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#Writers : Do You Believe in Shitty First Drafts? #amwriting

By 04/05/2015August 5th, 2017writing

Hemingway famously said: The first draft of anything is shit.

This speaks to me, because most times the first drafts of my short stories are indeed shitty. The first draft of my novel was even more so.

But when it comes to flash fiction, some of my best work happens in the first draft. I keep tweaking and moving words even as I write, and one sentence moves me to the next one, and the next. I rarely do rewrites of flash pieces– most take a few tweaks and off they go for submission.

This leads me to believe that there are two ways of writing: 1) puking it all out on to the page, then revising and 2) spitting and polishing each sentence as you write. I suppose I do a bit of both– depending on the length of story I’m writing.

I guess I need a lot of writing practice before I can carry the voice for longer than a flash piece. For now, I would have to settle for being a shitty first drafter– because that’s what seems to work for longer pieces.

Here’s an excerpt from an articleΒ  I came across recently (which is worth a read, in case you’re interested in the writing process):

“In fact, I cannot even allow myself to write a shitty first sentence,
let alone immediately follow the first with another few hundred shitty
sentences. This does not mean that what flows from my brain through my
fingertips through the keyboard and onto the monitor’s screen is exactly
what I want it to be. In fact, I am a ruthless reviser, an eager

So dear writers, are you a shitty-first drafter, or an eager re-writer?

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Damyanti Biswas

Damyanti Biswas is the author of You Beneath Your Skin and numerous short stories that have been published in magazines and anthologies in the US, the UK, and Asia. She has been shortlisted for Best Small Fictions and Bath Novel Awards and is co-editor of the Forge Literary Magazine. Her literary crime thriller series, the Blue Mumbai, is represented by Lucienne Diver from The Knight Agency. Both The Blue Bar and The Blue Monsoon were published in 2023.

I appreciate comments, and I always visit back. If you're having trouble commenting, let me know via the contact form, or tweet me up @damyantig !

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  • Definitely an eager rewriter. Too much so. I can get caught up in reworking a sentence three times over instead of moving onward and then I just stop.

  • I can totally realate to this and see where you are coming from. I feel the same way every time I write an article .
    Very interesting post ! πŸ™‚

  • Whatsup Guy says:

    Something I never thought off actually. For my blog the first draft is pretty much the final work. I go by the each line is perfect way. However if I ever were to write a story or something similar, I am not sure how that would go. Something interesting to think about though.

  • An eager re-writer I strive to and that's what holding me on my first draft, guess need to pour the whole thing and rework it:)

  • Nima Das says:

    Like wise,i read and re read and read again and my final draft is never a final till i share with all of you bloggers and get comments and now the sad part,i hardly get any. How do you get people to read your writing and leave a comment? Its so sad that people hardly read any thing. What is your take on this? Any advises for a year old blogger!?

  • Hi, Damyanti,

    Like you I spit and polish as I go along. I can't go on to the next sentence until the one I leave behind is saying exactly what it should.

    Thanks ever so much for your continued support. I hope everything is going well for you.

  • klahanie says:

    Hey Damyanti,

    Enough of this shit. First of all, have you missed me? I know, who the hell is this commenter!? πŸ™‚

    My writing shit is good shit, first time. I just go with the flow, so to speak. Either that or get Penny the Jack Russell dog to paw the sentence. That dog can produce some mighty fine shit!

    Have a lovely weekend, my dear friend.

    Gary πŸ™‚

  • Hema says:

    Tell me about it! I am my own worst critic. I am the 'spitting and polishing as your write' kind.

  • Hmmm – thoughtful. No I certainly spit it out onto the page all at one go. Then I rewrite and edit a couple of times. But not as much as I should or could.

  • Susan Scott says:

    Thanks Damyanti – I read the link you provided. First drafts? Headache making .. that inner critic .. I guess I do both, tear my hair out first, have more coffee and then get to the task at hand …

  • Trisha F says:

    Sorry for my comment on the A to Z reflection from last year πŸ˜‰ I was looking at the wrong list.

  • I polish as I go, but the first draft is usually still pretty far from the final.

  • First draft never get satisfied sometimes..!Anyway good thoughts provided.

  • Saru Singhal says:

    Interesting, I mean the excerpt. I think even I write like you. It pretty much depends on what I am writing.

  • dolorah says:

    Apt expression. I believe my first drafts are just plot concepts waiting to happen. For novels anyway. Ya know, perhaps the first writing of flash fiction is cleaner because of the limited word count. Takes longer to think about each word, phrase, sentence. I'm usually not done with a first draft of a flash until it is all down and perfect in one sitting. i reread it later to catch mispellings and editing errors, but that is all. I wish I could write a novel that way. Even short stories are better after the third or fourth re-write.

  • Andrew Leon says:

    I believe in one draft.

  • Angela Brown says:

    My inner critic is a mo-fo so even though my first drafts still require some revisions, they tend to be on the limited-shitty side πŸ™‚

  • I've gotten better at my first drafts and try for the right words and sentence structure as I'm going but I always need to do a lot of revision.

  • I outline to death before I begin and then am careful with my wording as I write. My first drafts are usually in decent shape when I finish. I do enjoy revisions though, which is good as there's still a lot of that to do no matter how clean the draft.

  • I make changes on the go too, while writing; and when I proof read half of it gets changed. πŸ™‚ can totally relate with you. Cheers

  • shelly says:

    I'm an eager rewriter.