What The First Draft Really Is

One of the things I hear from other writers, that holds them back, is just how much they beat themselves up as they struggle to write their first draft. I’ve had huge battles with this, too! I cannot tell you how many times I rewrote *just* the first chapter of a manuscript about 8 years ago. It was my first attempt at writing a novel since I was 12. I’d get so frustrated with it because nothing I wrote felt good enough. That first chapter didn’t sound *anything* like the books I read—at least not to me. And shouldn’t it?? If I were a *real* writer, my brain would be spitting out perfection immediately!

When I complained to my husband about feeling stuck, he said to me, “Hey, I have an idea! How about you write *another* chapter?”

And eventually, I did. And then I wrote another. And another. And FINALLY—especially after meeting Brandon Mull, the author of the Fablehaven series, who said, “Never judge your book by your first draft”—I realized what the first draft is actually for: it is digging the foundation for the rest of your work.

When you build a house, you don’t just snap your fingers and see it magically appear in all its perfection. They actually spray paint an outline on the ground, put in stakes, dig a hole, put down footings and pour concrete, put up the framework, sheet rock, etc. The siding, rock, carpet, paint, furniture and decor does NOT happen until WAY later. It’s a huge process! And so is writing a story. Your first draft may not perfectly resemble what you had in mind when you’re finished, but as you comb through it and edit it, draft after draft, you will see your story morph into everything you wanted it to be. The trick is to not give up!

That’s right. Don’t you give up, my friend!! Your story will *never* become what it was meant to be if you give up. The only way it will come to life is if you keep going, keep working on it until it is done. That’s how your dream will become a reality!

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