The first draft is for you, the writer. You put in everything that comes into your head. Throw it in there. You never know where it might lead. Describe everything. Talk boringly about the weather. Have your characters move from point A to point B to point C in excruciating detail. All this helps you see in your mind what’s going on and helps you make sure that things are possible

Draft Business Stamp 1 by Merlin2525 - A slanted solid orange business stamp, with the words,

When working on the second draft, it’s time to think about your reader. She doesn’t want to know every detail, every play-by-play, or read paragraphs about the weather. Or what roads your character took to get from home to his favorite restaurant (a favorite peeve of mine).  Sure, leave in the weather if it pertains to the story–the bad weather is making it hard for your protag to do something she desperately wants to do. Sure, leave in some play-by-play to up the tension in an action scene and to enable the reader to “see” it happening. Leave in a main road in a major city that everyone’s heard of–it helps the reader “be” there with the character.

Yes, it’s a fine line. And some readers like more description than others. If you’re writing a historical romance, you can leave in more than if you’re writing a hardboiled detective story. But you may still have to take out some in that historical romance so the reader isn’t bogged down in the details. And you will want to leave some in that hardboiled story to ground the reader, to help him see what’s going on.

Be sure to save your first draft in several places such as a thumb drive, CD, “off-site,” and/or in the cloud away from where you write. Then save it as a second draft and whittle away. Then if you think you’ve cut something you should have kept, you still have it. Do the same for the next draft, and the next.

Nothing is more exciting or more excruciating sometimes than writing a first draft. But the sense of satisfaction when you type “the end” is always exhilarating, too. Go for it! Now, I’m off to work on my first draft for the second in my series about Tina, the professional organizer. She’s having a time of it, and so am I.


  1. Hi, Jan,

    I recall William Zinsser in On Writing Well observing that the writer must wear more than one hat. So first draft: the creative writer, second draft: the editor. To me this means as you say just get it written in that first draft and don’t stop until you finish. Then put the work away for a while and start a new project. Draft two: return to the original and become the editor. Rewrite the work. We’re not perfect and neither is our writing. It can be improved–and it should be.

    • Hi, Jacqueline. When I first started my blog, I became concerned that I was just rehashing old ideas that most people already knew about. After all, there’s not much new that can be said. But I realized that not everyone has read all the advice, and some, like me, have forgotten half they’ve read. LOL So, when something grabs me, I throw it out there, hoping it will hit someone in a new way and help. From some comments, I find that it has. For me, even better, it’s helping to clarify and reinforce stuff, so I will carry on. You’ve been warned. LOL

  2. I agree, but I often do first drafts a few pages at a time and go back and edit them a bit to get myself into the story the next time I sit down to write. Not when I’m writing myself notes about scenes needed or some misdirection I want to stick in. Those notes will never see daylight. But I don’t feel obliged to let something stay in the first draft that I already know doesn’t belong. I don’t trust my memory enough to save that idea for improving it until I finish the whole story, much less a whole book.

    • Sara, I always read over what I wrote during the last session, and will often tweak it a bit, but I try not to make major changes. I know this doesn’t work for everyone, but I’ve seen too many writers agonize over the first draft when I think it would be better for them to just plow ahead and finish the thing, then edit, as heavily as needed. That said, we all find our own way to do this job, and you certainly have had a lot published, so your method is working for you and may for others, as well. Thanks for commenting.

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