I call my first draft a trash fire, but that doesn’t mean I’m not proud of it.
No matter how good you get as a writer, the first draft will always be the worse draft the story will ever have.
People ask the question: Will I ever write a good enough first draft?
I respond readily, after millions of words, your first draft can compare to some books on the market. But, by then, you’ll still see errors and ways to improve the story.
The first time someone writes a story and considers it good enough to publish, it will still feel weak when compared to a long time author.
Another question many ask: How many drafts will be needed for a story?
The number is unknown. The most important draft is the first one. It’s the only one that’s truly needed. You can just shelf a first draft forever. The story is “done”. It’s not in a state to sell or publish, but you can call it done.
Trash fire or not, the story is done.
How many to make it publishable?
That’s unknown. For some of my works, three rounds have them good enough to hit publish. Others, I’m hitting fourteen reviews, rewrites, and editing rounds and still questioning pieces of the work.
I suggest seven. Seven rounds of rewrites, reviews, and edits. It’s good number of review for anyone. The final review should be read out loud to hit up mistakes missed by a fast reading.
The first draft when compared to any of those created drafts afterwards will look bad. It will have a mess of all the writer’s weaknesses surrounding a story that needs to be told.
The only purpose of a first draft, though, is to exist. No matter the form it exists in, the story is complete.
Then get back to work making this story not just complete, but beautiful.
The key for edits, is to review once more.
Review until you go pages without noticing anything. Because if you review without noticing things to be fixed, then there are less things to fix. Review one more time after that.
If you aren’t confident as a editor, ask for help. Beta readers, and editors are worthwhile. They really improve a story. They help a writer see past their weaknesses and how to make them strengths. Use them. Value their words.
But, here’s the thing, a thing most writers would never admit to or suggest: readers aren’t gonna notice.
If you managed to make the story decent, good enough, where mistakes are limited and the story shines through, readers will like it.
You don’t need perfect grammar.
You don’t to make it perfection.
Perfection isn’t even possible.
If King showed you his first draft of any new story he’s been working on, you’d call it good enough. Because he’s millions of words in. He’ll go through a few editing rounds anyway, because he wants it better.
If you helped a small child with their first three sentence story, you’re going to cheer them on more because they tried not because they did well.
Every story has the perfect reader. A reader who wants and needs this story. As is. As the first draft. Edits make it so more than just that one perfect reader would like it.
Don’t think of making the story perfect. That’s impossible.
Drafting is to make it better for the readers, so more enjoy it. Every round increases the number of readers who’d five star. But even the first draft would get you five stars. If you don’t believe me, think again of that little child getting an A just because they wrote something that made sense.
There are so many readers out there.
Finding the perfect one for your story is hard, but that doesn’t mean they don’t exist.
You can stop at the first draft.
You can edit it a few times and hit publish.
You can spend years on one story.
All of them are correct answers.
It depends on what you want from the story.
At some point, another editing round will not improve the number of five stars you can get. That’s as close to perfection as you can get.
I wouldn’t even say that’s a goal.
Aim for a great story and walk away. You can always give it another editing round for another edition in six years when you’ve improved as a writer. Don’t try to push too hard when more stories are to be had.