Writing a shitty first draft

first draft

Hello all! Welcome back to this blog!

Today, I want to talk about shitty first drafts and what it means to cope with first-draft situations.

Yes, because I’m 15 000 words into one of these myself and I’m fretting about it. And, yes. Because I need to find a way to cope with uncertainty so I figured that, maybe so do you.

Or a zero draft, as I heard Kate Cavanaugh from You Tube channel Kate Cavanaugh Writes call it. [Check it out, it’s a good channel to get me inspired for writing and think about writing themes.]

I keep repeating to myself, almost chanting if I’m being honest, that it’s okay to write a shitty first draft.

That I need to put something on the page.

That it doesn’t matter what I write on that first draft because it will be worked on, improved and thoroughly revised.

That without something on the page I have no chance to improve nothing… because there is nothing to improve upon.

[See? I’m almost making a song lyrics out of this. Just need the right tune]

I keep reminding myself of that chapter of ‘Bird by Bird’ by Anne Lamott…

anne lamott shitty first drafts

At least, I know I keep repeating all of that to myself every time I’m in that phase of the process where I need to produce a first draft. And it’s truly alright to write a shitty first draft.

It’s not my first roundabout on first-draft-land. But it’s always tricky to drive in such a bumpy, too large, full of holes road… and it’s a roundabout, so I am to expect some curves and bad angles and some drivers out of their lanes.

I have done this first draft thing in the long format form for six times now.

I’m counting all of my finished novels, including a published one. But I’m not counting any other form of my writings, which all of them took a first-draft phase, including this article I’m currently writing, and that you are currently reading.

Maybe I should consider these also… and, suddenly, my life is made of first-drafts.

This is my seventh first draft and here I am, in overwhelm-land.

It still gets me every time. Six books in and I don’t feel prepared for this part of the process.

It’s like I keep looking for things that aren’t quite worked out yet to keep myself in the overwhelm state. I look at this first draft and wish I could make it perfect… as it is, and knowing very well that there is no such thing as perfect, I’m sustaining the eyes wide open, rapid breathing pattern and in a constant arrhythmia state, ready to flee or pass out (still haven’t decided which one yet).

But I’m not here to complain. Truly, I am not. I’m here to share that this is hard but that I can, and I will persist. And so will you.

After all, I have done it six times already for my novels and a few hundred times for all of my other writing works, like short-stories, poems, blog posts and any sort of creative texts.

I also know that, this too will pass.

I know I’ll end up moving forward, plowing ahead, or tiptoeing around obstacles. Or finding some mental assurances and some strategies to make myself cope with the first-draft situation.

Sometimes coping means:

  • writing my book plans in really big paper sheets. 
  • constructing cards for my characters.
  • writing every scene in a A5 card and have a visual of the story entirety.
  • even writing one version of it by hand in some lame notebook. 
  • enrol in any challenge that makes me forget the thing in itself and make me show up to the work (I am so doing #the100daychallenge that starts in Feb.22).

I’m even considering using the foolscap method, a Steven Pressfield’s suggestion (watch a quick introduction in his Instagram Reels).

Or any other strategy that I feel can help me cope, in this moment, with the uncertainty of it all.

Something like, remind myself why I’m writing this story. Why I’m involved in it. Why my creative path lead me here. And how I felt with a finished book in my hands (not literally).

And maybe get back to the drawing board. To plan my scenes in some way that helps me do this first-draft.

So, I have options. The only option I don’t have is to quit. And neither do you.

I’ll leave you with another inspirational quote:

writing a novel

Just keep driving!

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Bye and Keep writing! ✍🏼



October’s Plans and Writing Goals


I was rereading the blog post of September’s kick-off, reliving a bit of the post-summer-vacations feelings, and figuring out if I had sticked to my plans.

I did eased myself back into writing, but not to all of my writing projects. Now I feel it’s time to prioritise my fiction writing.

But, first let’s look at September.

September’s Writing Efforts

I’ve started September with a dread. I was feeling a bit overwhelmed with ‘The Shapeshifters’ project.

Why? I have two drafts in Portuguese and, suddenly, as I’m starting a third draft, I caught myself writing a new opening scene in English. Was it wise? I don’t think so. But it felt natural, so I went with it.

Sometimes I feel I keep putting stones in my way, just to see if I can destroy or go around them. But there I was, attempting to write my first full fiction book in English.

Quick reminder that I am Portuguese and even though I have been learning English since I was a kid, and have taught English to adults, and write quite a bit in this other language, I wasn’t prepared to make a full change to this project.

But I did. And here we are: a bit overwhelmed with the process…

September also brought me a few difficult days. I suffer from migraines since I was a teenager and they are back with vengeance. To make things worse, now my daughter has them too. She’s still a child, fresh out of pre-school… I am still torn apart with this. Talking about family painful inheritances!

September’s Goals

1. Get back to writing

I did. With happiness even if not effortlessly.

2. Find a new work rhythm

Also something that I manage to do, after a few different approaches.

3. Jumpstart my creative practices

Writing requires calmness and inspiration. I had to search for both using strategies that I try to keep at hand… like meditation, music, reading, series, walks and other activities.

4. Tending to my blogs

I have been putting in the work to get this done. I have changed the quantity of articles I expected to publish each week. And I feel it’s better to manage my expectations with some reality instead of wishful thinking.

5. Managing my YouTube Channel

Yes, I mentioned it in the article but I purposely left this one out of September’s Goals. I wasn’t feeling at ease with it… but VLook has made a big part of my efforts, and I hope you go and take a look at my videos. I know! I have a lot to learn.

6. Other goals

I have mentioned other goals on September’s post. Goals like Reading and productivity measurements. I failed to set a proper goal to Reading efforts but managed to read 9 books, and got 2 ongoing.

My Goodreads Challenge is looking good. Read 53 books of the 60 I planned to read in 2022(88%).

I found out that I mainly read in three categories: Classics, Chic Lit (I hate this designation) and Non Fiction. I like it!

As for the Book Club I kind of have fallen behind and am a bit unmotivated to keep going. Also, the book list released for next year envolves 12 books that aren’t a priority right now and that require a great investment… in books that won’t serve my bigger purposes.

I am kind of contemplating reverting back to my own book list… or find another Book Club more in sync with my wants and needs.

October’s Goals

They will not differ much from September’s, I guess. I will shift my attention a bit from writing poetry and revising short-stories to constructing “The Shapeshifters”. I have a list of scenes to work on and am, reluctantly, taking it seriously.

But, above all, I have a goal to keep working on my writings. Whatever the form or genre.

Keep writing! ✍🏼

Share with us your goals for October. Please comment in the section below.

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Bye and see you soon.