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The first draft of anything is sh**

Discussion in 'Writing Discussions' started by C Hollis, Aug 11, 2013.

  1. brokethepoint

    brokethepoint Troubadour

    The problem is "The first draft of anything is . . ." is to vague.

    Is it the, grammar, dialogue, plot, characters, world building. . .?

    If I look at something that I write and think it is a pile of doo, then I delete it. Why would I keep it and work on it? Doesn't matter what you do with crap, it is still crap.

    To me the statement is to catch attention, or create conflict, or feed someones narcissism.
  2. Steerpike

    Steerpike Felis amatus Moderator

    If Hemingway was just talking about himself, then great. He knew his own process better than we do.

    As a general statement, it's useless. If what is meant is "it's OK if your first draft is crap; don't worry about it" then say that instead. That's my advice.
  3. ThinkerX

    ThinkerX Myth Weaver

    Considering that I ended up deleting about a third of 'Labyrinth', rewriting the remainder, and doubling that remainder in size...I probably would have been justified in just calling it quits with that tale.

    In the end, I decided that the concept, the 'world', and the character interaction made the tale worth salvaging. Those elements were unique enough, and powerful enough to overide all the plot meandering.
  4. Caged Maiden

    Caged Maiden Staff Article Team

    My first drafts are all sh**. Plain and simple. Because I form too much of my story as I write. I think... that in all art, free-form development is a part of most people's processes. So if you're painting, you start with vague shapes and slowly reveal the true picture. You stand back and have a look, then add some more shading or contrast. It's a process and almost always, when you say you're done, you can go back to it and add a little tweaking to it and mke it better. I'd compare a novel to any other art form... It's done, then it gets revised and done better... then another edit and it gets even better. i think that sums up the statement.

    Sentences like: "Cedrick was thirsty and began looking for a tavern"... become: "Cedrick licked his lips and cringed. He spit dust out. Across the street, a tavern beckoned him, the smell of stale hops on the wind."

    Was there anything terrible about the first draft? Maybe. But the revision is better. and if edited again, it would be even better.

    Sometimes you hit a home run the first time. Sometimes it takes time to coax the message out of your first draft words. Like the painting, it's a process. And once in while, I paint something I don't want to touch again. other times, when I go back, I can improve the image significantly by looking at it from another perspective, with a fresh eye or more patience.

    I would have to agree that the first draft tends to be weak, but that's just from my experiences. Also, it does have a lot to do with one's process. Some people wouldn't call it a first draft if they were in the "sketching phase" of their painting. I tend to call it a first draft once a novel is completed and unedited. Maybe some other people will edit as they go, completing a chapter and then polishing it before moving on. That process is individualized and it depends largely on your perceptions of "finished".
  5. Caged Maiden

    Caged Maiden Staff Article Team

    Just another note:

    Whenever I get out to the range, I rarely hit a bullseye in my first shot. Sometimes I miss the target entirely. I think writing can also be a little like that, too. Like, when you sit down to write, you need to get ideas flowing a little before you find your stride. I bet if we wrote a book in 10 weeks (which I've done), they automatically look better because we're in good practice. just like if I shoot every day, I might hit a bullseye with my first arrow.
  6. Chessie

    Chessie Guest

    Perhaps there are writers out there that can bang out an awesome first draft. Not me. I have found it to be rather freeing to just let the juices and words flow, with the ideas driving the story taking priority on paper. I can clean it up later and make it sound pretty then. :)
  7. Scalzi talked about his writing process for a book a while back. He wrote his draft in something like nine or ten weeks. He then spent a morning scanning it for typos, to help his editor. Then he mailed it out. He stated that he expected perhaps a few dozen words to have changed before it went to print.

    Dean Wesley Smith is rather famous for his methods of writing; with over a hundred trad pub novels to his credit, he doesn't do drafts. He writes, and sends the work out. Or, now that he is self publishing, he writes, then has someone proof it, then publishes.

    My own method is to write the darned book, then have an editor go over it. I make revisions based on the edit, have it checked for typos and errors, and publish. If I was sending a work to a traditional publisher, I would write a draft, go over it once myself for problems, and send it out.

    SOME writers produce first drafts which are "rough" and need multiple revisions. Nothing wrong with that if you prefer the method.
    I prefer producing first drafts which are about 95-98% ready to go to print.
  8. PaulineMRoss

    PaulineMRoss Inkling

    Mark Lawrence has said that he only does one draft. To be precise::

    Full blogpost here: Mark Lawrence: Rules to Write by

    Personally, I can't imagine revising and revising, and having umpteen draft versions. Don't you guys get bored reworking the same piece over and over? Doesn't it lose a bit of the just-written sparkle?
  9. BWFoster78

    BWFoster78 Myth Weaver

    There's a certain joy in taking something that you consider to be an ugly lump of coal and turning it into something much closer to a diamond.

