I’m currently in the process of publishing my second novel, which I firmly believe to be some of my best work.
Was it completed after my first draft? Of course not.
My second? Nope.
Third? Try again.
Yes, you’ve guessed it. I have written this novel completely over five times.
Which, truly, isn’t a lot compared to some of the numbers I’ve seen. However, I’ve come across people and articles that swear by the fact that they can edit their first draft a couple of times over and be done with it. And for many people, this works. But I’m here to teach you about the art of doing things again.
The First Draft
This doesn’t just apply to novels. Novels and short stories are where I use this technique the most, but that’s not to say that I don’t use it in other places like here on Medium.
The first draft is best written in three ways:
- Without stopping
- Without editing
- Without remorse
This doesn’t mean to write your first draft in one go if you’re working on a lengthier piece. This means that you write your first draft in one piece. You get down every idea you have, every piece of the puzzle you can think of, and you never take a two-month break while you “stop to think of new ideas” mid-page.
The first draft is meant to be a place solely for the big picture. Get down what you want to say, and keep it there. Write what you envisioned, and write what you even think you want on the page.
This one speaks for itself. A first draft should be messy, chaotic, and at times, incomprehensible. If you knock it out of the park with your first swing, great. But nine times out ten that won’t happen.
If you’re like me, the minute you start making even the slightest edits before you’re finished, then the end of your work will never make it to the page. By not editing in your first draft, you save yourself time as well as avoiding unproductive perfectionism altogether.
Writing without remorse ties right into writing without stopping and editing. Whatever you write, you aren’t allowed to judge it. Not while you’re in the process of writing that first draft, at least. Leave the regret for later when you’re changing what you don’t like about it on an entirely different document.
The Second Draft
This is where you really let yourself go wild. Tear it apart. Get rid of useless plot, edit your spelling and grammar to the grave, and make it all comprehensible. This is how you want people to read it.
See where you are once you’ve done that.
Every Draft After
Perfect it. You could do this with editing, sure, but if your plot or article or poem is more in-depth, then writing it another time could work best for you. This is easy to do with a longer piece if you have the last draft pulled up on the other side of the screen, but if you’re unsure of how well you’ll be able to juxtapose your new ideas with the old, then your best bet might be writing it from memory and repeating the editing process from there.
If this seems repetitive, it’s because it is, and I don’t recommend this for every piece of writing you create, but it’s what really makes a piece of complex story-telling shine. It’s more work than you probably bargained for, but it’s worth the effort for the finished product.
In the end, there’s nothing wrong with being proud of a third, seventh, twentieth, or fiftieth draft. It’s all yours.