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Tuesday, December 11, 2012

First Drafts

The first book I ever wrote was ....  well It was Terrible. But at the time I didn't think so. Now - fifteen years later - I stumbled across my original manuscript and I laughed so hard I cried. I seriously could not even read  because I was laughing and crying so hard, and my husband thought I was losing my mind. It was so awful that I couldn't help but laugh. I'm glad I have those first attempts at writing to look back on for the laughs and for the learning experience that they are. It's also interesting to see what I was going through in that stage of life. You see, when I started writing, I wrote to escape my life. I was a teenager, and of course life was awful - right? Well I started writing to create a different world, one where I didn't have to deal with the issues that seemed so traumatic to me back then. I created the character I wished I could be, and I gave her everything I wanted. The interesting part is that after she was given everything, and spent a good portion of the book happily ensconced in this world, then I made her not like it. It was too much. Having everything she wanted was not as fun as she thought. I she spent the rest of the book trying to help her escape from this perfect world I had created.
It was at this time that I realized that I enjoyed creating worlds and characters. I enjoyed writing for the sake of writing. After that I learned to take myself out of the book and create the settings, situations, and conflicts for my characters. And once I did, my characters brought themselves to life - with feelings, and attitudes, and different styles of handling the world I was creating around them.
I loved it! And I haven't stopped writing since.
I recently wrote a book in a week. I had some inspiration and I went to town. It felt good to get it all out, even though I mostly didn't sleep that entire week. When my first draft was finished, I slept for about two days. Was it a terrible first draft? Yup, it was terrible, but it was on paper.
I didn't realize how terrible it was until I had finished, set it aside, and then waited about a week. My husband wanted to know what the story was about and I decided to read part of it too him. I only got to about chapter 3 before we were both lost - and extremely amused by the sequence of events. I had seen the story so vividly in my head that I forgot to add all the information to the page - therefore making an extremely amusing, and terrible, and confusing story line. The rewrite was much better but I keep that original first draft to remind me that I'm still learning. It keeps me humble!
But let's be honest. Fifteen years of writing does not make me anywhere near an expert. It makes me passionate (or insane) about what I do. I still write some pretty terrible first drafts - and I still sometimes laugh until I cry when I reread them. I always keep a copy of a first draft. I have a filing cabinet completely devoted to my writing, and folders upon folders of story idea and first attempts at creating those ideas. Some I absolutely adore and I can't wait to return and finish writing them. But others I use for my own amusement - on those days I just need to laugh until I cry. And sometimes, when a friend or family member has a bad day, I share my amusing attempts with them. Because who can help but laugh at someone who is so willing to laugh at their own terrible first drafts?

Tell me about your first draft stories ..... ?


  1. love! I also enjoy going back and reading old drafts and first attempts at writing because...well, it's just ugly. And first drafts will always be terrible, it's the natural order of things.

  2. I can't believe you wrote a book in a week! Holy cow!!!
    My first, first drafts--the ones I never finished--are awful and funny too. I can't believe what I wrote, can't believe what I thought was good. I also can't believe how far I've come and how much I've learned. It's pretty gratifying--though also a little painful--to go back and read those old drafts and be able to recognize what's wrong with them. Also encouraging to know progress comes with time.


Thank you for your comments!