How to write a sh*tty first draft
That book you just put down last night.
The blog post you read on the train.
The online course you finally finished.
They all have one thing in common. They started as a shitty first draft (SFD).
Pretty much everything you’ve ever seen written started as an SFD.
If your writing flows from your fingertips perfectly, error free, no pesky dangling modifier or other grammar offenses then you might not be human. But really, if this is you, I’d love to know—maybe you can teach me your ways.
Most writers, myself included, are intimately familiar with the SFD. This blog post was an SFD. I wrote the first draft in 20 minutes while listening to this song on a sunny afternoon while watching the chickens free-range around the backyard.
Things you need to know about the SFD:
1. Get it out as quickly as possible.
This is the point. Try not to overthink it, just write. You’ll go back and edit later. The stuff you don’t edit is the stuff of journals.
2. You're going to edit.
When you revisit your SFD, ideally after you’ve stepped away for either a few minutes, a day, or even a year, you’ll have fresh eyeballs and be ready to edit.
3. It's supposed to suck.
When you revisit your SFD, you might wonder, holy rooster, this piece of work is terrible! What was I thinking? Sometimes SFDs never see the light of day or anyone’s inbox or the pages of a book. And that’s okay. That’s the whole point.
4. Write when you feel like it.
When I get a stroke of inspiration, I’ll write a fast and furious SFD and revisit it later. Sometimes “later” means in a few months. When it comes time for me to publish a new blog post or start a big book project, I’ll review all my crappy first drafts and see what inspiration I can draw from there. Talk to any writer, and they'll tell you the gold is in the editing.
5. It's going to morph.
Sometimes an SFD turns into something entirely different than I had planned. Sometimes it ends up as a PDF download or even an in-person workshop. Sometimes it will live forever as a draft.
6. Like the exorcist, it just wants out.
The SFD wants to get out of your head and onto the page.
If I go on, this post would be way longer than necessary. All you need to know is sit down, shut up, and just let the words fall out.
Need to edit your SFD? Here are my favorite ways to edit my work.