Friday, May 14, 2010

Forgive me reader, for I have sinned: TMI, Super Cheese and WTF

Confession time.

First Draft Sins.

First drafts are dirty, icky, stinky places. All first drafts (or at least my first drafts) are crap. Deep crap. And even though the drafts have gotten better, it seems novel after novel, the same old grievances show up.

My most common first draft transgressions:

TMI: Really? Does the reader need to know those stupid details about the MC in the first chapter? Does the reader EVER need that info? Do we need to meet all the characters right there when the story starts? Most likely – the answer is no. The delete key is my friend.

Super Cheese: Some of the language, and especially those love scenes – wow, so cheesy! I mean, gag inducing cheesy, like my dedicated and lovely crit partners are writing snarky comments and calling me out on it cheesy. And the fact that the beta comments are right on and make me crack up, probably a bad sign for my draft, but a good sign for my sense of humor. Me and rewrites quickly become best buddies!

WTF - How many times does my red pen scrawl WTF IS THIS??? across the first draft – A lot. A whole lot. Some stuff doesn’t fit, doesn’t make sense, doesn’t flow and doesn’t even belong. But you know what, it’s OK, because it’s a first draft. Slash and delete my friend, slash and delete.

My first drafts have gotten cleaner with each book I write, but still I run into so many first draft errors that I’m totally cringing when I read through it. And I feel like sending my crit partners on an all expenses paid vacation or at least sending them a case of wine and chocolate for wading through the crap that is the draft.

So, tell me: what are your first draft sins?


  1. I love the way you describe the drafting process. So funny!

    As a poet, I sometimes start my first drafts by writing "straight forward." By this I mean I write the "what" or the purpose of the poem without any poetic devices, just the sentiment. When I finish first drafts like these I usually end up thinking, this is a greeting card, not a poem. Then, I go back, rip through it, add simile, metaphor, maybe some color and/or synechode, and the poem usually ends up looking and feeling totally different than I had planned. In fact, the "sentiment" usually changes as well.

    Drafting is such a fascinating and mysterious process. Things come out that I never intended. It's really like opening a cabinet of curiosities. It's also really fun to discuss. Great post, Jenn.

  2. I tend to write scenes that move far too quickly in my first drafts - like I am trying just to get the story written, promising myself I'll come back later to fix it.

    Also, my first drafts are riddled with crutch words I have to go back and nuke from orbit.

  3. Megan - that's really interesting re: poetry drafts as its almost precisely what I do with fiction drafts to just get it out straightforward first, then go back and pretty it up.:)

    Josh - Good one. I forgot about that. Super rushed scenes are a downfall of mine too.

  4. Oh, my first draft sins are legion. Awkward writing. Stupid dialogue. Character contradictions. Too much here, too little there. Dickens probably wrote brilliant first drafts but most of us...probably not.

  5. Awkward dialogue. Too many descriptives in all the wrong places and not enough were, you might actually want to know WTF I'm talking about.

    Worst by far is forgetting it's only a first draft and nothing is set in stone. (Hugs)Indigo

  6. Ha ha ha! I love this! I definitely commit the TMI sin regularly.

    Have a great weekend! :-)

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  8. Blogger messed up my comment. Boo!

    My first drafts are so bad. Characters that show up and then mysteriously disappear. Tons of "he said/she said" tags. Passive voice everywhere. Random scenes, and then awkward transitions because other scenes are missing. Tons of notes to myself like "add this and this here." Good thing no one sees these sins!

  9. trav - Id like to think if his drafts weren't perfect!

    indigo - good point. first draft is only first draft!

    shanon - thanks, you too!

    elizabeth - yes, i had some of those dissapearing characters too! LOL

  10. Oh, I have all of those problems, but I didn't call them as such. I would just write, "Bad" on them.

  11. I do all of these and more! One of my biggest first draft sins is too many unneeded words. My characters are always "um"-ing and "oh"-ing and "like"-ing instead of just spitting out the darn dialogue. I love my betas -- they cross these out for me when I'm too blind to realize all the extra words.

  12. Lydia - haha, me too. I am constantly yelling at myself in the margins.:)

    shelly - oh yeah, the extra words. I do that one too!

  13. Lol, I suffer from TMI too--and repetition! Like, wait a second-didn't I already cover that in the previous chapter? And the one before it? Sigh....