Monday, October 14, 2013

Your first draft – write like a fiend? YES/NO??



Whaddayathink... Yes or No???

Let's face it - everyone has their own methods of writing. And I'm not saying one way is better than the other....okay maybe I am. But we all think our way is the best. When it comes to our own working style, we're all probably right. But if what I have to say from experience helps another person make better choices, then I'm happy.

So... Here’s my thought on the subject.

In my experience, there are days when I can write up to 3,000 words if there’s little or no distractions - like when I’m at retreat. However, at home I'm lucky to get in 1,500 to 2,000 words.

When I say that amount, I'm talking about a relatively clean draft. I try very hard to write first drafts that are very close to being reader ready. What I mean by this is - I don't go along with the idea that you can just write crap so you have words down on the paper or in the computer. For me, trying to fix badly written work is hugely difficult, especially once I'm into the story and it picks me up and carries me along.

Truthfully, I miss a lot since I’m one of those speed readers who skim. I don't see all the passive sentences or the same words used over in a short space or the starting of sentences that are weak and need to be changed - and on and on…  Oh, and thank goodness for spell check. Even still, a lot gets through that my eyes miss.

My thought is - if you write the best you can to begin with - a well-written first draft, then the second pass over will be far easier. Plus, those few mistakes you have missed will be glaring rather than dealing with a manuscript where every second sentence needs work. In fact, when I get the edits back from my editor, I'm always hugely amazed at how many of these types or errors she still finds even after I've tried so hard not to let any get past me. Imagine if I let the work roll without any controls.


But that's just me! Usually, I'm on a tight schedule for the edits and I'm planning a release date to fit into a FreePartay promo. So, to tell the truth, I really have no choice. I can’t expect an editor to fix a broken manuscript and I don’t have the time to do more than one good edit myself.

There’s a lesson to be learned in this decision. The fact that I don't let myself get away with weak work has been a huge benefit to me in the long run. Truthfully, I find my writing getting stronger all the time. The words come to me and my brain sifts through them as I write them down. Many times the necessary repairs jump out at me then and there. Not always, but it’s happening so often it lets me trust my work that much more. It makes writing enjoyable and less of a massive job of painful plodding through each revision!!

Try it and see if you don’t find your mind adapting to your demands. It’s a challenge – right?

Now tell me I’m full of … ahhh - you know what - but make it convincing.



  1. You're not full of anything. We all have different methods, and this is what works for you. For me, it's writing crap -- or at least giving myself permission to write crap, which might be a different thing entirely. But the end goal is the same: to send your editor the best piece you can, so that I (ahh, he or she) can give you the best result back.

    It's all about BEST, really. The best draft, the best editor for you, the best book at the end of the process, the best reader experience, the best fans.

    As long as we all keep our eyes on that prize, none of us will be let down.

  2. Oh, Mimi, you're definitely full of it...full of good ideas that is! Since I write rhyme, in addition to writing a good story I need to find the exact rhyming words that convey what I'm trying to get across. That can be a little tricky at times. Let's see, what rhymes with "stinky," "fart," or "slimy!" You get the picture. But, after my last "Grammy's Gang" book of the series, I'm going to attempt a chapter book for young kiddos. I will certainly take your advice on writing clean drafts from the get-go. Thanks for all your helpful tips. Much appreciated.

  3. Hi Susan,
    I'm glad that it works for you - I know many others who spend a lot of time after their first drafts in the revising and layering stages and I have no doubt my books could benefit with a bit more of that type of finessing. Thanks for leaving your comment.

  4. Hi Flo,
    Your books are wonderful and obviously worked over so that they shine. Let me know if forcing yourself to write well on that first go-around works for you. A hint - If I do get stuck, I red the area as a flag that it needs research or revision but even those spots are getting to be much less than a few years back. Guess exercising the brain to work at a certain level is like exercising any other muscle, it repays you.

  5. Great post, Mimi. I would love to re-publish it on Venture Galleries. If I can, just drop me a quick yes or no to Thanks.

  6. You know, Mimi, I guess you could say writing well from the get-go works for me. But, I'm rhyming. In the front of my mind, I'm always thinking about the story I'm trying to convey. So, for me, choosing the "right" word is paramount. I know I only have a small window to play with; I have to tell the whole story in four line increments. After I've finished the first draft, I spend a lot of time studying the rhythm and rhyme. Those two components are the core of my storytelling. I like the "red flag" idea and certainly will use it when I attempt chapter books. Keep sharing your tricks of the trade. So grateful to you for your willingness to share. Much appreciated.

  7. "choosing the "right" word is paramount" ... So you know what I mean then. That doing the best you can on the first go-around just makes it that much easier on you for the next read-throughs. You will do very well on chapter books - you see - not every single word counts quite the same as it does with rhymes - which BTW you do brilliantly :-)

  8. I used to work exactly like that, and in truth, I wish I still did, but I ran across a period when nothing really seemed to work, so I did what I could, I set myself a daily target and forced out all sorts of stuff, ideas, fragments, things out of sequence, anything that I thought would drive the project forward because I know that my writing is better when I stay in practice. In the end I've been surprised at how many of those odd pieces have turned out to be useful, and I think I got through my bad patch faster, because I stayed in practice rather than taking a break as some friends suggested. Also, the project I working on now is a collaboration with my son, and that brings with a whole new set of problems!

  9. Hi Leslie,
    I totally loved that you pushed yourself past the block and did it in such an intelligent way. I can see myself doing something similar if I got stuck and I do believe it would work for me as well.
    On the other hand, collaborating with my son might just be the one thing that would put me in regression
    :-) He's too darn smart for this not-too-old, old lady LOL