Posted in Drafting Writing

Things NOT To Include In Your First Draft

Things NOT To Include In Your First Draft Posted on November 24, 20181 Comment

Just write it. Get the story on the page and worry about the rest later. This is the advice many new (and old) writers read/hear when starting their first drafts. You’re told that everyone’s first draft is an unreadable mess – and it’s true. There are typos, inconsistencies, bulky prose and boring dialogue. And that’s okay. Your first draft will not be perfect.

Mine certainly isn’t.

What they don’t often mention, however, is that your first draft does not have to be 100% complete. There are many things that I recommend you don’t include in your first draft. Why? Because it helps you put the story on the page in as little time as possible.

Here are 5 things NOT to include in your first draft.

5 Things NOT to Include In Your First Draft

Every Scene

You know what needs to happen in the scene, but for some reason, you could not bring yourself to write it. Perhaps your mood didn’t align with the scene, or maybe you were just excited to skip ahead to the action. That’s fine. It’s normal. As long as you have made a note of the scene and what needs to happen in it, there’s nothing to stop you from coming back to it later.


Description is something that many writers get hung up on. Don’t get me wrong, description is a vital aspect of telling an immersive and rich story – but it isn’t essential in your first draft. So, if you find your characters, world, locations or scenes are lacking description, don’t panic. You can go back and add those wonderful, poetic and enchanting descriptions later.


Like much of what you write in your first draft, the dialogue is not going to be perfect – especially if you are writing accents or historic speech. The primary aim for dialogue in your first draft is to write the general things that your characters need to say in order to progress the story.


Stopping to research (or Google) every tiny detail as you write your first draft is an unnecessary distraction. You will likely fall into a research rabbit hole and waste precious writing time. Make a note of the things that you will need to research later, and add those details in later. Authors such as Brandon Sanderson and Mary Robinette Kowal are known for doing this.

Character Names

You don’t need to have all your character names in your first draft. In fact, many writers often change the names they give their characters in later drafts. If you’re stuck and can’t think of a name that suits your character pick something simple. If I introduce a new character, or I simply forgot to name one, I will write in brackets (enter boss name) and move on.

The first draft is the bare bones of your story. The skeleton, if you will. some bones may be a bit broken, you may have a few missing ribs – but for the most part, your story is there. You have what you need to build something upon. You can fix those bones and flesh out the rest of your story in the other drafts.

‘The first draft is just you telling yourself the story.’ — Terry Pratchett

Happy Scribbling



1 thought on “Things NOT To Include In Your First Draft

  1. I have really enjoyed this article, it’s made me feel so much better about my drafting process. I tend to like to right the fun scenes first, or at least the ones that I’m inspired to write in a particular moment (it’s far easier to write a scene where a character is upset if you’re currently upset yourself).

    My first drafts tend to have sections in coloured italics that simply say “need a scene in here where x happens” and a summary of what I want to happen without dialogue or descriptions. Reminds me that I have to go back and fill that bit in later, while keeping it in the right place in the plot.

    I will write descriptions of places knowing they are bad or incomplete, and just leave them at that until I can come back and do it properly later.

    I tend to have names for my characters by the time I get to a first draft, but names are usually the last thing I come up with. I like to know a lot about them before I feel I can come up with a name that fits (especially when I tend to write high fantasy and the name can end up being almost anything. When I first come up with a character though, whether protagonist, antagonist or supporting cast, I tend to give them incredibly generic names to identify them as I develop relationships, actions etc. My first notes are always full of people named Bob and Dave and Mary just to give them a placeholder. I try to make them as common as possible so I won’t unconsciously begin associating the name with the character and so not want to change it later (a dragon named Bob just wouldn’t work – well, maybe for comic effect, but you get the idea).

    I’ve been living in a bit of a writing bubble for the last ten years (real life issues) and it’s nice to have the affirmation that I’m not doing it wrong, that my methods are just as valid as any other. Thank you.

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