Authors, Novelists, Norm Green, Norman Green, Shooting Dr Jack, Angel of Montague Street, Edgar Award, Shamus Award, Brian DeFiore, Mystery Writers of America, Brooklyn, Alexandra Martillo,Tommy Bagadonuts, American Writers

First drafts


For me, there really is no such thing as a first draft any more. I think the concept of a first draft is a leftover from the bad old days, when you had to work on a typewriter. If you’ve never had the pleasure, take it from me, they were horrible. Touchy, unforgiving, and, to quote Gollum, nasty. And I was a pretty decent typist, I could rattle away at a pretty good rate, but still, if you made one mistake, if you wanted to make one change on the fly, you had to type the entire page over, and this led to the philosophy that you ought to ignore all of those things you wanted to fix until you had the entire beast ‘finished.’ This is probably why Hemingway said that first drafts were shit, because you really didn’t get to fix anything until you were ready to fix everything, which meant you had to type the beast over again in its entirety, and you know that when you finished with that you were going to want to change Minerva’s name to Myrna, no, really, Minerva sounds like a witch, Myrna is such a nice name, you got to fix this, dude, and then after the subsequent draft you were bound to decide that Myrna was probably a witch after all. (Myrna, you ain’t a witch, you know I love you.)

I don’t know about you, but there are days when I really don’t have much of anything new going on, maybe I have written myself into a corner, or maybe I have been too tied up with other things and I haven’t given my story the attention it needs, but I don’t want to skip a writing day because we all know how those skipped days morph into months before you even know it. So on days like that I boot up my manuscript and just have a look, and I cannot do that without finding at least a few things I can make better. Did I really want to say that, in that particular way? Would that character really use that syntax? Did the effing spellcheck fix something without asking me?

I hate it when that happens.

By the time I get to the end, most of the book has been rewritten countless times, especially the opening pages, which are the most important ones. Those pages are the ones where you have to grab your reader, those are the pages where you’re saying, ‘hey, come with me! Look at this! I can take you places you’ve never been before!’

And you have to get those pages right.

I mean, RIGHT. Some guy walking past a table in a bookstore, he picks up your book and opens to page one, this is your shot, man, you have to punch that guy right in the head, you have to grab him by the shirt and not let go, because if you don’t, he’s gonna put that book back down on the table and move on. Or more likely, he’s gonna click on a link promising to show him what Susan Dey looks like now, and who needs that? Not you. So you have to get that opening to be absolutely as good and as tight as you have the ability to make it. Maybe better. And now that you think about it, there’s no reason to stop there. It’s not like you have to type the bloody thing over again, after all. You can get that sucker to SLAY!

That’s what your competition is doing.


(Photocredit: Doggie Do)

Leave a Comment.