David McAfee’s Rules of Writing: Don’t Sweat The First Draft!

Posted: September 1, 2010 in Uncategorized

Okie dokie, folks. It’s time for the second installment in the David McAfee Rules of Writing. Because, you know, so many people out there are hanging on every character I type. They want this info. Need it, even. Their lives will not be complete until I… oh, who am I kidding? I just like the sound of my own voice, even if it’s typed.

So today I want to talk about first drafts. Most of them are horrible. Awful, ugly things. That’s OK. Really. That’s the way a first draft is supposed to look. This is the stage where the writer is, or should be, having the most fun. There may be parts of the story that we get stuck on, but for the most part this IS the creative process. Right here. Getting words onto paper or onto the screen. And the words never come faster or with more intensity than they do at this point. At least that’s been my experience so far.

But too many writers worry about making everything perfect on this all important first draft, and that can suck the creative life right out of a story. Adverbs? Passive voice? Clunky phrasing? Plot holes? You betcha! In fact, this is where those things belong and – dare I say it? – actually serve a purpose. They help to grease the wheels between your mind and the keyboard, so don’t worry if they pop up through the story. It’s OK. You can worry about purging that kinda stuff in revision.

Pssssst: that’s what the revision process is for. Just sayin’.

I never worry about good grammar or adverbs or any of that stuff in my first draft. If I did, I’d never finish a story because I’d be constantly going back and changing things. I prefer to let the words flow while the well is full, if you know what I mean. To me, that’s the best way to write, and the most honest.

Of course, your mileage may vary.

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Comments
  1. JL Bryan says:

    “Adverbs? Passive voice? Clunky phrasing? Plot holes? You betcha! In fact, this is where those things belong and – dare I say it? – actually serve a purpose. They help to grease the wheels between your mind and the keyboard, so don’t worry if they pop up through the story.”

    I think of that stuff as the scaffolding around a sculpture. They can help you bridge the gap to getting your thoughts on paper, or even finding your way to the completed thought. Later on you can see what the important part was and discard what you don’t need.

  2. Great stuff David! Very true…my first drafts usually are awful! LOL

  3. T. L. Haddix says:

    Good post! It’s so easy to get bogged down in the technicality of writing, and forget how to create. The important thing about the first draft is getting all your ideas out of your mind and down on paper. If your plot and story are horrible, it doesn’t matter if your first draft is perfect. No one will want to read the finished product.

  4. Karen Berner says:

    You are correct, David. No one has ever written a perfect first draft, not even Shakespeare. Worrying about every word before it comes out only encumbers the writing process.

  5. Tracey Alley says:

    Very well said David. I don’t think I’ve ever actually shown ANYONE a first draft of anything I’ve ever written because they’re so often awful but I’m able to make magic out of them eventually – well, that’s my story and I’m sticking to it 🙂

  6. What can I add but to say that you are absolutely correct. You’ve got to just get the ideas down on paper (or on word processing tool of choice) first, THEN you can clean up the messy parts.

  7. Well put, David. And actually that was a good pick me up as I dust off one shelved novel, and also begin to consider a sequel to another. Sometimes it’s best to just get it written, then go back and “make it perfect.” Thanks for the boost.

  8. L.C. Evans says:

    My first drafts are really sketchy, barely more than outlines, and the dialogue is so boring, even a caveman could have said it. I never let that bother me because the goal at that point is to get the sketch finished so I can color it.

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