Paying Homage to First Drafts

Write your first draft with your heart. Rewrite with your head.  - Finding ForresterI have made a solid commitment to completing the first draft of my romantic fiction novel by the middle of February, 2015. Dear Lord! What have I done? Some days I’m ecstatic, fingers itching to get the keyboard. Most days it’s just Butt In Chair Hands On Keyboard making the painful march towards my daily word count goal.

I’m a little over one third of the way to my word count goal and I gotta tell ya. This story SUCKS, but you know what? I’m ok with the suckitude. I’m learning that what matters is getting something, ANYTHING down on the damn page.

That doesn’t mean I don’t push myself, it just means I’m learning to be less of a perfectionist right out of the gate. I’m getting the words on paper so I can go back and edit them and make them better. Because without the first draft, there is no story to edit, there is nothing upon which to improve.

For now, I am doing my best to enjoy the process. The story meanders and the characters are alternately bland or excessively verbose, but I’m capturing it.  All, while trying to heed the sage advice of my friend and fellow member of New Hampshire Romance Writer’s of America Susan Ann Wall, “Turn off the inner critic and just write!” *

That’s not to say I can ever completely mute my inner critic. She loves to remind me that I am a terrible writer. Rather than let her impede my progress, I paste on a smile and gently remind my inner critic, that she’ll get her chance to flaunt her brilliance and fix my mistakes later, but first, she must step aside and let me MAKE those mistakes.

I need to get back to my drafting, but before I go, I’m going to leave you with some thoughts on first drafts from some famous writers. I’m going to start with Anne Lamott from Bird by Bird. If you haven’t read this book, you must. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, you’ll become a better.

For me and most of the other writers I know, writing is not rapturous. In fact, the only way I can get anything written at all is to write really, really shitty first drafts.

Anne Lamott Bird by Bird


Write your first draft with your heart. Re-write with your head.

~From the movie Finding Forrester


I would advise any beginning writer to write the first drafts as if no one else will ever read them – without a thought about publication – and only in the last draft to consider how the work will look from the outside.

Anne Tyler


I dread first drafts! I worry each day that it won’t come, that nothing will happen. – Judy Blume

Happy Drafting!

*As an aside, another NHRWA member who shall remain nameless passed on advice she’d received “Write drunk.” It hasn’t come to that yet, but who knows what the future holds.


Lee Laughlin is a writer, wife, and mom, frequently all of those things at once. She blogs at She is currently a member of the Concord Monitor Board of Contributors. Her words have also appeared in a broad range of publications from community newspapers to the Boston Globe.

25 thoughts on “Paying Homage to First Drafts

    • Bird by Bird was one of the first writing books I ever read and it was my first introduction to Anne Lamott. Oh that woman can write!

  1. I have written in total five books in the course of my life. I have written them, hide them somewhere (from my ex) and have forgotten them till lately. One of these days I am going to peruse those books, re-write them and see what happens.

    I am planning to write my first novel next year. The plot is there, the characters are assembled, the settings are taken care of. Now to put those combined ideas into words to make a cohesive readable/salable story is another thing. But I will try. Nothing to lose, plenty to gain.

  2. Your friend Susan is right! What ultimately gets me through a first draft is my love of the rewrite. For years I struggled with editing while I wrote and I never finished anything. Then I finally told myself “no more” and refused to edit until the first first draft was done. Having light at the end of the tunnel, knowing the joy of the edit waits on the other side, is the motivation I need.

  3. Great post and just what I needed to read!! I too have a draft goal and often come up with multiple excuses!! “No More!!!” I tell myself sternly. LOl This was great motivation. I am sure your first draft does not suck and you a are brilliant writer – tell that critic back off! LOL good luck to you!!

  4. Thanks for this reminder. I too, am penning my first draft, though I’m not entirely sure how far along I am, I am just writing to get it all out of my head, and when that’s done, then I can revise. Again, thanks for the reminder/permission to continue on course! 🙂

  5. Thanks so much. I’ve pulled a very old short story out that was typed on a word processor or some other device I no longer own. I have been ‘writing’ it on my laptop, making a few changes but not many. I just want to get it all down and see if it still holds up before I start to edit it. This post has also given me permission to write something brand new and not worry about how bad it may turn out. 🙂 I know good writing is really about the editing process. I’ve read Anne Lamott but never Bird by Bird, will be sure to do so.

  6. “The first draft is just you telling yourself the story.” — Terry Prachett

    I spew from the heart the first time around. That way, I get everything down–good, bad, and otherwise. After a complete rewrite, I have my workable draft. After that, I revise/edit the book two or three more times. By then, I’m ready to leap from my second-floor office…but somehow, I survive!

  7. Such true words here! As much as it sucks to write stuff you know you don’t like, you’re totally right that there won’t be anything to edit, refine, and make excellent until you do! From one drafter to another, here’s to reaching that February goal! 🙂

  8. This is a fantastic piece. Very helpful advice. Makes me feel a bit better about some of the things I did during NaNoWriMo, which will go unmentioned here. 🙂

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s