I wrote the first draft, polished it, sent it to my editor, chopped it in two and rewrote large sections, etc. The process was long and arduous. By the time I was done I had no desire to touch a page of it again. Then, when I wrote my second novel I worked only a few drafts before sending it to my editor.

But when I wrote Key of Living Fire it was my first draft. Ignoring the don’t-send-your-first-draft rule-of-thumb I sent in the manuscript. The edits that came back were simple, occupying a mere couple pages.

What made the difference? I did not rush the writing of that manuscript. I let my creative flow lead me. If an element of the story did not move me emotionally I did not write it. If a plot element did not fire my imagination I paused to consider how to exchange that idea for another. Also, when it came to basic elements such as grammar I did not ignore a correction.

Hammering out the first draft quickly can sound appealing. But writers are artists, stories are the masterpieces. Think of it like a painting and get those brush strokes right the first time! In practice this is not always possible. Often your first draft will not be your last. But by aiming for quality over quantity we improve our first efforts. Do not underestimate what you can create with your first draft.

Question: What do you think of a writer’s first draft?


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Most obvious thing about me is how much I love reading and writing. This is truly my passion and has been for almost as long as I can remember. I know that sounds cliche, but it is true. Growing up in a conservative Christian home I learned to value God, intelligence, and life. I am always learning. I am a husband and a father of three young children. I love my family and my life. God is good and I attribute my success to His provision.

Great fantasy stories are a lot of fun. I write the stories that I want to read and am fortunate enough to have several published novels under my belt as well as more in the pipeline.

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4 thoughts on “A good first draft?

  1. I personally think it depends on the author. For instance, Asimov would ften write one draft and edit as he went. Heinlein, on the other hand, would write many drafts. However, I do think that taking your time on a first draft to focus on quality is important, and will lead to a better finished product. And on the plus side, it may lead to less work later, which is always nice.

    • Exactly! The final product will reflect the effort put into it. It is more work but it can have a great result.

  2. I’ve come to think of my outline almost as a sort of first draft. I put so much time and detail into the story and its structure at the outline stage, that by the time I get to the “official” first draft, it goes much smoother than it would if I just started writing the book without an outline at all (and of course, requires much less editing!).

    I do agree with you. Writing is an art, and art isn’t always produced quickly. I’ll never be one of those authors who can pump out a book every six months, that’s for sure!

    • I wish I could pump out a book every six months… Maybe when I’m writing full-time again. That would be awesome though. :)