Lesson 2: The First Draft Sucks!

Writer's Block 1

Five years ago, while I was in Japan, I finished the first draft of Memory Lane.  After finishing I agonized with myself to put it to the side for two weeks before I look into it.  The attempt was a failure because I literally drove myself close to the brink of insanity fighting the urge.

Caving, I did a flurry of editing and proudly proclaimed that to the be the second draft.  I didn’t realize it then, that was a lie.  After that flurry of editing, then I was finished with the first draft.  I actually managed to let it rest for three weeks before I caved to prepare myself for the read through.  The memory of the day is still intense.

I had chased the husband and kids away.  Gathering my materials, manuscript, pencil, highlighter, soda, and chips, I sat down at the table expecting to read gold.  It was perfect, I knew it was.  I had poured so much into the story, there was no other way for it to be.


By the time my family came home, a black cloud of depression had taken root above my head.  When my husband came around the corner and asked what was wrong I wailed.  “I SUCK!”

Later I learned; no, I didn’t suck, the first draft did.

To quote a book that I’m reading right now: “It can be downright terrifying to sit there, reading your own writing – the words and idea that, just twenty-four or forty-eight hours ago, seemed so brilliant that you were already selecting your outfit for the Pulitzer Prize ceremony.  And now … here it is … on the page.  You scroll or read through the first few lines, then the first few pages, and … there’s this little voice in your head.  Yeah, that voice.  The voice that starts to whisper, “Yuck! This stinks.”  And then that louder voice and words: “You stink.”  And now, for the grand finale in the let’s-bash-the-writer overture: “Who the heck told you that you could be a writer?”” – Aine Greaney, Writer with a Day Job

Sound familiar?  I know it does for me, still to this day.  I will say the voice has less power than it did five years ago, but sometimes it still takes root until I shake it off.  (Actually, until my husband does a verbal Gibbs’ smack across my head to tell me to stop being an idiot).

Later in the chapter, she talks about having to edit, saying that “except for that rare writer whose first draft is also his final draft (he has been drafting in his mind), you must go back in there and make changes, rewrite, edit, or rearrange your first draft.”

Sooo true!!!  I tell you folks, if you get the chance, get her book.  I have found it to be helpful, not only because of the writing tips or the tips on how to squeeze writing time out of your day, but also because she gets it.  She doesn’t sugar coat the process, she doesn’t tell you that it’s easy, that you can do it in only 90 days or whatever kit someone picked up.

My point is that this lesson, the first draft sucks, is one that I continue to struggle with today.  I’ll always struggle with it because of the first lesson.  One of the ways writers keep pushing through in my opinion comes down to two things.  First, having faith in one-self, which is easier said than done sometimes.  Second, lesson number 1, our lies to ourselves which, sometimes, even follows along the lines of “this first draft will be perfect!”


4 thoughts on “Lesson 2: The First Draft Sucks!

  1. I’m a completely new writer but it has amazed me how you can write ‘perfection’ on day one and then a mere few hours later, realise you’ve written ‘dross’. All part of the process and for me the learning curve I suppose. Will definitely look into that book you mention. Thank you for a great post.

    • Thank you for reading! I have to agree with you, I’m also still amazed at how that can happen. I keep tabs on the facebook accounts of some of my favorite writers who have been in the business for years and find that it doesn’t stop no matter how long you’ve been writing. It just happens less and less as time goes on…

      At least that is what I tell myself. LOL.

      Let me know what you think of the book when you read it. I don’t recommend a lot of books about writing, but ever since picking this one up I’ve managed to write more often than I have in the past. It’s been fantastic.

      Again, thanks for reading!!!

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