The First Draft Read-Through: Vital to the Writing Process

Sometimes writing’s easy. And sometimes, you feel like what you’re writing is so horrible it takes this kind of effort to pick up a pen (or sit down at the computer)

Finding myself knee-deep in NaNoWriMo and a first draft I’m really loving but I know will need a LOT of sprucing up in the future, I’m reminded today of how important that first draft read-through is. You know, that part of the writing process after you’ll let your first draft sit for a while and have somehow managed to prevent yourself from tearing into you. Time to read and further exercise self-control by refraining to edit while you read and just take notes on things that work, things that don’t, and things that just don’t make any sense.


I’m thinking of this right now because I continued a subplot today in my NaNo novel involving the princess and a scumbag nobleman who, after being caught trying to rape her, basically claims she invited him in and tries to ruin her reputation. While I LOVE how magic is involved in the actual action of the scene, the aftermath is feeling stale and cliché to me as it drags on. I worry I am dragging it out too much. (How much can I have her pity herself before she just starts coming across as a Scarlett O’Hara?)

While contemplating this flaw with the novel, it hit me: maybe I am dragging out the subplot, but that’s exactly what a read-through is for. That’s exactly the kind of problem with your draft the read-through helps you to identify because you’re NOT stopping to edit but reading the work with an eye for over-arching structural issues and inconsistencies. So for now, I’m just continuing on with my outline the way I have it, and if I end up cutting down on the part I’m working on now, I end up cutting down on it. I’m already trying to minimize what’s left of the section in terms of length, but it’s not a huge priority at this stage.

This kind of thing is why I’m loving NaNoWriMo. It’s a great opportunity for me to relearn why each part of the writing process needs to be its own part and bleed as little as possible into the others. Right now, I’m writing. And that’s all I need to do. I’m not editing as I go, and I’m not going back and rereading and changing what I have. There are other stages for that. This is the composition phase. I already have my 50,000 words, and by the end of November or shortly thereafter, even knowing it still needs a lot of work, I’ll be able to say I’ve written my fifth novel. That’s just kind of awesome for me to consider, as this has always been what I pictured myself doing with my life and what I’ve striven for.


4 responses to “The First Draft Read-Through: Vital to the Writing Process

  1. Very timely for me – I’m doing a first read through. and some of it really sucks! But for now just concentrating on the order things happen and whether it makes sense. Thanks for sharing.

    • best of luck getting your book in order! i kind of dread my read-throughs because I realize how bad my writing is, haha! writing’s definitely the easy part. shaping it into something worth reading, another story….

    • everyone writes “shitty first drafts” as Anne Lamott describes them aptly. so don’t despair if you feel like like your draft has a lot of problems. it’s too easy to do that, and somehow hard to remember EVERYONE’S first drafts are problematic.

  2. Pingback: What Authors Gain When We Edit After Gaining Some Distance From Our Work | Creative Writing with the Crimson League

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