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On First Drafts and Editing

The first draft of anything is shit.  – Ernest Hemingway

It might sound like cause for dismay, but it is liberating. You are not under any obligation to share it with anyone, so you can struggle through that sensation of clumsiness with all the joy that you can muster. You can make your mistakes in private, then when your work is ready for public consumption, you will look more competent and focused. By public consumption, I tend to refer to submitting editors, agents and publishers who are busy people. If you have time to do this, then don’t assume that anyone else does. Fuck up alone or with a trusted friend/beta reader so when you are showing your work, you know that you’ve done what you can to make it work on the page.

You also have the freedom to chop and change as you need to. Which is something that I healthily admit to doing. I don’t outline beyond having a story grid, but I am never rigid about what I have decided if something better comes along to replace it. You keep the story moving, much like emptying the basket of a hot air balloon to maintain elevation, discarding the excess baggage to keep the damn thing afloat.

Lawful Evil is a perfect example of that. I’ve discarded an ongoing thread of antagonism between the two main characters, and one of those characters is now an amalgam of two characters, because there was a backstory element that felt too good to be used to flesh out a secondary character. I’ve simplified and pared it back to the core elements, which is making it easier to write and it’s moving faster.  It’s not about working faster but smarter and not being precious about the work. After a few rounds of agent’s notes and in anticipation of publisher/editorial notes at some point, I work to an idea of what is required and balance that against my need in terms of the book. What I want to express is a story. My politics, my beliefs, my passions and preferences may come out within that but ultimately the story is the boss.

What you will ultimately read is not the same thing that I finished. So much of the relationship between me as author and potentially you as reader is that I give up control of the interpretation when it is in your hands. My intentions are irrelevant, so I just make sure that it is as good as I can manage it and hope that you enjoy it. Part of that is resisting the urge to show off, to be clever and harness that passion into something accessible and clear. I look at my earliest writing, all the purple prose and need to cover everything possible, seeing the insecurity and accepting it as the price of a ticket to the big show of writing. I love my process and find triumph within that. The work is the juice, but I keep working towards a point where I can do that all the time.  It is a challenge because I suffer the insecurities and fears that besiege us all, and sometimes I do so alone, but the work is the cure.

Thank you for reading.




By MBBlissett

Writer. Working on book-length projects and posting fiction and poetry here.

You can find more about me here:

Represented by SMART Talent Agency (

I am available for writing projects via my agent, Kelly and I look forward to hearing from you.

2 replies on “On First Drafts and Editing”

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