The Downsides of a First Draft

It’s practically ubiquitous writing advice to write a first draft, then wait, then go back and revise it to perfection. And it’s advice I’ve given here, and believe in, that you need to write a crappy first draft just to get the words out.

And then trust in revision to fix everything.

But there is a problem with that—you have to trust in revision. And if you’ve never done extensive revision before, you may not be prepared or aware of how much work is ahead. As someone who is staring down the barrel of extensive revision starting now, I can’t help but feel intimidated.

Because I put so much pressure on revision in order to take the pressure off of drafting, I now have to deal with all that pressure. Out of the frying pan and into the fire, as it were.

The first challenge is that there was an immense emotional catharsis as I finished the first draft—amplified infinitely by the fact that it was my first finished draft ever. So my mind kind of drew this beautiful veil over the whole thing—“You did it!!” Except, technically, I haven’t really done anything yet. At least nothing that I can do anything with, so I’m not done. But I feel done…

The second challenge, related to the first, is that because of the sense of completion, I hesitate to change anything. It’s not that I think my first draft is great or untouchable—I’m very willing to do what needs to be done to make it the best it can be. In theory. But when I contemplate actually going in and doing extensive rewriting, I just get tired. Part laziness, sure, but also the fatigue of having to undo that wonderful sense of being done.

The final challenge is that revision is a skillset I haven’t practiced yet. I mean, neither is finishing a draft, which I managed somehow—but after touting how you could revise everything later, now that I have to actually do it, I don’t really know what to do. I’m reading how-to books, but ultimately I just have to learn by doing. But it’s very intimidating.

So that’s what I’m going to be working through for… I don’t know how long. I’ll keep you updated with how it goes.

This could be when my book really comes to life. Or when it falls apart… 🙂

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About J. Sevick

Just write.
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4 Responses to The Downsides of a First Draft

  1. I hope it goes smoothly for you!

    I find now that I’ve finished a few books, I don’t worry so much about the first draft. I really do just use it as a skeleton.

    Just keep thinking of how awesome it will be when your manuscript is all polished up 😀

  2. Caroline S. says:

    It’s a phase I am not looking forward to either! I have edited academic papers, but none of them have been longer than 50 pages. And entire book, crazy! I doubt it will fall apart though, only good things come of revision, at least in my experience.

    • J. Sevick says:

      Yeah, the most I’ve edited are short stories and papers–and while I did enjoy shaping it to be the best it could be, it was short and fast. So this is… daunting. 🙂

      Thanks for commenting!

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