top of page

Pay Homage to Your First Draft

I was beta reading for someone, and I asked them, “Is this your first draft? If not, what draft number are you on?” And his reply, “I don’t keep my first drafts. This is probably around the 3rd or so.”

WHAT! You don’t keep your first draft? WHY?

...............Well, why would you?

*Sigh* Let me start at the beginning, and the beginning is how a first draft is written.

GET AN IDEA: First, you get an idea to write a story. For me, I got mine December 2000 (I was 15). I was in the backyard. It had snowed a lot, so it was very deep. Kind of bored, I mindlessly began kicking at the snow. At the other end of the backyard was a pile of broken-up cement slabs I wanted to get to, so I decided I was kicking at the snow to create a path to the cement pile. As I continued kicking, I started to imagine that I was a dragon (Of course this is a totally logical thing for one to imagine while kicking snow) and I could not fly for some reason, which is why my dragon-self was kicking snow… to get to the village by the cement pile. I wanted to get to the village because they had pissed me off super bad, and I was going to start them on fire. Well, unbeknownst to my dragon-self, there were 3 guys perched on a cliff high above me, watching me. They were from the village I was going to destroy, and so they left the cliff and raced back to the village to warn them of my coming.

“Wow!” I thought to myself. “That would make a great story!” So I race inside the house (but only after I made it to the cement pile and destroyed the village THE END) and acquired a notebook and pen and began to write.

CHOOSE A WRITING MEDIUM: I picked writing with a notebook and pen because that is all I had. We had one computer in the house and my mom used it for various works she had to do, and with 5 other siblings on it when she wasn’t… well, if I wanted to write, I had to do it some other way. But I lucked out, because there are great benefits to writing by hand and they are:
  • An editor at the literary conference I went to said that writing the first draft by hand is the single BEST way to edit your book, because when you type it onto the computer, you are re-typing every word and you will find things to fix that you otherwise would not have found in just reading it over.

  • You can take a notebook and pen to more places than you can a laptop. With notebook and pen, you can write on the plane, you can write at work, you can write during court (maybe I’m the only who wrote during court), and you can write in the car.

  • You can always prove the book is yours. If there is ever a dispute over copyright issues, you can pull up your 1st draft by hand and shove it in their face, because who in their right mind would copy word for your novel by hand? Even if they did, there is a remarkable difference (or should be) between 1st draft and published version, so if they copied down by hand word for word the published version, then something is definitely fishy.

  • But if you can’t write your first draft by hand because it’s year 2065 and paper no longer exists, then I HIGHLY recommend typing your first draft twice. Type it up, print it off, re-type. You’ll get a similar result (I say similar because writing on 2 different mediums works different areas of the brain.)

START WRITING, AND BE FEARLESS: Your first draft is just an outline. Did you already write out an outline? WRONG! It was just a sketch. Your outline is a sketch, your first draft is the outline, and draft 2 and beyond only start to have echoes of a book. The purpose of the 1st draft is just to GET THE STORY DOWN so don’t stress. And don’t worry about your writing being crappy. It’s your first draft (and for me, my first book as well) so give yourself a break. It’s SUPPOSED to be crappy. If it’s not then you are doing it wrong. No one is going to see your first draft unless you let them, so don’t let them. Need further convincing to write fearlessly? Here is the very first page to my very first draft to my very first book I ever wrote, errors, embarrassment, and all (hold on… I’ve got to shove all the loose papers back inside the notebook… okay, got it):

Swish! Flap! Soar! Dive! (Have you figured out yet how old I was when I wrote this?) Pelting through the sky, Kishmaliky, a young, female dragon, soared. Wind rushed down her back and around each scale like smooth, cold water. Kishmalikey loved herself. From the tip of her tail to the point of her teeth. She loved the way her wings were just the right size for her body. Well, actually her wings were just a little to big for her body. But she liked that because she had seen to many dragons with wings no bigger than their feet, which of coarse, are too small to lift their bodies off the ground. So she praised her overlarge wings. But one thing she prized most of all, was her heart. (And this continues on for 98 more pages where I make a reference to “gunfire”, “wambulance” and “Medic 40” and somehow thought this was all fitting for my fantasy story.)

So now that you have your first draft written, why should you keep it forever? So you can look back at it and see how far you’ve come, so you can see how much you’ve improved from when you started writing at 15 years old. Today I am contracted with a publisher with 4 books.

Something tells me I did right by my 1st draft.

So if you are ever invited to a literary conference to teach on the subject of writing a first draft, you can show the enraptured crowed your notebook while the pages fall out of it and scatter across the floor. And then the people start stealing them because your first draft is now worth billions of dollars and… If for no other reason, just keep your first draft to pay homage to it and you.

bottom of page