Ugly Drafts are the Best

Do not be afraid of Ugly Drafts, especially the ugliest draft of all, the 1st.

Stories are always amazing while we are pregnant with them.  They grow from this itsy bitsy flash of an idea into a living, breathing, naked child who kicks and shoves and rearranges everything within us.

We are excited authors at this time.  We pick out cover colors and pictures and read all there is to read on everything we can possibly think of.  We try out names, imagine our impact, and dream of the future.

And then there’s that moment when the idea is ready to be born, and we find ourselves scrambling for our writing utensils.  We pant and moan and scribble or type.  We writhe and shift and shimmy.  We scream when we realize that it’s not coming out as fast as we would like.

Then finally, many many many days of labor later, our first draft is born.

All 1st drafts are ugly, even the ones that claim they are not.  Drafts are like newborns, ya’ll. They are only actually gorgeous to the creator.


I couldn’t find an ugly newborn picture.
Just call me liar.
And squee with me over the cuteness.

We see endless possibility.  Everybody else sees a misshaped head, gangly limbs, barely a backbone, and things that are out of proportion.  We smell the future.  Everybody else smells poop and vomit.  Everybody else, by the way, is correct.  But so are we.

I will argue that a first draft, if done well, will be horrible and uncomfortable and awkward.  And that it is a good thing.

Good first drafts are actually a hinderance.  Believe me.  They tend to lock an author up in what has to happen.

Bad first drafts, on the other hand, allow the author much more freedom.  Bad chapter?  Hack it.  Rearrange it.  Split it into two.  Add it to another chapter.  Sleep on it.  Change it up.  Change the POV.  The options are endless.  Maybe you need to focus.  Maybe you need to close your eyes and let go of some things.  Maybe you need to talk to the story in your head.  Maybe you need to stop yakking and let it do the talking.

I’m struggling with a rotten chapter right now, and the problem with the rottenness of this particular chapter is that the rest of the book was built on it.  I had to admit to myself last night that the chapter needed a face lift.  And a bottom lift.  And a nose job.  And a tummy tuck.  And sadly, that’s not all.  Which means that rest of the book will need tucking and lifting and shifting related to the chapter.  And that doesn’t even include the normal adjustments I’ll have to make.

And all of that is okay.  A writer is treasure seeker of words.  We aren’t afraid of the jungle of words and sentences and paragraphs and pages and books that we must travel through.

We are builders and dreamers and poets and schemers.  We are good with scissors and needle and thread, and we’ve got the seam ripper by our side at all time.  And bandaids.

We are doting parents of our creations, even if they do come out all squished and slimy.  We love them because we know, deep down, what could be.  We delight in an ugly first draft, because we know it can lead to a beautiful work of art.

So if you are like me, struggling with a draft, remember that ugly is actually a good thing.  Take a deep breath, close your eyes, and remember that squishy bit of love you created.  Now look at that draft for what it really is, and Go!  Do!  Cut!  Change!  Rearrange!

Your book is waiting for you, so write!

 Live Bravely,
Love Strongly,
Revise that Ugly Draft
-AEM

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