Breaking “The Rules” – Why I Don’t Draft

EditingI do a lot of web-surfing for writing tips. It’s part of the job … or, well, if you can call what I do a “job,” which is debatable …

One of the most prevalent topics I see (which is discussed forward and backward and every which way) concerns drafts. Here’s what to do after you’ve finished your first draft, and Tips on writing your first draft, and the like.

Now, I fully acknowledge that these tips are helpful … to most people. But as we all know, each writer is not cut from the same mould, and no one writer writes exactly like the other.

Here’s a secret you may not know about me: I don’t draft. Or not in the traditional sense, anyway. For me, the quintessential “first draft” doesn’t exist. My manuscript is in a constant state of flux, and at the end of it all, there is—and always has been—only one.

Let me explain. I am a write-and-edit kind of girl. I draft in portions—a chapter, a section, what have you—and I go back and do a first edit on that section I’ve just drafted. Then I go back to the previous section which has already received a first edit, and I do a second, semi-final edit. Then I draft another portion.

My whole writing style is based on this oscillating, elliptical rhythm, and quite frankly, I couldn’t write any other way.


But … what? you might ask. Isn’t one of the fundamental rules of writing that you shouldn’t edit while you’re in the process of writing your first draft?

Yeah. It is. But if you know anything about me you’ll know that I’ve never been one to follow the rules. I don’t like ‘em. It’s my book and I’ll write it the way I darn well want!

Here’s why I do what I do:

I outline in my head. Never will you find a document on my computer which lists a sequence of events that will bring my story from start to finish. It just doesn’t work for me. When I see this sequence on paper, written down like a final, authoritative “must-do,” it stifles my on-the-fly side of my creativity.

The downside to this, however, is that I forget who I’ve introduced, what they look like, what they’ve said, and what they’ve done. A major problem when you’re trying to create a cohesive story, right?

By drafting, then editing, then second-editing, I solidify the progress of my story in my head. I commit to memory all the little details I’ve introduced when my fingers were pounding the poor keys of my laptop, in a frenzy to translate all the errant thoughts and fragmented images that were whizzing through my mind at the time.

This process also gives me a sense of accomplishment. I can see my story coming together even as it’s being written. It gives me purpose. And drive. And keeps me on track.

As I said, everyone writes differently, and based on the number of blog posts and articles that extol the virtues of the “first draft” and how to write it, it would seem that most writers rely heavily on this established practice.Frustrated

What I want to do in this post, though, is point out that we’re not all the same. My writing style goes against tradition. It flies in the face of what structured writing courses would tell you. And it works just fine for me.

So if you’re scouring the net for writing tips, take them with a grain of salt. If you think it’s something that will work for you, then great. Implement it, by all means. But don’t feel bad if something isn’t going to work for you. Don’t think you have to change how you do things to comply with how “they” tell you to do things.

That’s the brilliance of writing, after all: it shines with each author’s individuality—in every facet and in every step!


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