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.
SIGNS MY SCENE IS STILL IN ITS FIRST DRAFT
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.