Messy First Drafts

Messy First Drafts @

I’m not a fan of first drafts. My tendency towards perfectionism is the likely culprit of my angst over the whole first draft process. It’s one part of writing that I don’t always enjoy.  But then the above quote showed up in my Twitter feed last week and the proverbial light bulb went off in my head.

First drafts should be messy.

This is something I already know, but when I’m trying to get the story from my head to the page, anxiety takes over and logic goes straight down the toilet.

During my Camp NaNoWriMo experience last month, I spent much of that time on one scene. One frickin’ scene. Instead of just letting go and writing whatever ideas came to mind, I got into the bad habit of rereading every sentence that I’d written the prior day, critiquing my work, and rewriting a lot of what I’d written.

A book can have 60, 70, even hundreds of scenes. At the rate I’m going–averaging one scene a month–my first draft should be finished in…oh, I don’t know…five, ten years, maybe?

Not the most productive way to write, especially if I want to do this for a living.

That’s where writerly quotes like the one above come in handy. These little gems of wisdom always seem to show up right when I need them the most, allowing me to put things into perspective.

The first draft is a tool to figure out what your story is about. A large chunk of what goes into the first draft will never make it into the final draft. Another quote I’d come across not too long ago was this one:

The first draft is as bad as the book is ever going to be.

I don’t think there was ever a truer statement. My first drafts are gawd awful. Lots of rambling dialogue mixed with paragraphs of poorly written backstory about the character, not to mention bad grammar and gaping plot holes. Unless you’re some kind of writing phenom, your first draft should be messy and awkward and riddled with holes.

In the end, that confused pile of words is the result of you trying to figure out what you have to say. The important thing to remember is to get the ideas down on paper and not worry about how it sounds or what it looks like. You can always figure out later in the editing phase how to say it right.

Pinterest is teeming with quotes, so I creative a new board for inspiration when writing the first draft. When I find myself falling back into old habits, I can just refer to this new board and remind myself that it’s okay to write messy first drafts.

Camp NaNoWriMo: Final Results

Camp NaNoWriMo Final Results #amwriting

Camp NaNoWriMo ended yesterday and my final tally was 28.25 hours, and even though I didn’t reach my goal of 50 hours, I got a lot of work done.

At the beginning of the month, I created a spread sheet to keep track of my progress. I found that out of the 31 days of Camp, I had only worked on my project 20 of those days. I was surprised. I didn’t work on my novel for 11 days!!! Think of the progress I could have made.

Oh well. I’m not going to beat myself up over it. Some days I had no time to devote to writing and other days I was just lazy. What can I say…I’m human.

Overall it was a good experience. I’m back in the habit of writing on a regular basis and the story is always fresh in my mind.

The final result of Camp NaNoWriMo is that it’s left me even more determined to keep going until I write “The End” and finally finish my first novel.

Camp NaNoWriMo: Day 22

Camp NaNoWriMo

It’s day 22 in the writing process and I feel like I haven’t gotten a whole lot done.  I’ve put in just under 17 hours so far. In order to reach my goal, I will have to put in 33 hours of work towards my novel over the next nine days.

That is not going to happen.

I’m okay with that, though. I’ve been working steadily on this project, some days longer than others, and I’ve accomplished one important thing: A drive to get the story down on paper.  It’s fresh in my mind ALL the time. Ideas are percolating in my brain and I look forward to every minute that I can devote to writing this story.

Another interesting development is that the original story that I planned is changing. What was going to be a true romance novel, one where the focus is entirely on the hero and heroine’s developing relationship, is no longer the case. I’m more interested in the “heroine’s” story. There will be romance, but that romance is no longer the sole focus of her story, just another part of her journey.

I’m not one of those people who can sit down and just bang out a story. The process is a slow-moving one for me that usually involves plotting for a bit, writing some scenes then realizing that’s not the direction I want to go, then starting all over again. It’s a frustrating way to write, but I’m confident that it will all work itself out in the end.

Camp NaNoWriMo: Day 11


It’s day eleven and progress is slow going still.  By day seven, I knew I wasn’t going to reach my word count goal.  That’s when I realized something important–word count goals just don’t work for me.  Instead of following the advice of the eight gazillion books and blog posts on writing that I’ve read over the years, I’ve decided to try things my way.  I’m going to shoot for hours spent writing rather than number of words written.  My new goal is 50 hours of writing.  As of this writing, I’ve accomplished just under eight hours, so I’m still behind.  Over the weekend I hope to play a little catch up by putting in as many hours as possible. Wish me luck.