Drafting: The Theory of Shitty First Drafts

Writing books often exhort you to “write a shitty first draft,” but I always resisted this advice. After all,

  1. I was already writing shitty drafts, even when I tried to write good ones. Why go out of my way to make them shittier?
  2. A shitty first draft just kicks the can down the road, doesn’t it? Sooner or later, I’d have to write a good draft—why put it off?
  3. If I wrote without judging what I wrote, how would I make any creative choices at all?
  4. That first draft inevitably obscured my original vision, so I wanted it to be at least slightly good.
  5. Writing something shitty meant I was shitty.

So for years, I kept writing careful, cramped, painstaking first drafts—when I managed to write at all. At last, writing became so joyless, so draining, so agonizing for me that I got desperate: I either needed to quit writing altogether or give the shitty-first-draft thing a try.

Turns out everything I believed about drafting was wrong.

For the last six months, I’ve written all my first drafts in full-on don’t-give-a-fuck mode. Here’s what I’ve learned so far:

“Shitty first draft” is a misnomer

A rough draft isn’t just a shitty story, any more than a painter’s preparatory sketch is just a shitty painting. Like a sketch, a draft is its own kind of thing: not a lesser version of the finished story, but a guide for making the finished story.

Once I started thinking of my rough drafts as preparatory sketches, I stopped fretting over how “bad” they were. Is a sketch “bad”? And actually, a rough draft can be beautiful the same way a sketch is beautiful: it has its own messy energy.

Don’t try to do everything at once

People who make complex things need to solve one kind of problem before they can solve others. A painter might need to work out where the big shapes go before they can paint the details. A writer might need to decide what two people are saying to each other before they can describe the light in the room or what those people are doing with their hands.

I’d always embraced this principle up to a point. In the early stages, I’d speculate and daydream and make messy notes. But that freedom would end as soon as I started drafting. When you write a scene, I thought, you have to start with the first word and write the rest in order. Then it dawned on me: nobody would ever see this! I could write the dialogue first and the action later; or the action first and the dialogue later; or some dialogue and action first and then interior monologue later; or I could write the whole thing like I was explaining the plot to my friend over the phone. The draft was just one very long, very detailed note to myself. Not a story, but a preparatory sketch for a story. Why not do it in whatever weird order made sense to me?

Get all your thoughts onto the page

Here’s how I used to write: I’d sit there staring at the screen and I’d think of something—then judge it, reject it, and reach for something else, which I’d most likely reject as well—all without ever fully knowing what those things were. And once you start rejecting thoughts, it’s hard to stop. If you don’t write down the first one, or the second, or the third, eventually your thought-generating mechanism jams up. You become convinced you have no thoughts at all.

When I compare my old drafts with my new ones, the old ones look coherent enough. They’re presentable as stories. But they suck as drafts, because I can’t see myself thinking in them. I have no idea what I wanted that story to be. These drafts are opaque and airless, inscrutable even to me, because a good 90% of what I was thinking while I wrote them never made it onto the page.

These days, most of my thoughts go onto the page, in one form or another. I don’t waste time figuring out how to say something, I just ask, “what are you trying to say here?” and write that down. Because this isn’t a story, it’s a plan for a story, so I just need the words to be clear, not beautiful. The drafts I write now are full of placeholders and weird meta notes, but when I read them, I can see where my mind is going. I can see what I’m trying to do. Consequently, I no longer feel like my drafts obscure my original vision. In fact, their whole purpose is to describe that vision.

Drafts are memos to future-you

To draft effectively, you need a personal drafting style or “language” to communicate with your future self (who is, of course, the author of your second draft). This language needs to record your ideas quickly so it can keep up with the pace of your imagination, but it needs to do so in a form that will make sense to you later. That’s why everyone’s drafts look different: your drafting style has to fit the way your mind works.

I’m still working mine out. Honestly, it might take a while. But recently, I started writing in fragments. That’s just how my mind works: I get pieces of sentences before I understand how to fit them together. Wrestling with syntax was slowing me down, so now I just generate the pieces and save their logical relationships for later. Drafting effectively means learning these things about yourself. And to do that, you can’t get all judgmental. You can’t fret over how you should be writing, you just gotta get it done.

Messy drafts are easier to revise

I find that drafting quickly and messily keeps the story from prematurely “hardening” into a mute, opaque object I’m afraid to change. I no longer do that thing, for instance, where I endlessly polish the first few paragraphs of a draft without moving on. Because how do you polish a bunch of fragments taped together with dashes? A draft that looks patently “unfinished” stays malleable, makes me want to dig my hands in and move stuff around.

