Charlotte's Web

Blogging my world since 2006

First Draft Emotions


Writing novels is not as hard as coal-mining or refuse collection or washing the windows of skyscrapers, but it does cause a roller coaster of emotions.

As I sit down to write my 1,000 words every morning, here’s a collection of things I feel and think:

  • Get off Facebook, right here, right now
  • Just do it
  • That scene is crap
  • Why the hell is she doing that?
  • Is it a problem that I still don’t know who the murderer is?
  • Just do it
  • Everyone is going to hate this because it’s a piss-poor pile of crap
  • Nooooo! No to Facebook
  • Fighting again, Maggie? Please act like a grown-up
  • I hate that character and I still can’t explain why the story needs him
  • Abject terror! I have no idea what the next scene is
  • Just do it

Which is why when I read this quote from Jane Smiley: “Every first draft is perfect, because all a first draft has to do is exist” I felt calm again. I am going to write it in CAPITALS and stick it up in my writing corner.

All it needs is to exist. It will be the perfect first draft.


Author: charlotteotter

Novelist, feminist, crime writer

16 thoughts on “First Draft Emotions

  1. I like the “just tell it as it’s happening” method. Forget writing pretty, just tell what the hell is going on, as simply as possible. I also see it as “puking on the page”.

  2. This is brilliant.

    I am currently ‘stuck’ on the last chapter of my first draft. And the reason is that it is very emotional and it takes a certain chutzpah to put myself into that frame of mind to work on it. Still, I chip away…and can totally relate to this type of self-talk.

    As always, you inspire me. Thank you.

  3. Sounds exciting and terrifying at the same time. I was interested to hear / read that Murakami stops writing every day at a point where he’s enjoying the writing. I suppose he has to get to that point first!

  4. Totally inspiring! Yay for 1000 words a day!

  5. I think if I was writing a first draft and I still didn’t know who the murderer was I might feel a certain amount of panic too! I do like that quote. Very similar to what I said to Jim when he was dithering about the plan for the sauna. When he had planned it four times and still not even begun building it, I got a little frustrated with him. He told me he was having a hard time because he was afraid it wouldn’t be perfect. Heatedly, I informed him, “The most imperfect sauna is the one that does not exist. All I want is a little room with benches that I can sweat in.” He started building it the next day. It is perfect.

    • Hi Ms HMH! *waves* I think Elizabeth Gilbert says perfectionism is just fear in expensive shoes. I know my draft is imperfect, but I can’t have a less imperfect second draft with the imperfect first draft.

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  9. I can so relate to your post. And I love Jane Smiley’s quote so much I’m going to adopt it 🙂

  10. OMG. Can I ever relate to the “Why the hell is she doing that?” thought. Well, you know, I can relate to that one once I’ve stopped screaming “YES!” to “Get off Facebook, right here, right now.” This won’t help you, but you actually have a right to be on Facebook as much as you want, since it’s merely a means, in 21st-century publishing circles, for promoting yourself as a writer. Others of us, who are unpublished (a-hem,) can’t say that, which REALLY means, “Get off Facebook, right here, right now.”

  11. What you’re saying is completely true. I know that everybody must say the same thing, but I just think that you put it in a way that everyone can understand. I’m sure you’ll reach so many people with what you’ve got to say.

  12. Good Collection. I know that everybody must say the same thing, but I just think that you put it in a way that everyone can understand

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