Your shitty first drafts

Don't worry about your shitty first drafts. No one writes a perfect first draft.

We don’t usually do things perfectly the first time. 

It’s only when we look back that we can see where to improve.

Is that your experience?

The same is true of writing books.

Shitty draft 1

When writing, you start with the first draft and revise through many more drafts. You will always find something new to add or a different way to say things. 

But when do you know it’s done?

During a recent call one of our authors asked me, “When do I know when it’s good enough?”

I chuckled.

“I’ll tell you what my professor told me in my Journalism 101 class,” I said. “Writing is rewriting.” 

And that is really true.

An editor once compared a manuscript to a Navajo rug. “Every finished rug has imperfections,” she said. “If it doesn’t have imperfections, it’s not a rug.”

A book manuscript typically has imperfections. When you review it after some time, you see things you could have done differently.

Shitty draft 2

Your first draft may be horrible. You may even write several “shitty first drafts,” but that’s the best you can do at the time.

It’s the same with your entire first book. 

You may have a “shitty first book,” but your next book will be better.

Be kind to yourself.

To answer the question: “When do I know when it’s good enough?”

You’ll know when it's done when you have nothing else to say on the draft you’re working on and the storytelling is strong.

Your draft will have reached a level of storytelling where readers want to keep turning the pages.

Are you working on your shitty first draft and wondering if you will have that emotional connection with your readers?

I’d love to help

Or maybe you already have your manuscript in your hand and want to know if it’s compelling enough.

Let’s chat

Whatever you do, especially in writing, you just have to start where you are.

Yes, you are good enough.

by Helen Chang, ABM Editorial Director

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