Monday, September 05, 2016

The First Draft - Guest Post by S.D. Grimm

S. D. Grimm’s first love in writing is young adult speculative fiction—everything from urban fantasy to superheroes. Her office is anywhere she can curl up with her laptop and at least one large-sized dog. You can learn more about her and her upcoming books at and @SDGrimmAuthor

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Recently, some writers friends and I were discussing the pains of writing first drafts. I think if we’re honest, most of us, in that first draft stage, hit a moment when we believe the story we loved yesterday is now awful.

I tend to think this happens because we start writing with a tank full of excitement. We’re excited about this new plot, these new characters, and all the shiny ideas. And then we forget to refill our tanks when we need to. That’s when our baby swan of a story becomes a duckling. And it’s ugly.

But it’s really not.

First drafts are raw, and real, and so very malleable, and to me, that’s a lot of inner beauty—beauty that I would argue is essential to making the final draft shine.

Three things that can shine like polished diamonds in your first draft are passion, emotion, and creativity. The key is to let them all run wild in the first draft so you can keep fueling your initial excitement.

Your passion is alive in this draft because your heart is pumping the words out. Not your analytical inner editor. Because the reason you chose this plot point, these character flaws, this theme is embedded in passion. Don’t hold it back. Reining things in is for later drafts. This draft is for breathing life into the story. If your passion is embedded from the beginning, deep and real, your readers will sense it.

And the thing about real passion? It’s contagious.

Your emotions are safe in this draft, but you have to let them in. You have to be brave. Let yourself write about your fears. They’re safe here. Open your heart and pour it on the page. As exposed as you like. No one will read it; it’s the first draft.

When it comes time to edit, that raw emotion will be there. Sure, you can choose to take it out, but why? That raw emotion will move your inner editor from its typical emotionless kill-your-darlings preset. And you’ll keep it in. And your readers will thank you.

Your creativity is unbridled in this draft. You can go wherever you want. Explore a little. See what works. Don’t hold back on your ideas. If you’re like me, you think of a good idea and want to save it for a different book. Don’t. Use it now. New books get the new ideas. Be untamed. Let the story run free. This draft doesn’t have to be perfect. (Isn’t that freeing?)

Right now the story is new and innocent. After the first draft is complete, the inner editor can take it and refine. Let it take the malleable draft and work its magic. But write draft one with your heart so you can bask in the beauty that it’s meant to have. Let that beauty reignite your initial excitement. And write on.

Ronie Kendig is an award-winning, bestselling author who grew up an Army brat. After twenty-five years of marriage, she and her hunky hero husband have a full life with their children, a Maltese Menace, and a retired military working dog in Northern Virginia. She can be found at:
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Reviewers call Ronie's newest release, EMBERS, "Simply amazing!" 


Ron Estrada said...

Good post, Sarah. And awesomely cool cover! Yes, first drafts are not the place to carefully plan every sentence. I think of it like sculpting. You need a big lump of rock, ugly and shapeless, to start with. Then you chip away everything that is not the story. Writers have to make our own lumps of rock. But if we don't let our imaginations run wild on the blank page, we won't have much of a rock to work with when we're through.

P.S. Michigan writers rock!

Normandie Fischer said...

Ron, I'm going to take your comparison one step further. I was a sculptor, but I worked in clay, which could be fired or cast into another medium. Modelers see out of nothing; carvers see within something. We modelers begin with nothing but our imagination, adding and molding the clay until we have the semblance of something--for me, it was either a body or a portrait. And then we refine and polish and perfect--exactly as we writers do with our various drafts.

So, Sarah, we'll take those lumpy efforts and make them shine! And I agree with Ron. Lovely cover.

Pat Nichols said...

Your comments mean so much to me. As a new writer I have found myself focusing too much on editing during the first draft. I am breaking that habit.

S. D. Grimm said...

Exactly, Ron. Excellent points. We have to start somewhere. Trying to sculpt the whole thing in one step would leave us overwhelmed, I think. :)

Team Michigan. ;)

S. D. Grimm said...

Thank you so much, Normandie. And I love the comparison.

S. D. Grimm said...

Pat, some people can successfully balance writing and editing in a first draft. I find that they use different areas of my brain and this approach works for me. I'm glad it was helpful to you as well!