3 Quick fixes for dreadful first drafts

Nov 16, 2015 | Better Writing

“The first draft of anything is shit.”
~ Ernest Hemingway

Papa was right. There was a time when I didn’t think so, but luckily I was working with a good editor. I’ve met lots of people who think they’re the exception, but they’re not.

If you’ve been writing seriously for a while you probably know how it goes. You crank out a first draft that is less than stellar. Ann Handley even has a name for it in her book, Everybody Writes. She calls it “The Ugly First Draft,” or “TUFD” for short.

Now that you’ve gotten TUFD down, it’s time for the real writing to begin. Here are three things you can do in the first round of revisions to make that draft better.

Let it rest

You need a clear head when you start to revise. So don’t revise right away. Let your draft sit for a while before you work on it again. That way you’ll see it with fresh eyes.

I’m writing this post on a Saturday. On Sunday I’ll revise it so I can publish it on Monday. You may take more time or deadlines may force you to take less. But if you want to write a good piece, give it a rest after the first draft.

Hunt down the passive voice

Passive voice makes readers yawn. You’re writing in the passive voice when the subject of the sentence is being acted upon. There are examples and explanation of passive voice at the end of this link. Revise those sentences you wrote in passive voice so they’re in active voice.

Read it aloud

After you’ve let your piece rest and cleaned up the passive voice, print it out and read it aloud.

Your tongue will trip over things your eyes think are perfect. Find them. Mark them. Fix them.

Repeat as needed

These three things won’t make everything perfect, but they are a quick way to clean up TUFD.