There are many routes to getting a finished first draft. What’s important to understand is that your first draft is almost never your final draft.
A first draft can take many forms, including a bare outline, a detailed outline, all the way to an almost complete-looking book. The first draft of your book is done on a blank slate, where the important thing is to get your ideas and thoughts down on paper (real or electronic). Even if you started with an outline, it’s almost impossible to see the whole work as you write. It’s like a painting—the picture can’t be fully appreciated until the artist is finished.
There may be too many words or too few. There may be too much narrative, explanation, or description—or too little. The pace or presentation of material may be too slow or too fast, either losing the reader or not allowing the reader to stay with your thought stream. And the first draft may not clearly express your thoughts. You get the idea.
But all of this is okay, because it’s only a first draft—the first time all your ideas are down in one whole document, of whatever form. It’s not designed to be a final draft or a perfect draft. This, after all, is a starting point. It’s not ready for an audience yet.
It’s usually considered ineffective to edit during the writing phase. This prevents interruption of the creative process. But at some point, it’s time to sit back and read what you’ve written, and like many writers, you find parts of your text that just ain’t right. What do you do? It’s time to put on your editor hat. Be merciless—get the words right, change the order of text, add missing material, and remove text that doesn’t enhance your message or move your plot along.
Bottom line: It’s definitely okay if your first draft is messy. Just remember that your goal is to keep it from remaining that way. It’s now time to polish, polish, polish.
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