What My First Drafts Look Like (Answer: GIANT MESSY MESSES)

As I’m sure every writer on the planet has noticed, our writing tends to vastly improve between our first draft of a scene and, say, the eightieth draft of a scene. Very rarely will you throw liquid sparkling gold down on a page on your very first attempt — usually it takes hacking and polishing and pleading and farm animal sacrificing and a number of alchemical processes to transform that messy first draft into something not-embarrassing and actually pleasant to read.

BUT I CONSTANTLY FORGET THIS. Every single time I write a scene, I feel terrible about how bad it is compared to a bunch of other scenes that I wrote, which were all in their twelfth-or-twentieth drafts and really shouldn’t be compared to this poor fledgling, baby scene I’ve only just now started working on. So, in an effort to make myself feel better and remind myself that it’s completely okay to have an embarrassingly bad first draft, I thought I’d compile a list of all the signs one of my scenes is in it’s first draft.

Short answer: because it’s a damn mess.


o. the verbs was and had heft the weight of every. single. sentence.

o. “it seemed” Everything seems. Nothing is definite. It seemed she felt this way. It seemed he was mistaken. It seemed, it seemed, it seemed. DECIDE ON SOMETHING, CHRISTINA, AND CONVEY YOUR THOUGHTS IN A CONCRETE, CONCISE MANNER. (also noted: abuse of the words slightly, quite, sort of, and kind of.)

o. He looked. Her eyes followed. He glanced. Her gaze skated. He cast a look. FOR THE LOVE OF– First drafts of my scenes always feel like they’re drowning in stage directions.

o. He felt. It felt. She was feeling. There are a thousand other ways to convey what a character is FEELING besides saying “he/she FELT LIKE THIS” but do I explore those other avenues? NOT IN THE FIRST DRAFT, I DON’T.

o. “was sat” — constantly using this. Not sure if it’s even grammatically okay?

o. further and farther are used interchangeably. Because who the hell knows.

o. blank spaces abound, where location names, dates, and fictional book titles should go — because apparently it’s too hard to be creative while I’m literally sitting there trying to be creative.

o. Subject verbed. Every sentence of every paragraph starts with the same. He did this. She thought this. He felt this. Stopppppppppppppppppppppppp.

So, there you have it. Some of the grievous crimes against the act of writing I commit whenever I’m first getting a scene onto paper. How can you tell YOU’RE writing your first draft? And, remember, it’s perfectly okay if your first draft is messy, and embarrassing, and makes you doubt whether you have any talent as a writer. That’s why you keep writing! Writing is rewriting. *holds up however many fingers I’m supposed to* Scout’s honor.

First Draft Writing


9 thoughts on “What My First Drafts Look Like (Answer: GIANT MESSY MESSES)

  1. Cait

    I TOTALLY RELATE!! Particularly to the “seemed” and “looked”. One of my worst ones was a book absolutely FILLEd with “flicked.” I don’t evne know what I was thinking…did I think it was cool or something?! But they “flicked their eyes this way” and “flicked a glance” and ergh ergh ergh.
    Least to say my first drafts are horrible awful no -good messes. But without them I wouldn’t get that 80th draft which is tolerable. 😉 I would pretty much die rather than let someone look at my first drafts!!
    Thanks for stopping by @ Paper Fury!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Least to say my first drafts are horrible awful no -good messes. But without them I wouldn’t get that 80th draft which is tolerable.

      Exactly!! If you have to use the same ridiculous words over and over just to get the idea down on paper — then that’s what you’ve got to do! But godddddddd I feel so silly reading back over a scene where everyone’s just standing there looking at each other. LOL


  2. Liza Barrett

    I ALWAYS switch up further and farther in my first (and usually second and third) draft(s). Why is that one so damn tough? And blank spaces! I love doing the ____ = so and so needs a name, and xxxxxx = different person needs a name. And then I switch part way through. Sometimes I get REALLY fancy and color it red so I’ll remember to go back. I have a lot places where I clearly originally typed “he said,” and then before I moved on I decided I should use ‘said’ and I replace it with some other equally meaningless word. The real irony is when I go through and edit later, I end up taking ALL of those out, so when I catch the ‘said’ thing, why don’t I just take it out altogether instead of putting something else in?

    Great post!

    ~ Liza @ Classy Cat Books


    1. Every single time I actively research the difference between further and farther, I understand it, I try to memorize it, I close the tab fully confident that I’ve finally learned it — and THEN I IMMEDIATELY FORGET IT. I should print something out and slap it to my wall.

      That’s a good idea, to color some text red so you remember to go back. I’ll bold things, or add comments, or sometimes put sections in a GIANT FONT just so I know how horrible that section is and that I absolutely have to go back and revise it. 😀


      1. Liza Barrett

        I used to do a lot of that to draw attention to the needy bits, but I can’t anymore. I’m OCD about font size (like, it SERIOUSLY bugs me, and I won’t be able to move on while it’s the wrong size). And I used to bold things all the time, but now that I bold bits of e-mails at work so frequently, I get thrown off when I read back through what I’ve written and start wondering why that word (if it’s a single word) is bolded. I LOVE putting in comments.

        Sometimes I insert a textbox OVER the really bad stuff, fill it in bright yellow and in big red font type something to the effect of “REWRITE THIS LATER!” Those are pretty effective 😉

        Liked by 1 person

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