The Ugly Duckling

or, “The Shitty First Drafts” Post.

You’ve probably heard of the idea of Shitty First Drafts. If you’re anything like me, dear reader, you’ve probably written one. Or four. Or a lot. I dare say most writers know what it’s like to create these because they’re an inevitable part of the writing process.

The charming name for these first forays comes from Anne Lamott’s book on writing, Bird by Bird. The selection about first drafts is fairly famous among writers of all kinds and is widely read by creative writing students the world over. If you’re interested in reading the short excerpt yourself, here it is hosted as a pdf:

My favorite bit from the piece is the phrase, “writing is not rapturous.” It is work and it is not always going to feel right or food or easy.

A friend of mine is having trouble with her first novel. Her initial passion for the project began to wane at around 30,000 words as difficulties piled up. Her plot became convoluted as she tried to fix character and story problems while she worked; rather than just finish the draft and then go back to change plot issues later, she kept trying to change things as she worked on the incomplete first draft, creating a more tangled mess as she went. Now she feels like she’s drowning in the project and is considering abandoning the manuscript altogether.

Anne Lamott tells us that in order to have a great book, we need to work through that Shitty First Draft. It’s just one step along the way. I wish I could convince my friend to see her manuscript through. I believe in her work even if she doesn’t right now.

So finish those first drafts! The sooner you finish them, the sooner they’ll be out of the way and then you’re one big step closer to the finished project you’ve been dreaming of.