7 First Drafts Every Writer Writes

Putting together a first draft can be an exercise in both patience and urgency. We would all love to be that writer that can finish a whole novel in less than a month, but more often than not, a first draft doesn’t come easily. No matter where you are on your writing journey, here are a few types of drafts you’re sure to encounter.

1. The draft thrown together in the hour before your writing workshop

Last week, your instructor told you that you would need to write one flash-fiction piece to go over in small groups for today. That’s easy, you think, I can do a five-hundred-word story by then. So you put the assignment off and read literary journals at your leisure, patiently waiting for just the right idea to come to you. But then a whole week goes by and you’re left with two hours until workshop. Scrambling, you grab your laptop and write a quick story about the hair in the bathtub drain and your last relationship. Usually, this kind of draft needs some love, but there are a couple of salvageable ideas that can jump-start your writing in future drafts—it’s definitely one you will keep coming back to.

2. The draft that was meticulously put together on a long-term writing schedule

Your mentor suggests writing on a schedule. You find you’re most productive between two and three in the morning, so you tell yourself you’ll write for one hour every other night. You start off unsure, but then you start to really like your ideas. One paragraph turns into three pages, then ten and yes! You finally have a complete first draft—and you’re exhausted. You love the final product, but you’re not sure when you’re going to be able to follow a writing schedule again. You keep this strategy in mind for the next time you have a long-term writing project.

3. The draft that came from freewriting

Potentially the most elusive type of first draft, you’ve done dozens, even hundreds, of freewrites by now based on countless prompts. But when will you finally have an original idea? Although it’s a tedious endeavor, you manage to find a gem among the piles of notebooks—and hey, you can’t help but fall in love with it! You even have some pre-written material that you want to try adding to the second draft.

4. The draft you wrote while watching Netflix

Sometimes the background noise of a show helps you focus, and it’s fun to look up to from time to time while you write. This is a high-risk strategy, and before you realize it, you have finished season one of a K-drama while absentmindedly typing on your laptop. You have definitely spent more time watching a love story than looking at your Word doc. You take a closer look at your writing—wait, did you just copy that dialogue word for word? And this other scene looks awfully familiar. Maybe you need to look this draft over again, and this time, add some unexpected twists into the narrative.


5. The draft that’s a mashup of random ideas from your notes app

You have a dedicated tab in your notes app for all the ideas that come to you throughout the day. These come from dreams, spontaneous shower musings, or even mindless tasks at work—all of which leave you too busy to dwell on any idea for too long. You open your notes to search for some writing inspiration, but you’re not sure you’ll find the answers you’re looking for. Exploring the ocean beginning, finding blue cheese, forgetting about chickens—what do these even mean? Although they’re abstract, you use these ideas to produce a surprisingly mysterious and lyrical new draft. You think this story has real potential for some poetry/prose hybrid elements in future drafts.

Prettysleepy Art

6. The draft that’s a hybrid of several other first drafts

You couldn’t bring yourself to let these drafts go, so why not combine them to make an ultimate chimera draft? You thread favorite parts of previous drafts into one story, and while the end product isn’t quite what you imagined, you think the different pieces play off of each other nicely. If you work on focusing the narrative in future drafts, you think you could end up with an amazing story.

7. The draft that ends up being a final draft because you’re writing it just before a submission deadline

You only know it’s the last day of the month because you have to pay rent tomorrow. This also just happens to be the day the submissions window for one of your favorite literary magazines closes! You stay up all night reading some of their recently published stories and writing your own. Does this narrative seem like something they would want to publish? But you don’t have time to think too hard about it—the deadline is in thirty minutes. In a leap of faith, you upload your draft to Submittable. Now, you only have to wait for eight to sixteen weeks for a response.

No matter how you get around to writing it, a first draft is a first draft, and you should be proud of what you’ve done. After all, having something written is better than having nothing—and first drafts are the only way to eventually get to that perfect final draft. Once you’re satisfied with your revisions and ready to send your piece into the literary world, you could try submitting your work for publication in F(r)iction!

Miki Schumacher

Miki Schumacher is based in Minneapolis and is a student at the University of Minnesota. They will be graduating with a B.A. in English with minors in creative writing, teaching ESL, and Asian American studies. They love learning languages and reading and creating poetry. When they’re not busy teaching or writing, they’re probably cooking, working on a painting, playing an RPG, or starting a new book. Connect with Miki on Twitter