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Sh!tty first drafts - just how sh!tty can they be?
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Trickytroggle2 · 13/10/2020 12:05

So I've come across the concept of sh!tty first drafts, and it's what I am currently aiming for! I set myself a target of 300 words a day and I've been clocking up the words for the last 2 weeks, which is quite satisfying - I have a little graph and everything.
Smile
But the writing is dreadful. I know that's the point, just to write without self-editing and to get something on paper that can be edited, but I guess there are different ways things can be bad! I feel like mine is basically a detailed outline, all telling and no showing, and I think I tend to underwrite so I don't think it will be a case of cutting lots of darlings, more of rewriting each scene from a more suitable pov/starting point and layering in detail and description. I do think it is helping me think about plot, and how to get between major plot points, and understand why characters might do certain things, which I couldn't do in my head before starting.
I suppose it would just be useful to know what other's first drafts are like. Has anyone who has finished a submission ready/accepted manuscript started off like this and actually been able to wrestle it into something acceptable?! And/or have you been able to improve your 'first drafting' with practice such that towards the end of a manuscript or with subsequent novels less rewriting is needed?

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WeetabixComesAtAPrice · 13/10/2020 12:19

It's hard to give a general rule because everyone works differently.

The advantage of a very rough first draft is that you're less likely to see parts of it as set in stone at a later stage - it's much easier to 'kill the darlings' if you need to. There is less to unpick if you decide to make a major change to plot, structure or characters.

The disadvantage is that it can be demotivating, as you seem to be finding, because you know you have almost a full rewrite ahead of you.

I try to make my first drafts as good as I can, while carrying the knowledge that I can always improve later - I don't go back and rewrite bits I'm not happy with, but I do try to write as if I am writing a final version. I do a lot of my drafting in my head, so by the time I put something down on paper, I have probably tried out five or six versions of it in my mental cinema.

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Trickytroggle2 · 13/10/2020 15:02

Thanks for your quick reply @WeetabixComesAtAPrice

I suppose I'm kind of resigned to potentially a big rewrite as I don't feel I could try and write closer to a final version at the moment. I think I'm just hoping that this method (albeit long winded!) can work!!

Have you always written trying to make your first drafts as good as you can or has your method changed with time? I wonder whether people's brains work in a certain way which defines how you work towards a finished manuscript, or more efficient ways can be learnt.

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WeetabixComesAtAPrice · 13/10/2020 16:36

I'd say my method has evolved rather than changed. When I was in my teens I would just handwrite novels, with no thought of preparing them for publication or even typing them (which would have involved bashing them out on a typewriter in those days). As I got older, and once technology had developed to make it easier, I got more into rewriting my work, whether I intended to submit it for publication or not. Now I have three main draft stages - first draft, second draft (for structural edits, changes to plot or characters) and final draft for style.

Like you, I tend to under-write and I use the second draft to flesh out settings and descriptions. Draft 2 is usually the longest draft because in the final draft I'm ruthless in chopping redundancies and scenes that seem to 'go on a bit'.

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LouisaMayAlcott · 13/10/2020 18:38

My first draft is pretty darn rubbish! But we all write differently. It is a full book though as far as word count goes, but I don't edit as I go along so I have plenty of notes of things to look up and add later (mine are historical so I always have a lot to research). I then have about 4/5 rounds of editing starting with structural (usually twice) then line edits (again twice) and then one copy edit. I don't think it matters how we all get to the end of the process because we all write differently. What works for me won't work for others.

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Trickytroggle2 · 15/10/2020 07:32

That's really interesting how your method has evolved @WeetabixComesAtAPrice. I do seem to remember writing much more finished drafts when I wrote at school age, but have had a massive gap with no fiction writing since then, so I'm hoping it will change a little with practice (but also change of circumstance - writing with a 3 month old means writing in quite small chunks, so I guess I never 'warm up' as much).

That's great to hear that you think your first draft is rubbish Grin @LouisaMayAlcott. Also really interesting to hear about all your draft stages, and see the differences from @WeetabixComesAtAPrice - like you say, different things work for different people, which is quite reassuring!

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lgwriter · 17/10/2020 22:40

My first draft was full of [insert technical speak here] or "she says [something]". And very tell, not show. Very much 'she did this, then she said this, then this happened'. This is the first time I am doing this seriously, and I am finding I actually prefer drafting to editing. Drafting comes with hope that it will be better. Editing comes with despair that it might never be Grin

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FurTeacup · 17/10/2020 23:11

Mine are far too long and digressive, contain unnecessary backstory and include scenes and transitions that really aren’t necessary. Subsequent drafts are about carving out the actual novel out of this big mass of extra stuff. Its not so much that it’s so bad — it often has quite good patches amidst the crap — it’s more that it’s not a novel at all, it’s a kind of primordial swamp.

Plus it’s wasteful, and probably horrifying to my more economical writer friends, but I’ve come to realise that’s just the way I work. And there are a lot of drafts. I think I shed about 70k words between two drafts of my last novel.

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Trickytroggle2 · 19/10/2020 06:11

@lgwriter that sounds very similar to my draft in progress - I am cracking out the square brackets a lot. I'm writing a speculative fiction story and it feels a bit chicken and egg at the moment between world building and getting between major plot points (and developing characters). Good luck with the editing!

@FurTeacup Wow, 70k is a lot of words to shed, but I do like the idea of carving out a novel from a primordial swamp and there being gems in there - it must help keep you going when you think "ooh, actually that bit is quite good'. It's interesting that you still have lots of drafts - good to know that can be the case with overwriting as well as underwriting!

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youkiddingme · 24/10/2020 10:46

I'm about 30k words into a first draft and it's gone done quite quickly. I feel I'm underwriting too but with the plot outline and the draft so far I'm going to end up with a pretty hefty word count as it is. There's a lot of plot complications I need to weave in. Also too much telling and not enough showing going on, but without using some I'll end up making war and peace look brief. Not sure how I'm going to solve this other than to get this draft down and then re-assess. I figure I need the practice anyway even if much of it gets dumped.

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asIlayfrying · 27/10/2020 19:01

I am about 15,000 words into a first draft. I write on paper and then type it up. For this draft I have started giving each scene a sub heading - who is in it, what happens, so when I print it all out I can cut it up and rearrange into different narratives and see how they work with each scene already given it's own title.

I like the idea of a shitty first draft in that you can't edit a blank page, but I think it's always worth paying attention when you write and really focussing on the story/trying to be inside the world and see what comes up. You don't want it to be too shitty!

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