You already have ideas

Sitting down to write a story, I used to feel this awful responsibility to create something good. Now I treat drafting simply as documenting ideas I already have—not as creation at all, but as observation and description. I don’t wait around for good words or good ideas. I just skim off whatever’s floating on the surface and write it down. It’s that which allows other, potentially better ideas to surface.

As a younger writer, my misery and frustration perpetuated themselves: suppressing so many thoughts made my writing cramped and inhibited, which convinced me I had no ideas, which made me even more afraid to write lest I discover how empty inside I really was. That was my fear, I guess: if I looked squarely at my innocent, unvetted, unvarnished ideas, I’d see how bad they truly were, and then I’d have to—what, pack up and go home? Never write again? I don’t know. But when I stopped rejecting ideas and started dumping them onto the page, the worst didn’t happen. In fact, it was a huge relief.

Next post: the practice of shitty first drafts

Ask me a question or send me feedback!


uncredited writer, Chicago Tribune, 8 January 1967

Gettysburg, Pa., Feb. — Bishop James A. Pike said today that if President Johnson refuses to negotiate for peace in Viet Nam, the young men in this country, “as a last resort,” should refuse to go into the armed forces.

“Peace in Viet Nam depends on Johnson’s willingness to negotiate,” the former Episcopal bishop of California said at a press conference on the Gettysburg college campus. “What’s holding us up is that Johnson is not willing to negotiate.”

“As a last resort, we would give serious consideration to conscientious objection on a mass basis. The boys should stick together in refusing to go sin.

"The alternative of being put into a penitentiary is better than having to murder people.”

Bishop Pike said that altho he faked an eye test to join the navy in World War II he could not in good conscience go to Viet Nam.

“I do not believe it is a just war,” he said.

He added however, that he is opposed to the United States pulling out of Viet Nam because it would leave that country “in a chaotic state.” He said we should stay there and negotiate, but that the bombing should be stopped.

Bishop Pike came to Gettysburg yesterday to deliver a two-day series of lectures.

Wednesday, April 5 1967

  • The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. called on Negroes and “all white people of goodwill" to boycott the Vietnam war by becoming conscientious objectors to military service. The civil rights leader, in his strongest recommendations so far, told a news conference that “Negroes and poor people generally arc bearing the heaviest burden of this war.”
  • In London, Vice President Humphrey sat in the gallery of the House of Commons and listened to expressions of discontent over American policy in Vietnam. Then he went to a private meeting with more than 200 members of Parliament and argued back. He drew cheers from most of them. When the meeting was over, Edward Heath, the Conservative leader, told the Vice President: “That was a magnificent performance.”
  • But in Saigon it was announced that the United States had lost its 500th warplane over North Vietnam since the bombing raids began 32 months ago. The loss of an F-105 Thunderchief was disclosed after American fighter-bombers carried out 147 missions against North Vietnamese targets, the largest number in five months.

And if this wasnt enough

Ukrainians - 3,000,000

Polish - 6,028,000

Politcal Prisoners - Unknown

Roman Catholics - 3,000

Bahá'í Faith - Unknown

Enemy Nationals - Unknown

Social Deviants - Prostitutes, Vagrants, Drug Addicts, Alchoholics, Open dissidents, pacifists, draft resisters and common criminals

ALL died in concentration camps. Lets remember what happened to Millions and Millions of people, Today on Holocaust Memorial day

Patrochilles Fic Rec I

I decided to take a break from posting Solangelo fic recs and start Patrochilles. I mean, who doesn’t love The Song of Achilles?

*Astra Inclinant by Ramonaflowerz

Astra inclinant, sed non obligant - The stars incline us, they do not bind us, and in this life, Pat chooses his own fate. (A reader-interactive story in which we ask ourselves: ‘is changing fate always the right choice?’)

*Let the Sun Shine on Us by Arianwen44

“You look at me differently now… Not all the time but I can see it, when you think I’m not looking. Am I a monster to you now?”

A short drabble I wanted to write for Patroclus and Achilles. One of the nights after Achilles returns from the battlefield he tries to confront Patroclus about how he feels, about the war and about Achilles himself.

*Day Is Gone by alonsos

“And now I see / my most constant mistake / is I don’t know what I love till it’s gone”

Song of Achilles AU in which Patroclus’ death goes differently and Achilles realizes everything too late.

*Hot to the Touch, Cold on the Inside by Gabethebabe

Because if there’s one thing this fandom needs- it’s another au.
A kidnapping au I thought of earlier this semester while I was going through  some medical stuff.

