Fast and Furious: On Writing the Lousy First Draft

I see a lot of struggling writers. I mean that literally. Living in the Los Angeles area means I cannot walk into a coffee shop without tripping over a half-dozen or so aspiring writers pounding away at their keyboards or, more often, staring into space with a slightly pained expression on their face. Many of them are writing screenplays, but a good number are working on novels or short stories or some sort of nonfiction project. They all, however, share that general aura of one who suffers.

No one said writing was easy. This is not an industry that promises overnight success and a hefty bank balance. However, it’s also not digging ditches or lugging heavy platters of food out to grumpy diners or scraping gum off the bottom of chairs at the local elementary school. It is not strenuous manual labor, nor does anyone’s life depend upon it. On the overall career spectrum, this definitely lands closer to the fun end of things.

Writing allows you to mine your creativity, delve deep into your imagination, research intriguing and sometimes bizarre subjects, talk to interesting people, and visit new places, if only in your head. So while you certainly want to take your writing seriously, assuming you’re either aiming for publication or already have a deadline looming, you also want to enjoy yourself.

Take the pressure off that first draft and just write. Get it down however it flows from your mind. Write quickly. Let your fingers fly over the keyboard or scribble with your favorite pen. No one’s first draft is gold; no one’s first effort comes out perfectly worded. Allow yourself to suck. You’ll be in excellent company. And remember that a first draft is just that — a draft. It’s a mind dump. A way for you to figure out what you might be talking about, who your characters are, what the deal is. There’s plenty of time to revise later, to move things around and add and delete, to ramp up the tension, to make the prose sing. Later. Second draft, third, fourth. Don’t worry about those yet.

First draft. Fast and furious. Just write. And smile while you’re doing it. The other writers will wonder what you’ve figured out…

10 thoughts on “Fast and Furious: On Writing the Lousy First Draft

    1. Thank you! And no, that line was not in the first draft of this post. It got added during revision. 😉

  1. This is great advice! I try to keep my momentum going on my first draft which will usually let me finish them quickly but then my editing stage takes awhile because I don’t find it as fun as the raw creative output that the rough draft has. Do you have a favorite or least favorite part of your creative process?

    1. Most of my creative output these days is pretty short form, and I sometimes find myself having to write something off the cuff. Probably my least favorite thing is needing to write without having had sufficient time for the idea to “cook” ahead.

      1. Ohhh I know exactly what you mean. I find that if I have been thinking about something to write about for long enough that it will just flow. I hate when I want to write and I can only stare at my keyboard.

  2. Thanks for the reminder that writing really is supposed to be joyful! Sometimes that is lost once you begin to query and have to think about the business side. Sort of like waiting for Jaws to attack. You see the fin, you swim the pace of a turtle, just devour me already, Mr. Shark. Yeah that can be the business side of writing. Love your name by the way. Actually looked up its meaning. Cool.

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