The Lousy First Draft

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The Lousy First Draft

Want to make leaps and bounds as a writer? Give yourself permission to write a lousy first draft.

Writing and editing are two different processes. How can you feel totally free to be creative and inventive if your inner critic is constantly reading over your shoulder and making faces? Write now, judge later.

Gather your research and decide what a scene is about, then jump in and start writing without worrying about length or word choice or even correct spelling or grammar. If you know you need a certain beat here, but it's not coming to you, jot a reminder to yourself to come back to it later and keep going. After you get your lousy first draft on paper, then refine, elevate, re-arrange, expand, and trim. As screenwriter Andrew Bennett says, "Writers build. Editors cut. You can't do both at the same time."

Here's another trick most writers use: Never show your very rough first draft to anyone. Not your spouse, not your friends, not even your goldfish. It's for your eyes only. Why? Because you never have to worry about anyone's judgment! You can write whatever you want! I didn't show my husband the first draft of this book, and I haven't seen the first draft of his new novel. He may be writing incomprehensible nonsense, but I'll never know. I get to believe he's always brilliant.

If you don't allow yourself the freedom of a lousy first draft, you risk not completing your script. "Always remember the Art of Getting the Damn Thing Done," says Bennett. "Finish your script at all costs. Write an ending that you hate if you can't find a better one right now." Your subconscious will work on the problem, but only if you give it something to work with. So get it down on paper and trust the process. Embrace the lousy first draft. It's a writer's best friend.



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