First Drafts That Are as Bad as Skunks Smell

“First drafts are supposed to be messy,” a famous writer once said. Or maybe a conglomerate of famous writers. Or maybe that was just the internet screaming at us.

We’ve all heard this maxim before and have been like “yeah yeah, I get it, but my draft isn’t just messy it’s a dumpster fire and burning the house down.”

Since it’s NANoWriMo, the Month of Messy First Drafts, I thought we would chat about them *pulls up chair by fire and pours you a cup of tea*

I know I’ve written this before that I don’t think that fast writing=bad writing. I know you may be wondering what the heck that has to do with messy first drafts, but bear with me for a second. So as I said before and I’ll say again, writing fast does not equal bad writing. Some people are just naturally fast writers, sometimes we get really in the zone and the words are flying, AND, the more we write, the better our prose gets even when we’re writing stupid fast.

(now put that in your back pocket)

I’ve heard other writers talk about eliminating messy first drafts with *drumroll* outlining. (I’m not disparaging outlining, I actually did some for this year’s NaNoWriMo, and I think a lot of people outline for more reasons than getting rid of the messy first draft. It keeps our brain organized, and can help us write faster (haha, there it is) when we’re not worrying about where the story is going)

But then my question is: why do we want to get rid of the messy first draft in the first place? (personally I think there is something gloriously fun and #aesthetic about messy first drafts)

Less time editing I feel like is the usual response. The cleaner our first draft is, the less hours and days and weeks and months and centuries we will spend editing the darn thing. BUT, to have a clean first draft, that means we have to spend even more time prepping/outlining.

So really what this comes down to is how fast can we make the process of writing a book? And to do that we have to take in:

  • Time spent prepping/outlining
  • Time spent drafting
  • Time spent editing

So really the whole idea on getting rid of a messy first draft hinges on how long it takes you to draft in the first place (if you’re really fast, who cares if it takes you a long time editing? If you’re really slow when drafting….then having a clean draft will help because then you won’t spend even MORE time editing, BUT) you have to also take in how long it will take you to prep.

So what this all really boils down to is: should books be writtten fast?

Yes…and no.

Depends if you have a deadline. Depends on how many books you are planning on writing n general. Depends, depends, depends. And it not only depends on all of that, but the book itself. Some books can be written quickly, some books may take years.

Ok. This felt a little rambly (as a lot of my blogs have been lately) but that’s just where my brain is at. Actually, I’m not sure where my brain is at. If you have seen it, please inform me. It seems to have packed its bags and headed to the beach.

NaNoWriMo Update

Well, I am currently 14k something words into Red Heart, Ice Mountain (and coming to realize how really un-detailed my outline is. I was so proud of how many names I had worked out and already have had to come up with three). AND.


Nov 1st, I wrote up in my room till 2am , knocking out almost 4k words. But of course because of the time-change-thingy-fall-back, the clock reverted back to 1am (yay! Extra hour!). I went downstairs for a change of scenery, had a cup of coffee, and kept plowing till about 5:30 when I finally hit my goal of 10k.

*takes deep breath*

I ended up writing till about 7 am though because I really wanted McDonald’s but they didn’t open till 7. And then at around 7:30 ish (though for my body it was like 8:30ish because again, weird-time-thing) I went to bed. And slept till 1 pm. (I have to say, a sausage McMuffin never tasted so good as it did then.)

I’m obviously super excited to have a head start on NaNo, and excited that I actually strayed up the whole time. But also like….there’s a certain weird feeling you get when writing at 3am, you know what I mean??

Your mind is sharp and everything but….your writing just sort of starts to feel surreal. I think it’s because NOTHING is going on in the world at that moment, JUST your story. That’s…that’s the only real thing happening.

(Except the skunk outside. He’s happening. He was cute.)

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