• K.W. Quinn

A Perfect First Draft is Easy

Updated: May 13, 2020

I don't say it lightly, but it is true. A perfect first draft is easy.

To be successful, you have to have goals. Achievable, measurable goals. That's not a secret.

So, what is the purpose of a first draft? To tell the story.

“Every first draft is perfect because all the first draft has to do is exist. It's perfect in its existence. The only way it could be imperfect would be to NOT exist.”

Jane Smiley

There it is. Make it exist.

It started out with a list, how did it end up like this?

My first draft was actually a bulleted list in a document that had rambling sentences, inconsistent tenses, and a lot of blank question marks. It was called "modern magic thing" and had snippets of dialogue that actually exist in the final version. It also has so many twists and turns and things that won't ever see the light of day.

Some writers have a notebook. Some have dedicated notebooks for each project. Those people probably also have color coded calendars and motivation, or whatever.

I have a color coded something, but it's more of a guideline, really. My notebook is actually a collection of post it notes. And pages stolen from legal pads in various offices where I've tried to scribble down hasty ideas before I forget. I try to keep them all together in one place and sometimes I'm almost successful.

Re-reading those notes is sometimes a delight. Sometimes it's so crushingly embarrassing that I have to sit down and hum show tunes to myself to take my mind off of why I thought it would be a good idea to make my protagonist's best friend the secret love child of the secondary characters who swoop in to save the day.

Mostly, those notes help me keep details straight that I need to remember, even if they never make it in to the book. No one will ever know about why Karlos ran away, or what Cass and Andy talked about on their first night in the van, but those notes gave me a place to start my rambling.

So start rambling and start writing. Make notes. You likely won't regret it. Mostly.

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