Peggy Bechko on Writing: When a Draft isn’t ‘Just a Draft’

by Peggy Bechko

Have you ever – or is it more accurate to ask, how many times have you – spoken of something you’ve written, a novel, a script a short story as ‘just a draft’.

Have you used it as an excuse for something you perceived to be not very good?

Never excuse your work as “just a draft.” It’s NEVER ‘just.’ It’s step one on the road to excellent writing. A draft shouldn’t even be thought of as ‘good’ or ‘bad. It just is. Without it you wouldn’t be editing something and moving on to the next draft.

Here’s the thing. If you’re not writing with the ultimate goal of publication or in the case of a script, finding a producer and seeing it through to the end, then what you’re writing is a diary.

Rewrites and editing are the very core of writing and creating. So, assuming you’re not writing a diary you’re going to have to do both, edit and rewrite. Probably a number of times.

It might be only you going through the work again and making changes. Or, it could be an editor or a producer asking for changes. There might even be a carrot on a stick – change this, rewrite that and I’ll take your novel to publication or your script to production.

Ultimately, when working with draft one, two or three, you need to read what’s been written like a predator. Prowl the sentences and pages looking for flaws, looking for what needs to be changed.

Each draft is an animal on its own. And each draft is where the writer examines and reexamines whether the promises made to the reader or potential viewer have been kept.

When someone asks about your writing raise your head with pride and proclaim, “I just finished my first (or second or third…) draft and it’s going well.”

Don’t ever think, or respond, “Well, it’s just my first draft” in a way that, if it were human, that draft would feel very small and unloved. You write stories and stories evolve.

Drafts, all of them until you reach the final polish, aren’t perfect and they aren’t supposed to be.

Even though there are some novelists and screenwriters who can produce a virtually perfect draft on the first run through (and they’re very rare who can do this) don’t start out thinking you’re among them. If that proves to be true you’ll find out in due course, but I wouldn’t count on it.

And, meanwhile, the drafting continues.

Remember, the reader doesn’t just want to read your story. The movie-goer doesn’t just want to watch a film. Those people want to experience what you’ve written. They want to be immersed in story. And it’s to that point that your drafts, one after the other, will lead you.

Think of your story as being a thing alive. Give it respect. Produce the drafts, however many there are, it needs to fully come to life.

And no draft is ‘just a draft’. It’s a stepping stone on the path to great writing.

Peggy Bechko is a TVWriter™ Contributing Editor. Learn more about her sensational career HERE. Peggy’s new comic series, Planet of the Eggs, written and illustrated with Charlene Brash-Sorensen is available on Kindle. And, while you’re at it, visit the Planet of the Eggs Facebook page and her terrific blog.