Nobody Writes Good First Drafts

Crumpled paperI spend a lot of time working with my clients to edit and revise their proposals and manuscripts. I give notes and suggestions for improvements. Sometimes I take them through draft after draft, until everything seems just right.
 
I know it’s tiring for them, and sometimes frustrating to be pushed to go over it again and again, especially when they know they’ll go through more edits with their publisher. I admire every writer who does whatever is necessary, who keeps pushing through, who remains dedicated to making the work the best it can be.
 
This is what it takes to be good. When an editor pushes you to be your best, or when you push yourself, you’re doing exactly what’s necessary to rise above the hordes of regular writers to become a good writer. Along those lines, I read this powerful piece in the book Telling True Stories: A Nonfiction Writers’ Guide from the Nieman Foundation at Harvard University.*
 

No one, not even the greatest writers, creates good first drafts. “I have to write crap before I can write anything that is not crap,” says Walt Harrington, who has been writing well for thirty years. “Writing is thinking. It is an extension of the reporting process.” A first draft might have promising sentences or paragraphs, a brilliant conceptualization, a few surprising turns of phrase, or a sturdy framework. All that, however, will probably be barely visible, entangled in the general messiness of half-formed ideas. Those promising elements will reveal themselves as the writer begins to tease apart the mess with the next draft and the one after that.
 
Still, as you read through a flawed first draft, remember that the hardest work is behind you. You have moved closer to defining the topic and developed strategies for explaining it…. You have stared down the blank page and begun building something on it.
 
Good writing is far too complex to get right in one draft or two or five. Good writers are most often plain ol’ writers who go the extra mile and then a few more.

 
If you are struggling through draft after draft, trying to get it right, take heart. You’re going the extra mile, and then a few more. Keep putting in the work, and you will become a good writer.
 

Are you pushing yourself hard enough? Are you going through enough drafts to push yourself to be a good writer?

 
Tweet this: “Good writers go the extra mile.” Some encouragement from @RachelleGardner.
 
*Quote from Telling True Stories, p. 97, by Mark Kramer & Wendy Call.
 
Image credit: stocksnapper / 123RF Stock Photo
 

Books Covers and My Experience with 99 Designs

How Do I Decide

Whether you’re self-publishing or working with a publisher, creating an effective book cover is extremely important. I’ve worked with publishers on hundreds of covers, and now I have the experience of working with designers on the cover of my own first e-book. From my perspective, the single most important thing to understand about book covers […]

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Trust Me, You Need a Good Editor

I just finished reading a self-published book on a topic I’m passionate about, by an author whose blog I occasionally read. As I’ve mentioned before, I regularly read self-pubbed books, and the fact that I work in traditional publishing doesn’t mean I’m biased against them.   It does, however, mean I’m aware of the ways […]

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You’re Too Good to Quit

In our house, we’re getting ready for competition season in gymnastics to begin this weekend. My daughter is a USAG level 7 gymnast with some pretty ambitious goals and it takes a lot of the family’s time and focus.   But recently my daughter was convinced she needed to quit gymnastics (after seven years and […]

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The Year in a Word

Happy new year! As we begin 2014, talk is everywhere about our goals, resolutions and plans. Many of you have chosen “one word” that will serve as a focal point throughout 2014. Choosing a word has become popular in the last five years or so, and I like it because it’s a concise way to distill […]

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This is Just to Thank You

Hey… you. Yeah, you, the one sitting alone in your basement hammering out a thousand words every morning before you go to work. And you. The one filling out your registration for a writers conference and terrified to click “send.” And you in the back, there… frantically taking notes in the writing workshop, attempting to […]

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How to Trick Yourself into Writing, Editing and Marketing

Guest blogger Bryan Cohen

Guest Blogger: Bryan Cohen (@bryancohenbooks)   Self-motivation is crucial for authors, regardless of which publishing path you choose. Writing a book is difficult enough, but when you add on editing and marketing, it can feel impossible. And I’m crazy enough to have self-published 32 times. How did I do it? I learned a few ways […]

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Your Artist Self and Your Business Self

Art & business

One of the biggest challenges for many writers is being able to separate the artist self from the business self, and figuring out ways to nurture both. I find this to be an issue for unpublished authors more than those who are published. Once a writer is published, they seem highly motivated to stay published, […]

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Are You a Lone Ranger Writer?

Lone Ranger

In publishing, we’re constantly asking writers—typically a rather introverted bunch—to get involved, to engage, to network, to join groups and go to conferences. I often find myself wondering how many of you cringe every time you hear that kind of advice.   Maybe you’re not into the whole publishing “scene.” Maybe you don’t enjoy being […]

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Still Conflicted about Amazon

The Everything Store

I’ve just finished reading Brad Stone’s The Everything Store: Jeff Bezos and the Age of Amazon. I’m still processing what I learned, and checking other sources for differing perspectives, but my initial reaction is that this is an eye-opening, clarifying, sobering yet illuminating resource for anyone interested in publishing or business in general.   I […]

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When a Writer Becomes a Target

target-on-your-back

Once you’re a published author, you’re going to have a target on your back. You will offer up your words to strangers, and not everyone will like what you write. You’ll be naked and vulnerable in front of the world. You’ll make mistakes, you may offend people. And you may not feel safe.   They […]

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Why You’re Getting Rejections

Awhile back, Nathan Bransford had a terrific post on “Why You Are Receiving Rejections.” He says if you keep getting rejections, it boils down to two reasons: either your query isn’t strong enough, or your query is fine but your project isn’t resonating with agents. So true! He’s nailed it! He’s absolutely right! But I have […]

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Fiction Writers and Platform

hand with quill

I’m blogging at Books & Such today. Here’s a snippet: Every time I blog about platform or social media, the vocal response in the comments reminds me that it’s a difficult subject for many authors. Everyone wonders how and when to build a platform, and many writers aren’t enthusiastic about it. There are two things […]

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12 Mistakes Authors Make in Connecting with Readers

Man with megaphone

The whole idea of “building a platform” and “marketing your book” is to get people to read what you’ve written. Whether you’re traditionally or self-published, connecting with potential readers is crucial. There are many good ways to do this (although it’s not necessarily easy), and plenty of resources to  help you. Today I want to […]

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