Why I Never Edit the First Draft

For everyone who clicked through because they were skeptical, I’m not lying. The three novel drafts I’ve completed have never been edited.

They are all published as is and I’ve sold millions of copies because I’m that good. Okay, now I’m kidding.

My first drafts are actually garbage. I prefer to write nearly completely stream of consciousness, even if I have a vague plan or outline I’m following. That means things are a little (a lot) garbled and need a little (a lot) of TLC. So much so that it’s pointless to work on fixing the first draft because it will take forever.

So I don’t.

When I save that first completed draft, it remains untouched for the rest of time. For me, the point of a first draft is to get the story out in all its imperfectness. Once I have that figured out, I begin draft two on a blank document.

I still use the first draft as reference. Sometimes I actually write good stuff in it. I find it helpful to read a paragraph and then write it again in my second document without looking back at it. Usually that leads to me continuing into the next paragraph of writing without looking back at my draft, sometimes for pages. It all depends on when I get on a roll.

With the case of my first novel’s first draft, I never looked at it again. I used it as a practice run and changed the storyline completely. It was easier to ‘start over’ than pick, pull, rearrange, and maneuver through the first draft. I liked the strategy so much that I decided to do it with the rest of my work.

Now, if you’re on a deadline to complete novels or don’t have as much freedom and time as I do, this technique doesn’t work. I’ve also been told this is idiotic because how can you remember what storyline or detail you’ve written if you’ve rewritten the story a million times? Sorry, I can tell you exactly what happened in each draft and how that changed in the subsequent write. Especially when I’ve completely changed direction on a storyline.

This is one way I can quiet my inner editor, something I’ve written about before.It’s Time to Turn Off Your Inner EditorFor NaNoWriMo or any first draft you’re tacklingmedium.com

Without the pressure of getting something perfect down in the first try, I actually create some really awesome things. Sometimes I go off on tangents, often I write terrible things, but usually I get there or have an epiphany that changes my writing for the better.

Going back, I find it fun to see how much my writing improved between drafts. I also appreciate how much the story matures over each version. I’ve yet to go through a complete blank page rewrite beyond my second version, but I have had to completely rewrite endings or add sections within that start from nothing. That’s all in the business of writing a novel, though.

Once I have a good story, that’s when the real editing comes into play. Now that I have the material, I can go through and make those adjustments that help it become something worth seeing the light of day.

This strategy helps me feel like I live with the story through the entire process. I get more connected with every part of the story and find myself experience life away from the page in the perspective of my characters. I think about them all the time and it bleeds into my writing, making them more rich and relatable.

If you have a chance to practice this method, I encourage you to see how the story develops. My process helps me remain passionate about the book, watching it grow and getting to live with my characters for that much longer. In the end, I’m giving everything I have to that novel and I like to think it makes them stronger.

Stay up to date on my NaNo happenings and other writing fun with my newsletter. I like to give sneak peeks into my writing and provide different thought processes and value for writing and life.

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