6 Reasons Why You Should Love Your First Draft

This week I reached the end of a draft I’ve been working on for the last few months. This version was draft 19. I started draft 1 in 2001. I’m aiming to finish draft 20 (yes there will be at least one more) by the end of this year. I’m hoping it’ll be the one that is submission ready, and that it will do better than draft 8, which spent a year being rejected.

When I started draft 1, I didn’t think I’d needed 19 other versions, but that’s the fun of writing. Also fun is that this draft is only for book 1 in a 4 part series. Books 2-4 also have multiple drafts.

If you’re doing the sums in your head (and hating it because maths is not fun) you’re probably thinking the same as me, which is…
1) That’s a lot of drafts.
2) Why am I not a better writer because that’s a lot of practice.
3) It’s been a long time since I created a first draft.

Because it’s been so long, I can look back on my first draft foray with fondness. I’ve forgotten about staring at the blank page with no clue about how to start and have instead replaced it with my frustration of reading that first page yet again when endlessly editing.

Some writers don’t like the first draft because it’s hard to get started, especially if you’re a pantser. But a first draft isn’t scary and here are 6 reasons why you should love it.

1) It’s As Bad As Your Story Will Ever Be

Despite the 10th draft dragging on, or the 5th bringing that huge plot hole to your attention, the first draft is the worst your book will ever be. After draft 1, the only way is up, to all the breakthroughs, improvements, edits, and self-doubt.

2) You Just Have To Write

Anyone working on a draft they can’t remember a number for will understand the frustration of editing the same sentences repeatedly. The first draft isn’t about editing, checking for repeats, going through delete checklists or killing darlings, it’s just about writing, getting those words down and not having to worry about anything else.

3) It’s Full Of Discovery

Sometimes you’ll work on a later draft and a new idea will change the course of the whole story, but that doesn’t compare to your first draft, which is full of first ideas! Ideas like the one that inspired you to write the story. The crazy idea you didn’t see coming (and hope your readers don’t either), not to mention the discovery of your characters, plot, and settings. You don’t come across those in other drafts (unless you’re doing major re-writes—which for me, was draft 18 and 19), so enjoy those first draft discovery feels.

4) It’s Not Boring

By the time you’ve worked your way through the third draft, you know every single detail of your book. All the plot twists, all the character interactions, everything. When you’re writing the first draft, all of that is a surprise. It comes out of nowhere and isn’t boring. While each subsequent draft will rob you of that thrill, the first draft won’t, so remember to make the most of it whenever you start a new manuscript.

5) You’re Free Of The Rules

While editing is easier when you’ve followed the basic writing rules, if making sure every comma is correct or varying your dialogue tags is slowing you down, give them some leeway in the first draft. If you want to mention a detail in chapter three and then again in chapter five because it came up organically, go for it! You can work out where it fits better in another draft, along with fixing your placeholder of “thingy” with the right word. Use the first draft to write freely and worry about the rules later.

6) It Gives You A Reason To Celebrate

The final thing you should love about a first draft is that it’s the chance to celebrate. It’s the skeleton of your flesh and blood finished story, one that can’t hold up without those bones. The fact you started a first draft means you finally committed to getting the story out of your head. Not all writers do that. And not all writers finish that first draft. Celebrate that milestone and be proud of what you’ve achieved, even if it is bad and rule-less when you’re done.

The first draft might be something you end up hating. It might be something that breaks you, buries you in self-doubt, and delivers the sting of rejection. It might also be the start of something great. It can confirm you’re capable of crafting a story. It might lead to book deals and fame and fortune, or (realistically) to something you can be proud of. Something that will one day sit on a shelf alongside your favorite books, whether a publisher made it happen, or you did through self-publishing. None of that is possible without that first draft, though, and that should be the ultimate reason why you love it.

— K.M. Allan

You can find me posting about my drafts on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter!

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35 thoughts on “6 Reasons Why You Should Love Your First Draft

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    1. Thanks, Evelyn 😊. All I’ve been working on (other than blogging) is the four books in this YA series. There was 6 years out of that 17 that I didn’t do much writing at all, but four years ago I decided to get serious and finally wrote the full drafts for all four books. Now I’m just perfecting them and getting ready to submit the first book again after reworking the rejected version into something I think is much better. I didn’t expect it all to take this long, but that’s just the way it is sometimes. Even when I tried to work on something else, this story pulls me back, so I’ll be working on it until I feel like it’s finally done.

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  1. The “pure creation” is why I alternate between further drafts of book one and the first draft of the sequels of my to-be trilogy. The first draft is also kind of remembrance token, like “this is how it began” and something to show there is a progress when it’s hard to see through the wall of doubt.

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  2. So true, Kate! I recently read through some stories of mine that only ever made it to first drafts. My WIP in the only one I’ve stuck with long enough to do multiple edits. So some of these drafts were stories I’d not thought about in years. Wow, the writing quality sucked…yet there was something so warm and real about those unedited words, it made it enjoyable to read back.

    I also want to use this post to say how amazing you are so sticking with your story for so long, and through so many edits, Your commitment is inspiring, and with that level of determination (not to mention the fact your story is bloody fantastic!), you’re bound to achieve great things ❤ xxx

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Meelie 😊. Wish I could say it’s just determination, but my writer brain can honestly only work on one story at once. The characters and plots for these four books have really been the only ones constantly circling my mind and giving me ideas. I’m almost afraid to see what happens once I finally finish all the drafts. Hopefully the other stories I’ve only ever written down snippets for over the years will start to come out just as fully formed as my series. If not, maybe I’ve only got four books in me? 😅 🤔.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I’m sure you’ll create many amazing stories in your lifetime! It may seem impossible to envisage more than your series for now, but you will start new projects when you’re ready, and with all this experience behind you they’ll form in no time, I’m sure ❤

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  3. I absolutely adore first drafts. Because of everything stated above, they are my favourite. The thrill, the magic, the joy of discovery. It’s like embarking on a new adventure, where every blank page is open to possibility, anything can happen, and all bets are go. I do love a first draft, it’s the following ones that always crush me. And being a pantser, the thing I love the most is actually that first blank page when I’m about to start writing a new story. It’s my favourite moment in the entire writing process, the putting down of those first lines, that opening scene. I may even change it or delete it entirely, but that first scene is where I feel the most happy, when I start writing down the opnening to what could become the best story ever told. Or not 😉

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    1. Thanks for reading, Sarah 😊. The story keeps me motivated. There’s been times when I’ve hated it or thought I wasn’t a good enough writer to do it justice, but then a new idea came to me, or a scene that just wrote itself, and it made me keep going. Now that multiple betas have read it and confirmed the basic story and characters work (some days I’m still not convinced I’m a good enough writer for it), that keeps me going to get it to a level where I can submit or self-publish. Now my motivation is that I’ve come too far and worked too hard to not try and make either of those options happen 😅.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I love to think of the first draft that way too! There’s no pressure for it to be perfect the first time, meaning you can just write whatever comes to you without the stress of making sure every sentence is perfect. Great post 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  5. This post was sooo good! First drafts are probably the hardest part of writing, hands down. I’m thinking about doing NaNo if I can finish revisions of my other WIP before November, and I thought: “Wait, I just wrote a first draft a few months ago, do I really want to put myself through that again with a new story?” But you’re right, it’s probably the worst your book will ever be!

    Liked by 2 people

  6. You are a machine, my friend. The characters in your books have something to say and they want you to say it. I know it’s hard work and there are probably days where you have wondered why you are doing this but every now and than take a moment and be proud of your achievement. Not everybody can do this.

    Liked by 2 people

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