EelKat Wendy C Allen - zdark Fantasy Author

NaNoWriMo &
Writing Shitty First Drafts -
Is the first draft meant to make you cringe? 

Ads by Share-a-Sale

Ads by Google

A college professor (Dan Clarke who is a multi-published author of Suspense Thriller novels) once said to us in an English/writing class:

  • "Everyone writes shitty first drafts; no one vomits gold bricks on the page. Plan to edit that thing for months, ten, twenty times, before you even think of sending it to a publisher."

I always thought that was the best advice I ever heard any one say.

>The naivety of beginning authors often leads them to believe they can sit down and write a book from beginning to end in one go.

The naivety of beginning authors is why publishing houses close for submissions from December to March every year, in order to avoid the onslaught of NaNoWriMo "novels"... you know, those 50,000 word, unedited, SHORT STORIES, that are barely a 1/3 the length of a novel (120,000 words being the definition of a novel).

One of the 27 Books Removed From Amazon by the Too Gay For Old Orchard Beach Court Order demanding the unpublication of the books on January 4, 2016

The naivety of beginning authors shows through every NaNoWriMo, when they can't even be bothered to READ what NaNoWriMo says 50,000 words is...according to NaNoWriMo themselves the goal of National Novel Writing Month is...

to write 50,000 words OF the first draft of a novel

Not a 50,000 word novel, no, 50k words OF a first draft. That little tiny 2 letter word gets overlooked by practically every participant of NaNoWriMo every single year. They also recommend writing another 50k OF your draft in December and a 3rd 50k OF it in January, then editing your 150,000 TOTAL words in March.

NaNoWriMo doesn't actually say that 50,000 words = a novel, they simply challenge people to write 50,000 OF a novel in 30 days. Rather big difference, and yet, tens of thousands of NaNo writers proudly proclaim they have written a novel after just 50k words.

Then without editing it, they send that 50k SHORT STORY off to novel publishers and, come March, the NaNoWriMo forums are flooded with tens of thousands of NaNo Writers boo-hooing about how some publisher or editor laughed them out of the water for their not know 50k was a short story and nothing under 120k is a novel. They yell and complain that NaNoWriMo deceived them, when in fact, NaNoWriMo did say to aim at 150k and to write 50k each of 3 sets of 30 days in a row and did say that you were writing 50k words OF your novel, not your entire novel.

The naivety of beginning authors, in most cases is not naivety, but rather laziness, not doing basic research, not being bothered to read directions/instructions/etc, and in many cases out right arrogance. Arrogance as in, thinking "I don't need to read the rules." or "I don't need to read the publishing houses submission guidelines that clearly states they will not look at anything under 120k words."

I'm not sure naivety is the right word, seeing how common sense tells you to read rules and follow instructions, do research to know what you are supposed to do before you attempt doing a thing. That's just basic need to know information that is being ignored. Naivety implies innocence, but, ignoring common sense implies laziness. Thus I end up finding it very difficult to see someone who writes a 50,000 word short story first draft and thinking it is either a novel or publishable, to be not naivety, but rather someone who was too lazy to do any basic research.

I mean, I could understand a little kid or teenager not knowing. But in most cases it's not kids, but rather adults who should have enough knowledge of the world to know that when starting a career, you look into that career to find out how to do it properly and professional, and writing novels is a career after all.

Writing stories is a hobby, and requires no editing, no worrying about grammar. Because no ones gonna read it. It's not a career. The ONLY time editing matters, is if writing is a career. If writing is not your career, if writing is not paying your bills and putting food on the table... no one cares if the story is edited or not. I know that may sound harsh, but it's true - NO ONE CARES, because there ain't no one ever gonna read it any ways, so why bother to worry about it at all?

You really do have to go into writing with that mind set, other wise you will drive yourself batty worrying about editing.

Just write. Don't do anything else. Just write. Don't worry about the grammar or the spelling or if the prose is good or not. None of that matters at this stage of the process.


  • You first have to get the idea on paper.
  • The only way to get it on paper, is to write it.
  • It doesn't matter if you write shit or gold - you just need to get it written.
  • Editing is done to improve the story and make it better.
  • You can not edit something that you have not yet written.
  • Write now.
  • Edit later.
  • If you can't get your inner editor out of your head, write a quick short story about his death, attend his funeral.
  • Every time your inner editor tries to interrupt your writing, pull out that short story and re-read it. Remember that your inner editor is dead, you attended his funeral, and that thing talking to you now is his ghost.
  • If the ghost of your dead inner editor refuses to stop bothering you, write another short story; this time hire an exorcist to get that ghost out of your body so you can write.
  • Now if your inner editor tries to interrupt your writing, pull out that short story and re-read it. Remember that your inner editor's ghost is gone, and any voices in your head telling you to stop writing to go edit now, are you're own.
  • Write another short story, sending yourself to a psychiatrist, to analyze why you can not get the inner editor to stop harassing you every time you write. Perhaps you discover it's really demon possession?
  • Look at how much writing you are getting done about your inner editor.
  • Before you know it you'll have a novel about a writer being tormented by his demonic dead editor's ghost. :P
  • Also, before you know it, you'll be so busy writing a story about an author tormented by an editor, that you'll forget to worry about how shitty your first draft is.

In case you are wondering, this was a writing exercise we had in college. We had to "kill the inner editor" by writing a story about an author, tormented by an inner editor that was refusing to let them write the first draft of their novel, because he kept forcing them to stop and edit every few lines. I know it may sound silly, but try it... it actually works.

The thing of it is this: every second you spend worrying about how shitty your draft is, is another second you wasted that could have been a second spent writing. So, just tell yourself: "Stop wasting my damned time, I have a novel to write" and get back to writing.