A Perfectionist's Guide to Crappy First Drafts

Updated: Mar 21, 2019

Hi NaNo-ers and non-NaNo-ers. I was all set to write a post this week about how it’s okay to write a crappy first draft because you can always revise it…yada yada yada. I started writing it several times before I realized the problem: even I don’t believe that.

See, this advice about writing crappy first drafts came about because it keeps many writers’ perfectionism at bay. And that’s really important when you hold yourself to high standards.

And there is something to be said for letting go of those standards while you’re writing your first draft. Part of it is just recognizing that any first draft isn’t going to be perfect. Or maybe that a perfect first draft is still imperfect. That’s what editing and revising is for. All that is true.

But what if you’re so much of a perfectionist (or even a quibbling, sometimes-pedantic fussbudget—as I once described myself!) that you can’t get past the idea of writing something beneath your standards? Boy, can I relate! I can’t just write without thinking about the finished product. It’s really hard to turn off my internal editor when I spend all day editing, um…externally.

Does that mean you’re just doomed to a crappy first draft?

It doesn’t have to.

Escape Crappy First Draft Purgatory

Writing a better first draft is a balancing act—on the one side you have the desire for the perfect first draft and on the other, the desire to actually finish your book. You want to keep moving forward, but you’re afraid that no amount of revising will be able to fix it.