From Pathetic to Professional: 8 Ways to Beat the First Draft Blues

This post by Ruth Harris originally appeared on Anne R. Allen’s blog on 2/23/14.

You’re happy, even delirious. You’ve finished your first draft!

Then you read it.

OMG, you think, did I write that?

Yes, you did. 🙂

It stinks. It sucks. It’s so rancid it threatens to warp the time-space continuum.

Think you’re alone? Here’s Hugh Howey in a blog post: “I suck at writing. Watching a rough draft emerge from my fingertips in realtime would induce nausea.”

So remember, it’s not just you.

The first draft is just that—–a first step.

As a long-time editor and author, I’ve found 8 strategies that can help you shape, refine and improve your draft. (Actually it’s called editing and, yes, you can do quite a bit of it yourself.)

1. Embrace the power of the delete button.

Elmore Leonard advised taking out all the unnecessary words. Cutting almost always makes a book better, more readable, more exciting.

Specifically, that means delete all the spongy, weasely, namby-pamby words—the ones that aren’t crisp and precise, the ones that drag out a scene or a description without adding anything except length.

Get rid of the windy digressions, the pointless descriptions, the info dumps, the meandering philosophical musings.

Duplicate your document before you begin in case you get too enthusiastic but, with a safe back-up on hand, go ahead and hack away. Take out everything that doesn’t advance your story or define your characters. See if the resulting clarity doesn’t vastly improve the pace of your book.

Don’t just kill your darlings. Kill everything that doesn’t move the story forward. Save your gems in a “future” file and use them in another book where they pull their weight.

2. Sharpen dialogue.


Click here to read the full post on Anne R. Allen’s blog.