Dawn Colclasure's Blog

Author and poet Dawn Colclasure

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Bad first drafts

I'm a firm believer that sometimes, you HAVE to write junk. Specifically, bad first drafts. There are so many times that I've written first drafts of something that just stunk to high heaven, but I wrote them, anyway, because I knew I had to "get it out" and onto paper (or the screen!). Sometimes, things just get so jumbled together when we write the first drafts and writing those first drafts allows us to at least set the "foundation" of what we really want to write. It allows us to wade through the mess and get it all organized.

There was an essay I'd written for my essay collection. First I wrote up the outline and made notes on who to solicit quotes from. Since I couldn't get the quotes, I reslanted the piece and wrote it pretty much true to the outline. Still, I wasn't happy with the first draft. It was just....God-awful. It rambled. It made NO SENSE. It had insufficient material and just bad, bad writing. I was NOT HAPPY with it!

I put the essay away for a while and worked on other things. Meanwhile, I resigned that junk first draft to the "workshop in my mind," mentally tinkering with it every so often and figuring out how I'd fix it when I had the opportunity to fix it.

Yesterday was that opportunity. I had the time to type it up. So I typed it and, with the outline still in place in my head, I practically ignored the first draft and wrote up a brand new and much improved second draft. The second draft is WAY better and WAY more improved than the first, and even though I'm happy with it, I'm still going to ask some beta readers to give it a look and also edit it, if I feel it needs any tweaking.

After that, I felt really accomplished and satisfied with the work. Finally, I was HAPPY with the essay! I'm just glad I didn't look at the lousy first draft and decide fixing it was a lost cause. Because, really, improving a piece is what the purpose of even having a first draft is for.



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