How Bad is Your First Draft?

Tile Design 2My continuing process of what to keep and what to let go, what to work on and what to toss, has brought me full circle back to writing.  I’ve heard it said that if you are a writer you live to write, it’s in your blood.   I think you are a writer if you finish.

I’ve now organized my novel attempts into color coded binders: green, blue, purple and orange.  Four serious attempts with lots of notes, research, picture reference, and at least 40 pages typed each.  My NaNoWriMo is the closest to a completed manuscript, although a very rough manuscript.

FYI:  NaNoWriMo stands for National Novel Write Month.  There’s a month worth of writing Posts from October of 2012 if you’re  interested in reading more about the challenge I made for myself.  NaNoWri Made Goal.

My passion to be an artist far outweighed my passion for writing until around the year 2000 when writing entered my art process and became more narrative.  Since then I’ve had a passion to improve my writing: taking classes, reading books, working harder, studying grammar, and making tool charts.  And writing, don’t forget writing.
Rule:  Exercise your writing muscle by writing everyday.

As a student in several novel-writing classes, I wrote, shared, and critiqued.  All the students read and critiqued each other’s writing.  Some comments were encouraging, and other comments could stab you in the heart, if you let them.  Definitely not for the faint of heart.

Several critiques did shake my confidence, but I am so-very-happy-now that I saved their comments because now I can read the “lists” and maybe learn from what other writers said about my writing.  The submission, titled Greek Honey; the genre was Romantic Suspense, and my reference author was Mary Stewart.  From ten years ago, here’s the longest list.  Thank you Glenn!  I now have an attitude of gratitude.

Story Critique


I think the list is readable so I won’t retype it.  Now, I am getting to the meat of this blog post.  Rule:  ABSOLUTELY DON’T SHARE YOUR FIRST DRAFT.

Writer ReferenceGrammar errors, way too many, could have been corrected.  Speech tags could have been easily added.  Sentences could have been rearranged, dialogue made smoother.
Rule: Get a good reference book and use it.

Back then I did not know this rule.
Rule:Internal thoughts are always First Person, Present Tense

And, Rule:  Know the audience you are writing for.

Here’s a few comments I’ve heard about first drafts:
“All first drafts are crap.”
“First drafts, just barf them out.”
“All good writing is in the re-writing.”

I’ll repeat that last one:  “All good writing is in the re-writing.”

I’ve also heard that agents don’t want to see your manuscript until it is 90% complete.
Or, “only send out your best writing.”

Rule:  Only send out your best writing.

Best wishes to all writers. LR



About Wings of Wonder

Linda Ruddy is a creative with a diverse range of interests in writing and painting. She currently is revising a middle grade novel, and author and illustrating a picture story book. She is an active member of SCBWI, Society of Children Book Writers and Illustrators. Linda has a body of paintings, which form the foundation of her artistic development. This work can be viewed on her website: Her recent illustrations are an outgrowth of the style she developed in these paintings. Another passion is sculpture. Linda often uses her figures as models for her art. Linda's blog is eclectic and journeys wherever her muse guides her attention. Her blog address is: Following the muse, Linda Ruddy
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12 Responses to How Bad is Your First Draft?

  1. marilynscottwaters says:

    Writing is easy, rewriting is hard. Finding someone to give you a good crit on your story is even harder. Grammer fixes are easy, the more complicated things are structure and pacing in my opinion. Are the characters engaging? Does the story draw you in and along? You are a good writer, Linda, and your words have color and depth. I’d love to read one of your stories. Hugs, Marilyn.

  2. marilynscottwaters says:

    PS, “Don’t be distracted by criticism. Remember the only taste of success some people have is when they take a bite out of you.” ~ Zig Zigler

  3. robin says:

    Linda, thank you for sharing Glenn’s critique, the reference book, and your knowledge and wisdom. So helpful. Truly you walk the talk. I look forward to reading your novels in progress.

  4. megtraveling says:

    Great advice and I appreciate your insights!

  5. I usually go through four drafts of anything before I release it into the wild. 🙂

  6. JSD says:

    It must have been hard to read the critique comments…thanks for sharing them with us. Thanks also for the four Rules. 🙂

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