*Traitors to Humanity by Gabethebabe

The year is 1965. Achilles and Patroclus are two kids only worried about one thing: keeping their relationship under wraps, but it all goes to hell when Agamemnon finds out the truth. That, combined with Patroclus’ decision to take a gap year cause the confines of their small hometown to come crashing down on them.
And what are two boys in love meant to do? Meet a girl, get a dog, steal a truck, and head out west, of course.
Title is a line from the song “Draft Resister” by Steppenwolf.

*Stitches by writerforlife

“His face is still white, and he is leaning over me with a cloth stained pink from blood and water. He dabs away at the blood from my wound with shaky hands, biting down on his lower lip the entire time.” Achilles is wounded, so Patroclus stitches him back together.

*Paralyzed by Ramonaflowerz

Based on the following prompts that was sent in by a lovely anon:
“Truth or dare, Patroclus,” asked Briseis, a wicked smile on her face. “…um”

On This Day: June 14
  • 1381: Peasant’s Revolt: Wat Tyler and insurgent peasants meet King Richard II.
  • 1381: Peasant’s Revolt: Archbishop Simon of Sudbury has his head cut off in London.
  • 1845: Antonio Maceo Grajales born in Santiago de Cuba, Cuba. He was a revolutionary & guerrilla leader who helped defeat the Spanish & win Cuban independence.
  • 1872: Labour unions legalised in Canada as Trade Unions Act passes in Canadian Parliament after Toronto printers’ strike.
  • 1900: French intelligence notes the presence of Hippolyte Havel and Emma Goldman at a women’s congress in Paris.
  • 1911: Los Angeles police arrest the anarchists Ricardo Flores Magon and his brother Enrique for violation of the US neutrality law.
  • 1913: Trade Unionist Joe Morris born in Lancashire, England. He was President of the Canadian Labour Congress and member of the International Woodworkers of America (IWA).
  • 1914: Emma Goldman lectures in San Francisco, California. She speaks on “The Intellectual Proletarians,” “The Superman in Relation to the Social Revolution,” “The Mothers’ Strike,” and “Anti-Militarism: The Reply to War.”
  • 1914: A General Strike is broken by the treason of the Socialists and their trade union, bringing an ignominious end to “The Red Week of Ancône.” Errico Malatesta, escaping the police, is forced again to flee into exile, to London.
  • 1914: First session of the anarchist conference in São Paulo. Five sessions were convened in total, preparing for an anarchist Congress in London, which was cancelled due to World War I.
  • 1919: Leon Trotsky, chief of the Red Army, drafts an order banning the Makhnovist Congress, organized by Nestor Makhno, accusing them of opposing Soviet power in the Ukraine. Trotsky calls for the arrest of the delegates.
  • 1921: State police & vigilantes raid Lick Creek miners’ tent colony in West Virginia. Forty-seven strikers arrested.
  • 1928: Emmeline Pankhurst dies in Hampstead, United kingdom. She was a suffragette activist.
  • 1928: Ernesto “Che” Guevara born in Rosario, Argentina. Marxist revolutionary and was a key figure in the struggle to overthrow Cuba’s Batista regime.
  • 1968: Pediatrician Dr Benjamin Spock found guilty of aiding draft resisters during the Vietnam War.
  • 1986: 60,000 march to Central Park in New York City demanding economic sanctions against South Africa’s apartheid regime.
  • 2002: Anarcho-syndicalist Jacky Toublet dies in Bobigny, France. He was a militant CGT member, son of Julien Toublet, director of the weekly Le Monde Libertaire.
  • 2006: Militant anarchist Vicente Marti dies in Le Pontet, France. He was a member of the CNT, the anarchist federation the FAI and anarchist youth organization the FIJL.
  • 2006: Militant anarchist Vicente Marti dies in France.
  • 2006: Police attack 50,000 teachers striking over low funding for teachers & rural schools who were occupying Oaxaca.

I am not a man. I can’t earn a living, buy new things for my family. I have acne and a small peter.

I am not a man. I don’t like football, boxing and cars. I like to express my feelings. I even like to put my arm around my friend’s shoulder.

I am not a man. I won’t play the role assigned to me – the role created by Madison Avenue, Playboy, Hollywood and Oliver Cromwell. Television does not dictate my behavior.

I am not a man. Once when I shot a squirrel I swore that I would never kill again. I gave up meat. The sight of blood makes me sick. I like flowers.

I am not a man. I went to prison for resisting the draft. I do not fight when real men beat me up and call me queer. I dislike violence

I am not a man. I have never raped a woman. I don’t hate blacks. I don’t get emotional when the flag is waved. I do not think I should love America or leave it. I think I should laugh at it.

