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.
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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