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Why It’s a Good Reason to Delete “Shitty Drafts” and a Short List of Tips to Improve Them

writing, fiction

writing, fiction

The naughty words are from Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life.  Anne didn’t write me and tell me to cut my drafts, “shitty” or otherwise. In fact, she gave me permission to write them.  My editor Debbie Simorte told me it was a good idea to delete them from my blog, for the same reason spammers give me.

“Your site is rife with errors.”

Rife with Errors

Excuse me, Ms Spammer, “rife with errors.” I have a few too many, I admit, but I think rife is harsh.

But Debbie agreed, even though she didn’t put it like that.  Editors look at your site. If they see a Work in Progress (WIP), see it even has an acronym, they wonder if the rest of the story will be a WIP.

Internet users

Internet statics users Worldwide



To the 10 faithful Girls on Fire world-wide readers, I apologise, but you’ve already read it anyway. So no apology needed, right? To the 3.05 billion internet users who hadn’t seen it yet, I’m sorry, but you will have to buy the book when it comes out.

Anne Lamott’s Stages of Drafts and Tips to Get Through Them

1. DOWNDRAFT:  First draft – get it down

  • Avoid so much draft three – dental work –  by setting your page the way publishers will want it – even if you are just practicing.
    • double space
    • indent paragraphs
    • use only one space between sentences instead of the old-fashioned two. The best way to do this is to turn on the little button ¶ that hides in various places depending on what program you use. This magic button shows you how many spaces you have everywhere.
  • Write out small numbers.  Just get in the habit while you are putting things down. It makes it easier later and it doesn’t slow down your spontaneity.
  • Sometimes in the middle of your editing you have to draft an entirely new chapter to fill in the holes. I did that today. Forgive yourself and with that chapter you are back to stage one.

    Down Draft - Ger 'er down!

    Down Draft – Ger ‘er down!

2. UPDRAFT:  Second draft – fix it up

  • Ask someone like you husband who never read a romance in his life to read it.  His insight will astound you.  You will learn how men think, and more importantly how he thinks. He will be really honest and say things like, “You can’t wrestle a washer full of water. Have her turn off the water like this. Come here.” Or “This sounds petty like she is making fun of the blind. Pick a different cause. Why did she say something stupid like that?”

    Editing - picky picky

    Editing – picky picky

3. DENTAL DRAFT: Third draft – check each tooth

  • This is a job for another pair of eyes. A very picky pair. This person finds errors that run between chapters like “Ted is 88 in chapter 2 and 89 in chapter 1.” Or  “Why did Vanessa move away from Sarah’s into a hotel.  I like her living with Sarah, but then you have to deal with her comments to Tani in Chapter 2.
  • This is where you also pick up the extra space between sentences, commas on the inside of quotation marks, and misplaced commas in general,
  • Eliminate passive verbs and redundant words

What I realized is that we  weave a net when we birth fiction characters, just like life.  When we edit one thing we may miss the other connections that one statement makes. You need those extra eyes.

That’s it for today.  Thanks for the pictures, Google.

23 replies »

  1. Trial by trial. 😂 I have found your lovely post after working all of that out. I have shredded bad drafts but lost three amazing chapters because I physically wrote them on paper and forgot I hadn’t typed them out. So I had to write a brand-new chapter and add those characters back in a later chapter. Not. Happy. However, readers will be happy to know that my book is three chapters shorter than it would’ve been. Thanks for this, Marsha. 💕💐🌺❤️🧡💃🏽🧚🏽

    Liked by 1 person

    • Losing three chapters is way too sad, Sabiscuit. A friend of mine had his entire memoir finished and when he saved it the last time, it disappeared. Now he is writing his story on Facebook, one little piece at a time. I’m so glad he didn’t give up and I’m glad you haven’t given up either. Thanks for stopping by and taking the time to comment. What’s the name of your book, or have you named it yet?

