Famous writers on first drafts

Writing a first draft is hard. To begin with you have to overcome that morbid fear of the blank page, and then you have to struggle through every stunted sentence and half-formed thought just so you have something to work with.

Most of want to hide our first drafts from the world, and in that we are not alone. In fact, even the most established writers know this feeling, so if you’re struggling with the pain of a first draft, draw some comfort from the knowledge that even the brightest and best have gone through exactly the same thing.

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The first draft of anything is shit.

So said Ernest Hemingway, and he ended up winning the Nobel Prize.


The first draft is just you telling yourself the story.

Terry Pratchett‘s words of wisdom remind us that only you need ever see your first drafts.


…shitty first drafts. All good writers write them. This is how they end up with good
second drafts and terrific third drafts.

Novelist and activist Anne Lamott understands that the terrible first draft is a necessary stepping stone.


When I write, I feel like an armless, legless man with a crayon in his mouth.

Kurt Vonnegut captures the first-draft-writing process in vivid detail.


I have rewritten — often several times — every word I have ever published. My pencils outlast their erasers.

Vladimir Nabokov knows that, if at first you don’t succeed (and you won’t), try, try again.


So, yes, first drafts are difficult, but there’s no avoiding them. And if you power through, you’ll have something in common with all the greats: determination.

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