I am not a man. I have never had the clap.

I am not a man. Playboy is not my favorite magazine.

I am not a man. I cry when I’m unhappy.

I am not a man. I do not feel superior to women.

I am not a man. I don’t wear a jockstrap.

I am not a man. I write poetry.

I am not a man. I meditate on Peace and Love.

I am not a man. I don’t want to destroy you.

by Harold Norse

I’m thinking of adding more verses, like a Decendants verse and Dragon Age Verses and stuff. If anyone has any ideas or something let me know. Otherwise I’ll be here lurking, doing some drafts and trying to resist the urge to make a starter call XD.

princerank  asked:

pillow forts. PILLOW FORTS. PILLOW FORT HEADCANONS! GO!!! im going to bed goodnight love you.


Trips through space take a long time when you’re not sure where to go next. Allura and Coran decide the best course of action for now is to go from planet to planet, trying to liberate as many people as they can from the Galra, and let as many people know about Voltron as they can. Thus, they spend most of their nights in the castle, docked on whatever planet they’re currently helping/meeting/drafting into the resistance. So! When they aren’t in danger, when they have a rare full night to sleep and relax… shenanigans ensue.

It’s Hunk that brings a bunch of pillows and blankets from his room into the living room (sitting area, whatever). At first he’s just gonna take a nap there, for funsies, but then he thinks, hey, you know what would be fun??? Pillow forts! And he’s with Lance and Pidge, and he tells them his idea, and they’re like HELL YEAH. So Lance and Pidge run to their rooms and gather all the pillows and blankets from their beds, and run back to the main room. They start working on the fort, and Shiro and Keith walk in. Shiro looks around, looks at the fort that’s being built, looks at Keith, and they both grin at each other. They run to their rooms and retrieve their pillows and blankets as well.

Hunk, the engineer, and Pidge, the inventor, have scribbled blueprints on some paper on the coffee table in the middle. Lance is finding things to prop up the blankets. Keith is laying out pillows on the floor. Shiro is taking the cushions from the couches. Allura and Coran walk in, having heard the commotion. They’re understandably confused, but Shiro and Hunk explain to them what they’re doing, and Allura and Coran agree that it sounds like fun. And they can’t be all business all the time, right? They’re still teenagers, they like to have fun! So Allura dashes off to find all the pillows and blankets she can. From her room, from the store rooms, couches, etc all over the castle, and returns balancing an incredibly tall pile of bedding in her arms. Everyone looks at her in awe, then they start laughing. Construction begins anew.

Before long, they’ve managed to build the best pillow fort this side of the universe. Lance wipes a tear. It’s so beautiful. They all crawl inside and play games, talk about their homes (the paladins tell Allura and Coran everything they can think of about Earth, and Allura and Coran tell the paladins all about Altea), and generally enjoy each others’ company. 

It’s getting late, and everyone is beginning to get tired. At some point, Coran and Hunk went to the kitchen, and returned with hot drinks that somehow taste like hot chocolate. (Hunk convinced Coran that this sacred earth drink is integral to the ritual of “pillow forts” and makes people happier. After he tries it, he agrees.) But no one wants to sleep yet.

Lance instigates a pillow fight to end the night. Of course everyone gets way too into it, and they end up absolutely destroying the pillow fort. (Lance is far too competitive, and he and Keith end up nearly breaking the table and couches in their pillow war.) But in the end, everyone is laughing hysterically, smiling like they haven’t in ages, and they all collapse in a heap in all the blankets and pillows. This is how they fall asleep.

I hope that’s what you were looking for!!

Well my head has finally stopped throbbing, well at least enough for me to concentrate. So I am gonna try to put a dent in my drafts, and try to resist the call of a new blog. I have about 28 drafts across all the blogs that I am currently trying to keep active. So let’s hope I can actually manage to get some stuff done!

Seriously though can someone just imagine Pan going to school and seeing another kid’s grandpa and going, “Why’s your grandpa so old?”

And said kid goes, “All grandpas are old stupid”

And then Goku comes by to pick her up and said kid goes “Is that your big brother?”

“No that’s my grandpa stupid”

I’m a new fan of Critical Role, and I was so inspired by Scanlan and the group that I couldn’t resist drafting this teeshirt design! If you like this, I would be incredibly appreciative of a signal boost. I’ve tried tweeting it to the official Critical Role thing, but I have a pretty paltry social media presence. With your help, it could hopefully make the cut for a limited edition shirt.

To see the logo with individualized back designs, click here. To see the original post with credits, click here.

Submitted by dedzeds.