Serious Writing Flaws in First Draft

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I don’t like to tell other people how to write because I am no expert, but I can share my own personal experience with the process.

More than three quarters of the way through this manuscript, I went back and read a few chapters. This is a first rough draft, mind you, but I can see a tremendous amount of work in front of me.

I have a tendency to rush through TELLING you what my characters did or didn’t do. I want to spit the story out in a hurry rather than SHOWING the building of character presence.

I know a writer’s style can break the rules, and I am certain mine will. But there are some places you really can’t skimp and write effectively.


For example:

Which tells you most about these characters?

A) Brandi was dressing herself and applying fresh make-up as they spoke. A brunette wig would do for her plans for the day. Not too much make-up. Wearing a skin-tight, short tube skirt and a low slung sweater top, she set aside the heels in favor of her sneakers.


B) Brandi tugged on her hair at the mirror as they spoke. The braided black wig that she chose emphasized her African-American features, while her light coffee colored make-up delicately smoothed her Caucasian skin. A tight white tube skirt clung to an ample derrière and a low slung sweater top showed off both her heavy implanted breasts and small waist. She set aside her familiar stilettos in favor of more comfortable gym shoes to walk the streets today.


A)    He had thick, dark hair and tough, tanned skin.


B)    The Florida sun had not lightened his thick, dark hair, but had toasted and leathered his skin.


They don’t even seem like the same people to me. I have this vision in my mind of who these characters are, but conveying that to you properly is a challenge.


And emotions:


A)    She held her nose. “You stink. You could use a shower. They have that right over here,” she said, pointing toward the pool area.


B)    She turned her head, wrinkled her nose, and waved her hand in front of her face. “You smell like a chitlin boil dumped three days at the landfill! There’s soap and shampoo in the shower stalls outside by the pool.”


A)    After fourteen flights of stairs he was exhausted and panting. He tried to hide behind a potted plant at the end of the hall.


B)    After fourteen flights of stairs he was panting. He could barely walk the six feet to the end of the hall to hide behind a potted plant. His legs ached. His knees shook. Trying to stand up straight to conceal himself behind the foliage made the leaves tremble.


See what I mean? I’ve got a lot of work to do. It’s fun work. But we’re a long way from finished with this. This could take months.

I know the right way to write. It’s just faster and easier to write the wrong way. But that’s what makes the first draft like sliding down the slide, riding the merry-go-round, swinging high through the tree limbs, wriggling your toes in the sandbox. It’s a literary playground.


I was originally editing as I moved along and the writing process was dragging. I was getting frustrated. I feared I was going to give it up before I got the story out there. Lose it from my mind. I gave up the method instead.

Ask me how I feel about writing when it comes time to edit.

28 thoughts on “Serious Writing Flaws in First Draft

  1. I’m not sure there is a right way to write… styls and opinions differ. Yes, of course there are accepted standards and rules.. onventions of narrative… but unless you write from the heart anyway, it shows. Write first, prune later.

    • That’s good to know. I never altered a word on the last book I published. And it got good reviews. But I am looking to hone my craft. Thanks for your comments.

  2. I’m not the best one to comment. They sound like interesting characters to me. If anything, change the “was” statements. Brandi pulled on her… We’ll get that she’s getting dressed.

    I wouldn’t say this if you hadn’t asked.

  3. Actually I was asking to choose between A) and B). Brandi is on the phone with Richard as she dresses, so “was” was necessary to indicate that she did something else simultaneously.

  4. I also have a tendency to want to edit as I go along, but lately I’ve heard it repeated numerous times to just get that first draft down on paper and then edit. Think it finally got through my thick head. Your examples are perfect for “show, don’t tell”.

    • Thanks. I just edited one based on a comment by a reader. Even when being more descriptive. I have a tendency to tell action rather than show it. It’s a tough habit to break.

  5. I like Brandi “B” now. Like I said, I wouldn’t even suggest if you hadn’t asked. I love the guy with leathery tough skin too. Both A and B. These characters sound great. I want to know more about the one who made the chitlin boil comment. It says so much in so few words.

    • That’s Brandi. She a mixed race, transsexual. She’s Richard’s sidekick. Even though he doesn’t want one. Brandi is from Virginia, but lives in the city. She’s an entertainer in a gay club. I’m having fun with her. Glad you found her interesting.

  6. I like what Sue Vincent said above: “Write first, prune later.” Looks like you’re doing that, so I’d say you’re spot on with your first draft. We have to get the story out first. We’ll have plenty of time to pretty it up when we’re done, not to mention amp up the showing and tamper down the telling. 🙂

  7. Similar to Carrie’s comment above: Time to silence the inner critic. Ann Lamott opines, “It’s okay to have a shitty first draft.” As you well know, the most important thing about first drafts is to get the flow going; revising can wait.

  8. I think for some writing it pays to move forward quickly like that and then go back later and unfold everything. But sometimes I get the good word by word writing if I go slow. It depends. What it depends on I have no idea!! 🙂

    • I have never worked with an outline, but there are so many convoluted details in this story, I had to. Sort of feels like I’m just adding meat to a fish skeleton. I’ll have to go back and breathe some life into it.

  9. I don’t think there’s a right or wrong way. It is probably different for everyone–and also different day-by-day. I think it’s probably important to get the story down, but there might be days that you feel like editing what you’ve already written. (I tend to write and rewrite first paragraphs. 🙂 Good luck with it!

    • I didn’t have my first opening paragraphs until I was halfway in. I went back and did that after I got to know my main character a little better. Every time I start a new chapter, or scene, I feel like I am starting all over again. It has gotten easier as the story has progressed, but i still go back and pick through details sometimes.

  10. The first draft is usually the best part 😀 You can just get the story out and down onto the page, no worries about what it’s like. That’s when editing really comes into it’s own, when you can polish it up and make it brilliant 😀 Can’t wait to read your book, it sounds more intriguing every time you post about it!

    • Thanks! It will be awhile before this is ready for eyes beyond mine. I don’t have all the meat on the skeleton yet, and editing will certainly bring it more to life. I am starting to actually look forward to that part. I was dreading it initially.

  11. Learning the craft of writing is a never ending learning process. Changing constantly, we can only hope that at some point we find we are comfortable within our own style and voice.

    • True Dennis. I am not even certain if my voice shines through on this one yet. It’s still sort of bare bones. My husband says it does. My style is constantly evolving. Thanks for stopping by.

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