      Liked by 1 person

      • I’m sorry to hear about that person. The pain is terrible. I lost a 1/2?a book in 2008 because the OS on my Dell laptop spontaneously reinstalled itself. I couldn’t even touch another fiction writing project until 2014. I was raw. My book is called the Quarter Percent. Almost done with the redraft. Still searching for last scenes.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Ha ha! Really loved this! Especially about the one who reads the third draft – what you called the Dental Draft. I have had friends (friendly editors) point these kinds of things out to me, too. They are hilarious! And I will never know why we don’t catch them. I had one man who posted in a comment I wrote on 9/11 something rude about my topic and then say, “And next time, if would help if you would actually proofread your work so we wouldn’t have to struggle through your content!” or something along those lines. It was demoralizing as I had spent HOURS on that post. LOL. I really like you!!!! I have another friend who has a friend and together they point out my dangling modifiers and other errors after it’s posted, with giant letters of ALERT!!!!! The friend’s friend uses it as a what NOT to do with the students he tutors. Talk about insulting! LOL. I try to laugh it off and make the corrections. I recently read in answer to Jeff’s G’s question, “What did you learn from this group?” Someone posted that it takes only 15 minutes to write 500 words. I’ve been doing it for more than a year and I’ll tell you it doesn’t take me 15 minutes!!!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Writing 500 words if I don’t publish them can take 15 minutes, but trust me, you don’t want anyone to see them. I type fast but as inaccurately as any beginning typist! I wish I could take credit for the dental proofreaders, but that is all Anne Lamott. She is so funny. I’m still struggling through her book because she inspires me on every page. I have to slip away and write a response to imaginary Anne. 🙂 Thanks for the wonderful comments. It seems we are talking the same language. 🙂 People can be demoralizing at times. It takes real talent to point out someone’s errors and let them know they are marvelous at the same time. 🙂


  3. Marsha, after recovering from the self-inflicted, OMG, now everyone knows I’m just a hateful hateful person who destroys excess words and self esteem, I loved this post. I’m digging out my old copy of Bird by Bird.

    Show me someone who claims to get it right the first time, and I’ll show you a liar : ) I love Lamott’s fb posts, as there are no edits and no apologies, and they prove that writing is not editing. It’s good for us to see that authors of her stature do it exactly the same as we do – draft by draft.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I don’t see “hateful, hateful person” anywhere in my post!! You inspire me with your questions. I couldn’t sleep thinking what would happen if Vanessa stayed with Sarah for four weeks. I had their entire friendship on the rocks, and her jumping off a cliff – or maybe Sarah pushed her. I”m not sure which! 🙂 (It was a real nightmare, and very scary!) I can’t wait to see what you have to say. Then it’s back to work, polishing and weeding out. 🙂


  4. Good post, Marsha! I don’t know what I would do without the extra sets of eyes to proofread. My proofreaders find loads of little things that my eyes gloss over.

    I’m one of those people who edit, proofread, and research while writing the first draft. I think I’m in the minority. 😉

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Maddie, So great to hear from you! I do all that, too, but no matter what, I’m stuck with errors and major rewrites! So I guess I’m normal! I feel like I’m getting better, though. Vince read a chapter this morning, and said, “I’ve only got a few things this time.” (Major rewrites – description – hard for me! 🙂 So glad to hear from you! Don’t be a stranger! 🙂


  5. I’d say very good advice from your editor. This blog is more than good enough with all the other quality posts. Keeping your early drafts of your books between you and your computer bin is the way to go. 🙂

    And excellent advice from you too on polishing that manuscript.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Love the updraft and downdraft image. And the Dental draft! Hilarious! 😀

    I wonder if Anne Lamott goes to sleep at night, pleased at how many writers she’s given permission to go forth and put words on a page? Must be very satisfying.

    Liked by 1 person




Hi, I'm Marsha Ingrao, a retired educator and wife of a retired realtor. My all-consuming hobby is blogging and it has changed my life. My friends live all over the world. In November 2020, we sold everything and retired to the mile-high desert of Prescott, AZ. We live less than five miles from the Granite Dells, four lakes, and hundreds of trails with our dog, Kalev, and two cats, Moji and Nutter Butter. Vince's sister came with us and lives close by. Every day is a new adventure.

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