    The people who can send off barely polished rough draft or "tell if version 2 or 3 is better than version 1" are the ones who don't appreciate the differences small changes can make. I don't think there's anything wrong with that for them; it's just not my POV.

    Each time through, I take the worst parts of my draft and make them better. Maybe I tighten a sentence or heighten tension or get more inside the character's head or express emotion better or smooth out a rough patch. To me, the summation of these small changes greatly enhance the finished product.
  10. Graylorne

    Graylorne Archmage

    I must admit I've stopped reading other authors' self-rules and experiences. I've got my own and they do for me.

    For example, I revise constantly. It helps me stay in the flow, it helps me develop the story, so for me it works. I like revising. I like seeing the story develop and get better.
    Some of my books have twelve or more major versions. That's the way I work. Someone else will do it different. It's the result that counts.

    And no, constant revising doesn't slow me down. I did 13k. in 6 days, not a bad result to my mind.
  11. Filk

    Filk Troubadour

    I love Hemingway; he probably has had the most profound influence on writing style. I take the quote as more of bit of inspiration, although perhaps it reflects method. It seems to say to me that one can write a first draft without fear of it being awful, because it is inevitably going to need improvement. This creates an atmosphere of honesty without censors. To me it says: "Write uninhibitedly."

    Hemingway's stories, for me, are at the heights of the exploration of human emotions in literature. He also helped shape modern literature. I take it that he didn't always achieve the effect he was going for in his first draft, so editing was necessary to cull up the poignant emotions he is famous for. As for his intensive editing process, I think he achieved some wonderful works by it. I can't assume the quality of them before editing, but it would seem they benefited from the process.

    I can imagine that one could master grammar and storytelling to the point that they would not need to edit. I'm sure it takes a certain mind or intelligence to do that, but I think that there's also a reason that Hemingway sticks out from the crowd as i doubt most people who publish first drafts do (not that there aren't exceptions). I think that reason is that he strove for perfection and wasn't merely satisfied with something "as is." Editing, if preformed correctly, ultimately improves the quality of a work of writing. It is also a skill as much as writing is a skill and must be painstakingly developed.

    Personally, I like to edit my writing. I find that there is always room for improvement in my own work, but I'm no professional writer either. I think that if I were to write something perfect the first time around, I would find that out in an attempt to edit. Until I do that, I'd have to agree with the quote. The "s" word may be a little harsh though, but it makes for a better quote hehe
  12. Guru Coyote

    Guru Coyote Archmage

    This may have already come up in this thread...

    I think the value/quality of a 'first draft' very much depends on when you write it. Do you sit down at the keyboard the moment you have a fresh idea? Or do you mull it over in your head for days before you even begin to commit it to paper/electrons?

    I used to have a very 'bad' reputation in school regarding essays and similar homework. I would start writing it at the last possible moment... and yet achieve good grades. How? Simple: just because I wasn't actively writing and revising... didn't mean I wasn't actively *thinking* about the topic and laying it out in my head. I was one of those kids who always had a narration / commentary going on in their heads (and often mumbled them too). So when I then did sit down to write the essay, I only had to physically write it, it was all ready to go anyway.

    Sometimes, first drafts can be like that. And sometimes, first drafts are more like rough sketches, tryouts.
  13. A. E. Lowan

    A. E. Lowan Forum Mom Leadership

    Guru, we do something very similar to this. My writing partner and I role play all character development and world building before a single word appears on the white screen. Then we tend to start producing character vignettes and short scenes and passages which may or may not appear at some point in the books. Around this time we begin outlining. Our outlines are so dense and detailed they're really more pre-writing, but I am a writer who needs a clear blueprint to write by - and even then our characters tend to jump out and change things. I let them. I prefer to have them take the bit in their teeth and pull me along their own stories.

    Once I have a chapter written, it's ok. I see it as a freshly quenched blade - I know I have a good sword in there, and I have already done all the work of smelting and forging, but what it needs is polishing to really shine. I give each chapter a polish or two before I move on to the next. The psycho perfection freak in me won't let me move on until I'm happy with it. It's not ready for publication yet, but I can stop poking and move on to the next thing.
  14. Chessie

    Chessie Guest

    ^^ Oh for sure, I have scenes marinating in my head for days before I write them. I write daily, so I have the scenes noted down before I get to them. I like writing the first draft through without stopping for revision...although every now and then something will catch me that says "Stop for a minute, this needs to change now because it doesn't make sense with the rest of the flow."

    I fix it and move on. Who knows what my method will be like later on in life, but for now its one draft, one revision, I'm done, move on to the next project. Otherwise, I'll get anal retentive and drive myself crazy. Different strokes is all. I'm with Pauline in that revising over and over gets rather boring after a while. I lose the mojo for the story and the essence of what it was to begin with. Revising over and over isn't for me, that's all I know.
  15. A. E. Lowan

    A. E. Lowan Forum Mom Leadership

    :) As I'm already anal retentive and crazy, I wonder what I'll eventually morph into?

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