Five things not to do in your first draft


Ernest Hemingway said “all first drafts are shit,” and he’s right. Your first draft is far from good, but it’s the difference between having something written on paper and nothing at all.

There’s no point getting upset over a terrible first draft. It’s not what your client will be judging your skills on. There’s also no point spending hours on getting it perfect. What you should be spending hours on is research and editing.

Your first draft is about getting something done quickly, which you can make better later. But there are some things you shouldn’t do when writing it.

  1. Don’t be afraid of going off-topic

Before you write anything, know what you’re writing about. A plan doesn’t have to be much, and it can show you what you should be writing and where you should be writing it. For my blog posts, my plans are usually just a list of things I want to cover, and I write this in the order I want to cover them.

A plan can stop you from going off-topic, but don’t worry about this yet. Just write. Anything that doesn’t fit can be taken out at the editing stage.

  1. Don’t fix your spelling and grammar

If you stop writing your first draft every time you misuse a comma, you’ll spend a long time getting it done. Bad spelling and grammar can be made good during editing.

  1. Don’t worry about your TOV

Your message is what you say, and your tone of voice is how you say it. For your first draft, focus on doing the former as best as you can. Your TOV can be sharpened up later.

  1. Don’t follow any other rules

Remember George Orwell’s rules on good writing? Don’t worry about those in your first draft. Use cliché. Use long words instead of short ones. Use six words where you could use five. All of this can be fixed another time.

  1. Don’t love your writing

Once your first draft is done, walk away. Leave it for at least 24 hours. When you come back, you’ll see what a shit job you’ve done. This will make it easier to improve.

Don’t fall in love with your first draft. You won’t want to change it, and your reader will suffer.

Your thoughts

What else shouldn’t you do when writing a first draft? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.


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