The Editor’s Wisdom About the First Draft #atozchallenge


Well, it’s this editor’s approach to the first draft, anyway.

I find I say this a lot to authors, and they tend to giggle at me when I do. (I guess they are not used to my bluntness yet.)

Give yourself permission to puke on the page.

Seriously! It’s your first draft. If you’re not a writer who uses an outline, you need the first draft to figure out where you’re going.

If you are a writer who uses an outline, you need the draft to make sure you stay on point, and that the outline works in execution as well as it seemed to beforehand.

In other words: the first draft isn’t going to be the draft you publish. It’s full of puke, after all. It’s your test-drive, your chance to get to know your characters, feel your story, discover where the plot points and twists truly need to be, and how to execute them. It’s your time to use just eight million times, to engage in micro-detail, to lay it all out there.

You know. Puke.

Writing, after all, is a craft. The first draft is that time when you take the hunk of clay and begin the rough shape. You don’t use your delicate sculpting tools yet; you’re just feeling it out. This is the time (Hey, I’m actually listening to this as I am writing and that was kind of creepy to write those words as Jonny sang ’em) to be spiritual with your work. To rely on instinct.

This is stage one. That’s all it is.

So go ahead. Give yourself permission to puke on the page. Use only and surprisingly and suddenly until your fingers bleed. Make your characters stand from a chair and cross the room. (Ugh. Shudder.) Write passed instead of past. Take that inner editor and chuck her in the closet. Lock the door, even. Whatever it takes to let yourself go.

And yes, it’s okay if your notes have your character with green eyes and halfway through you realize nope, they’re blue and you’ll fix that later. That’s what revision is for. Heck, ALL of this is what revision is for.

Ahh… revision. That’s step two in the quest to create the best book possible. That’s when the sculptor’s fine tools come out. When coats get hung on hangers, not hangars. And this is a blog post for another day.

For now, go ahead. Give yourself permission. Puke on the page.

(And yes, there are some very seasoned and talented writers who spend so much time and energy on their first draft that they only need to write one draft. But they are special writers, with their own process. Don’t try to be like them. Be like you. Let your own process evolve, and stop getting in your way. Which is what happens when you don’t let yourself puke on the page.)


1 Comment

  1. Sandra Ulbrich Almazan

    April 7, 2017 7:17 am

    I always say that my first drafts are, well, drafty. That’s why I give myself so much lead time to publish a book; it needs a lot of revision first!

    Sandra Ulbrich Almazan, Science Fiction/Fantasy Author

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