Wednesday, July 1, 2015

IWSG: That First Draft . . .

It’s ugly. It’s raw. But it’s done.

There’s nothing like the feeling of finishing that first draft. Finally, there’s proof that all the hours, days, months of pounding away at the keys has produced a viable (you hope!) product. Your first instinct is to hide its ragged edges as quickly as possible beneath a shiny new revision.


The absolute worst thing a writer can do is toss out that first draft - aside from the fact that someday we might be a Stephen King and every one of those x-ed out pages could be worth their weight in hard cover gold! I used to type directly over my original draft when making edits – FOR SHAME! Not only would I be up that creek with our favorite name if anything happened to that only copy, but what if by the time I finished, I decided that original scene in Chapter Eight was the stronger way to go? And think of all the valuable material you’re tossing when it comes to extra content – deleted scenes, alternate endings, etc. Words are something that should never be thrown away. That clip of dialogue or description may be out of place and destined for delete – but what if there’s a perfect home for it in Book 2? What if you take out of that section thinking its repetitive then find out it’s the only place the future plot twist is set up? Yikes! Save that draft and save your sanity!

Even if that original draft never gets used except to take up space on your hard drive or in the Cloud, someday you might want to look back to see how far you’ve come. It could be that monument to your evolution, the Cro-Magnon edition of your best seller. Of course then someone would steal it and publish it to embarrass your family and publicist, but that’s a high class problem, isn’t it?

I have the original manuscript of my first attempt at a novel (deservedly in a box in the closet, all 600+ pages painstaking typed on a Smith Corolla). I have the notebook with my handwritten copy of the first book I published complete with chocolate stains from the hands of my then two-year-old. They’re in the museum of my personal writing history. I take them out occasionally and smile. Sometimes I use them to horrify the new generation of writers who aren’t sure how to use lined paper or correction tape. But mostly, I just go through the pages and remember how and where they were created and how far they’ve brought me in this career I pursued because I can’t NOT write.

Think before you delete. You might make the Smithsonian weep to think they could have used that in your exhibit!

Now, on to UNLEASHED BY SHADOWS-revision . . .

Purpose: To share and encourage. Writers can express doubts and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak. Those who have been through the fire can offer assistance and guidance. It’s a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds!

Posting: The first Wednesday of every month is officially Insecure Writer’s Support Group day. Post your thoughts on your own blog. Talk about your doubts and the fears you have conquered. Discuss your struggles and triumphs. Offer a word of encouragement for others who are struggling. Visit others in the group and connect with your fellow writer - aim for a dozen new people each time.

Let’s rock the neurotic writing world!

Twitter hashtag is #IWSG 

IWSG awesome co-hosts for the July 1 posting will be Charity Bradford, S.A. Larsen, AJ, Tamara Narayan, Allison Gammons, and Tanya Miranda!


  1. I'd love a peek into your museum of personal writing history! How special to have those first drafts complete with chocolate handprints. They must stir memories each time you venture in. Great advice & awesome post as always, Nancy! I continue to learn from you.

  2. That is good advice. For all the reasons you state AND when revisited, to stave off those sometimes - why am I doing this? days.

  3. I never throw away anything. Just ask my husband who despairs of my ever cleaning out my office. I always start a new file when I revise. If something is cut, I save it in my "leftovers" file. Will I ever use it? Probably not but it's there if I need it. Good luck with that 1st draft.

  4. I love the idea of using those pieces again. What is one man's trash is another man's treasure. I would love to see some of the pieces you have pulled aside. I'm sure they are wonderful!

  5. Your first manuscript probably is worth gold! I do think I've come a long way from my first one, which you read some 25 years ago? Eeeck. And you are still my friend? Wow, talk about long-suffering! Great tips here! You have done so much for your fellow writers over the years. I for one appreciate it! TYVM!

  6. I keep copies of my old writing, some of it digitized, some of it in paper... and am always amazed at the gems I find in them!