What to do With the First Draft

So what did I do with the first draft of the condor story I’m writing for “Arizona Wildlife Views”?

When first drafts are fresh, they have a sort of glow around them that makes it hard for the writer to see them clearly. I left the project alone for a few days, letting the glow fade. Then I pulled it out and read it again.

Overall, I liked it; I felt it “worked.” If it hadn’t, I would have killed it. One thing you have to be ready to do with a first draft is throw it out and start over.

With a solid first draft in hand, it was time to revise. Creating a second draft is like polishing a rough diamond. I don’t trust the job to anyone but me. Nobody knows my writing better than I do, after all. A friend might be kind; an editor might be diplomatic; only I can be brutal. I’m not cruel — I’m not one of those writers who deals with a demonic inner critic — just honest.

When reworking any draft, first, I check the flow and rhythm. Is everything in order, or would the logic be more apparent to a reader if I moved things around? Are all the reader’s basic questions answered?

Then I look for repeated ideas. Repetition is fine if it’s used consciously to emphasize a crucial point. But often in the heat of churning out a first draft, I’ll make the same point twice without meaning to, or even use the same unusual word two times or more within a sentence or two. Reading a draft aloud helps me spot and eliminate repetition.

In my first drafts I sometimes say things in a complicated way; after all, I know what I’m talking about. But I’m not writing for me. I’m writing for you. A simple sentence is easier to follow, but can be just as elegant and informative as a complicated one.

Going through the draft of my condor story again and again, I applied all these techniques and tightened down the text. This is all part of the writing process. Good writing is rewriting! The second draft of “Condor ER” is still long, but it’s now also strong and tight.

The story is now in the hands of a few key readers, subject matter experts who work with condors every day. I trust all these folks to take what I’ve given them and make it even better.


4 thoughts on “What to do With the First Draft

Add yours

  1. Well, with all that attention, no wonder I love your writing! The magical part is that the final product, without exception, still has “that Julie glow”.

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