From website designers/developers, SEO specialists, small business owners, even my teenager – everyone is losing their minds over crafting content. But here’s where you all seem to get stuck – that first draft. But here’s what I call it – the first draft is the ‘fuck it’ draft. Once you let go of the preconceived notions that a first draft is the be all and end all, you will be free to create, to discover your true message, to just write.
Write that first draft without putting so much stress on yourself – throw out constraint, overthinking and worry. Just write.
Okay, I get that the theory is easy and the practice difficult, but it will be worth it – I promise. If you’re stuck here’s the six things you shouldn’t worry about in that first draft.
Stressing over the fact that your first draft is high quality is a bit redundant because there’s actually a really high chance it won’t be up to scratch, that parts will be utter crap and do you know what? That’s totally fine…no…really…it is.
No one’s (I don’t care who you are) first draft read perfectly, is ready to be published – no one’s!
Most writers have first drafts that don’t read well or smoothly – and the sooner you understand and accept that – the sooner you will be able to move on, finish that first draft and move on to the next draft.
A lot of writers (particularly if they are also a copy editor or proofreader) and perfectionists with their writing. While this is admirable – it can actually be a hinderance. Do you have that habit of writing and rewriting each sentence as you go? Do you constantly double back to read, reread and edit what you’ve just written? Just stop it – it’s a ‘fuck it’ first draft.
This constant editing and revising slows up the entire process and can stifle your creativity and storytelling. Set aside all those technical bits – the spelling, word choice, sentence structure, grammar, and (gasp) even punctuation. These can all be worked on in future edits. Right now – just let the words flow and get it all down on the page.
Voice and Style
Finding the right voice and developing a unique writing style can be the trickiest things you do as a writer – particularly if you are a ghostwriter but don’t focus on it during your first draft – at all.
The only way to truly find your voice and style as a writer is just to write. Write what comes naturally, how it comes naturally. The essence of the writing will be there, ready for you to refine and hone.
‘Fuck it’ first drafts are not the place to be obsessing over the perfection of your writing style. First drafts are for getting lost in the content as you tell it to yourself. Working on the way you tell the story is strictly for the editing phase.
The first draft reveals the art; revision reveals the artist.—Michael Lee
The perfect structure
Structure is one of the most important aspects of writing – whether it’s website copy, blogs, ebooks, ecourses, white papers – and one of the most difficult things to get right. Don’t fall into the trap of trying to perfect the structure before even beginning to write. While a basic idea of the structure, word count etc. are fine, don’t get obsessive about it at this point.
When you’re drafting, write whichever way works best for you. If it’s easiest to simply dash things down in the order they enter your head, do it. Don’t worry about whether your structure makes sense or is effective and engaging.
Don’t worry about little structural things, either, like paragraphs, sections or chapters. All of this can be fixed later, when you have a completed draft to work with and can see the bigger picture with a fresh perspective.
I’m writing a first draft and reminding myself that I’m simply shovelling sand into a box so that later I can build castles. —Shannon Hale
Depending on the topic, beautiful descriptions can be lovely but a first draft is not the time or place to agonise over those points – just write and pretty it up later.
Dawdling over descriptions and taking too much time to perfect them the first time around is a surefire way to slow your momentum when drafting. It can even become a method of procrastination, helping you avoid getting on with some of the more difficult elements of a draft.
Unless description flows quickly and naturally as you’re writing your first draft, leave out the details and come back to them later. In your revisions, you can work on layering intricate details and painting a more vivid picture for readers.
The first draft is a skeleton … just bare bones. The rest of the story comes later with revising. —Judy Blume
The tiny details
Imagine this. You’re writing away on your first draft, then you pause briefly to consider a small detail.
I’ll just check this quickly, you think, jumping onto Google… But before you know it, you’ve disappeared down a research rabbit-hole, and all your precious first draft writing momentum is lost.
If so, you might not be writing as smoothly, quickly or effectively as you could be. You might be wondering why you’re not making as much progress as you hoped, or why the words aren’t quite flowing as you write.
To combat this, you need to get into the habit of passing over the tiny details and flagging them to come back to later. Treat them as speed bumps rather than road blocks during your first draft; pass over them and keep your momentum going.
This can be especially difficult for technical writers for whom detail is often extremely important.
But remember: you can always come back and layer detail, quotes, statistics etc. in later drafts, and you can check everything for logic and consistency during the editing process.
Don’t get it right – get it written. —James Thurber
Following a specific outline
Now, don’t get me wrong – I’m a huge fan of planning and you’re much more likely to get that first draft done efficiently and quickly if you use a rough outline to help you but sticking to an rigid, strict, specific outline can often be at your own peril. It can restrict your writing, stifle your message, limit your storytelling, suffocate your creativity.
Remember to leave yourself free for the joy of discovery. If your writing suddenly takes you down an unplanned, unfamiliar path, don’t be afraid to go with it. If your writing starts taking a different direction than the one you intended, try it out and see what happens.
You can always revert to your original plan later if it doesn’t work. During your first fuck it draft, just enjoy the process and allow the writing to unravel as naturally as possible.
The first draft is just you telling yourself the story. —Terry Pratchett
Now that you have your first fuck it draft done – take a break, create some distance. When you come back to it – now’s when you tweak, correct, edit, proof, add the details and turn it into an amazing, high quality piece of writing ready for publication.
If you’re still struggling to get your content written just sing out – I love creating fuck it drafts and turning them into kick arse content to get your message out into the world. You can reach me here