Shitty First Drafts (You Didn’t Hear It Here First)

For the first time ever, outside of school assignments and blog posts, I have a finished first draft of a project.

And as exciting as it is, it’s also kind of strange.

I’ve been writing and studying writing and reading other people’s writing for quite a while and while I never thought I knew it all, I didn’t realize the depth of what I could learn with such a seemingly simple accomplishment.

I had an idea for a picture book, you see. As a librarian and frequent reader of picture books, I know the types I like best. And after a bit of research, I knew how to structure a draft and what word count to hit.

And my draft looked nothing like that.

Before, while trying to write essays or novels or what have you, I always stopped once my project stopped looking how it was supposed to. I could never bear to go forward knowing the mess I was making; it’s just not my way. But, alternatively, I never could tweak my work to make it right… and so I left it alone, imperfect and unfinished.

Every. Single. Time.

But a picture book clocks in at 1000 words tops. How much damage could I really do? So I wrote, even when I knew it was bad and too long and not the bouncy, catchy picture book I wanted. I wrote. And I wrote. And I got down my entire little story, for better or for worse.

And once I saw the whole picture, once I saw the whole big mess of a first draft I had created, I knew exactly how to fix it.


I don’t anticipate a longer work- a nonfiction essay or a novel, for instance- to have such a clear cut fix, to be such a simple mop up to go from absolute crap to actually not that bad. But the fact that it was the finished draft in its entire, shitty glory that spurred the fix…

That gives me all the confidence I need going forward.

For now, anyway.

So here’s to an invaluable lesson learned, shitty first drafts, and to those who write them.

And now to mount an entirely different horse… editing.

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