The Real Problem With Your Crappy First Draft

The problem isn't the problem...

Inspiration strikes. You have a brilliant idea for a book. You sit down and start to write. The words, sentences, and chapters flow in perfect order. Everything falls into place with ease and grace. Weeks pass, maybe months, until finally in a moment of glorious triumph you type the words “the end.” Ta-da! There it is. A perfectly plotted, crafted, and polished novel.

Yeah. Right.

In reality, the process looks little like that. It’s more like this:

Writing a novel is like wrestling an octopus into a mayonnaise jar. – Patti Hill

It’s a struggle to get that first draft finished. Granted, I’m a panster not a plotter. Maybe it’s easier with an outline. But whatever your approach, it’s not an easy task.

I’m nearly finished with my first draft of my second book, Raven In Gray. I’ve spent the last six months mustering the courage to face the page, vacillating wildly between “this is amazing,” and “this is the worst thing I’ve ever created,” and most of all, wondering how I will ever turn this pile of poop into something I can publish.

But I’m getting it done. In fact, I have never written a first draft of anything so quickly. (My first book took 7 years to write.) I honestly surprised myself with my level of productivity and my ability to stick to my goals.

How did I do it? Well, I discovered a little secret. It’s this: My first draft is crap. And so is yours.

Actually, that’s only the first part of the secret. The second part is this: the real problem with your crappy first draft isn’t your crappy first draft, it’s the way you feel about your crappy first draft.

The problem isn't the problem

My entire writing life I have paralyzed myself by judging my early drafts as not good enough. When I finally accepted that it wasn’t supposed to be good (yet,) it was like flipping a switch – from paralyzed to free.

We sit there in front of our computers, doing really hard work – shoveling words onto the page, and we don’t give ourselves any credit. Instead, we cry that it’s all crap. Yes. It is crap. But don’t forget that crap is fertilizer. It provides the necessary conditions from which something beautiful can grow.

I’ve heard from many frustrated young writers, wondering why they can’t finish a story. I honestly believe that at the root of story-abandonment lies judgment of ourselves and our words. We don’t even give ourselves a chance. We see our crappy first draft and declare it over before it’s begun.

Please. Trust me on this one. The sooner you accept that the only problem with your crappy first draft is your own expectations and judgements about it, the sooner you will be able to transform that pile of stinky fertilizer into a glorious creation.

So your book isn’t so great yet. That’s okay. It’s not supposed to be great yet. Just keep going.


  1. DeAnna says

    Now that I know the reason for my crappy stories I can battle through it instead of drill on how every other debut author’s book sounds better than my unpublished stories THANKS !!!!!!!!

  2. says

    I just fell in love with this post. My whole adult life i have written. Journals, blogs, poetry. I never ever showed it to the world because i figured it wasn’t good enough. Now i am starting a blog and putting myself and my words out there and i am completely paralized. With fear. With doubt. I love how you just broke the process down. I can relate somuch to how you describe this and now i also get to feel a bit more normal about myself! Thanks 🙂

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