When Writin’ a Draft

One of the most confusing aspects (well at least to me when I first started to write) was the drafts system. Sure I heard teachers bark to me about leaving my final draft clean and beautiful. Ernest Hemingway said, “All first drafts are shit” He is right. Sure you can find some amazing gems through your file cabinets of all writings, but the primary function of the draft is to get the story down.

Once the story has been penned (or typed) it may be amazing or it may be as Ernest Hemingway politely said, “shit”. You may call your characters by shorthand references like brother or boss. Your second draft may contain the goodies of personalization, like character names, backgrounds and subplots littered throughout. The way I write I like to brainstorm prior to drafting and as I pen the first draft I work on making the plot riveting and coherent. Characters, though vastly important may come in the brainstorming stage or can develop as I draft along. Many times have I done a second draft with a completely different cast of characters.

It is up to you what you feel is important or not in your primary writing stages. When the first draft is finished I like rewrite it and then edit and rewrite again. This process assures me that I have captured the characters in their proper glory, and have ample time to connect my plots and other sidestories so that the reader may properly engage himself (or herself) into the story.

Editing is a completely different beast to tame that I will go over in my next post, but here is one of my favorite teacher’s quotes: “If your draft doesn’t look like an Iraqi battlefield when you’re done ripping it apart, than you haven’t done it right”. Tough advise on an eight grader but it stuck.

How do you guys feel about drafting? Do you devise the chracters or the plot first? I’d be interesting in hearing your ideas and methods!


About Damian Rucci

D.F. Rucci is a writer, blogger, and a musician from a small town in New Jersey. View all posts by Damian Rucci

6 responses to “When Writin’ a Draft

  • Maeve

    Generally, I don’t draft. I never drafted in high school. I barely drafted in college.
    For bigger papers, I do go back and revise or add things in, but I’d have to say that 95% or more of it remains the same.
    I’ve never drafted my stories. If I don’t like it the first time, I scrap it and start over. That’s just how I’ve always written.
    I don’t do plots or characters first. I do the prose. When something is stuck in my head, there might be a character or two floating around, maybe a plot line, but it’s mostly the words. I write my stories the same way I write my poems – once and done. The words come out the way they’re supposed to the first time, or not at all.
    Just me.

  • Damian Rucci

    When I write a story I try to make it as compelling and heartfelt as possible. So by doing that I usually make silly mistakes and may leave out some considerable plot points which I have to throw in. Drafting is just my ripcord from bombing a good story, if I read over a draft and it is crap I rewrite it and change that until the story reads well.

  • ringle

    There is a freedom that drafting brings with it, a wonderful creative weightlessness that many of us as writers need. I used to think my first drafts were mostly masterpieces. Now, I agree with Hemingway. but I also feel that first drafts are completely necessary. And “first drafts” imply “second drafts”.

    What I mean is this: I sit down to write something (from my novel, right down to this comment), and my internal editor immediately tells me that this has to be perfect. It has to be perfect the first time. It has to be riveting. It has to be Thoreau, or a JFK speech, or Shakespeare. And I’m not allowed to backspace or use the delete key, either. Let’s not even talk abotu red ink!

    But when I know it’s the first draft, I can say to my internal editor, look, this is just going to be crap. Get over it. All first drafts are sh**. Even Hemingway thought so. So this first draft probably will be too. And then I am free to write as creatively as I want, as expressively and as crappy AT LENGTH as it happens to come out. All the while I am typing, I say, “I know it’s sh**, just keep typing.”

    You know what? It always needs revision. But I’ve produced my most creative, most flowing and best work this way. I learned this from Anne Lamott, in an essay called “Shitty First Drafts” in her book “Bird by Bird”. It works for me. I think also Natalie Goldberg may talk about it in one of her writing books (I’m not sure, but the concept sounds like her).

    Not drafting might work for you now, but you’ll really extend yourself and grow as a writer if you at least experiment with that sort of creativity.

    Just my two cents. Sorry for going on and on about it.

  • Nicole

    I must be running into a bit of luck with you posting this blog as I recently posted a question about the subject of writing drafts. I am writing the first draft of a novel and I’m writing it knowing that there will be many sequential drafts. So for now, I’m working on the plot. I’m writing the storyline and in draft 2 and so on, I will re-examine the characters etc.

    My writing professor in university taught the entire course through drafts. All of our assignements were: draft 1, 2 and 3 or 4 being the final for submission. I might need more than 4 drafts for a whole novel. Those assignments were just 5-10 page papers (a manageable length for a professor).

  • Damian Rucci

    Wow thanks for the great comments guys, loving your input 🙂

  • Damian Rucci

    & Nicole good luck on the novel! I don’t believe I’m at that point yet, short fiction seems to be doing me well eventually I’ll jump to the longer projects. And Ringle I agree. When I do first drafts I struggle with my ‘internal editor’ I tell myself to just let it flow and let it be crap haha.

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