Ugly pies and the first draft of your novel

first draft of novelSo last weekend, I wanted something sweet.  But the cupboard was bare and the piggy bank was empty, so I had to think on it a spell.  By and by I remembered I had some blueberries in the freezer and possibly enough flour to make crust.

Gotta love the Internet because I hopped on and looked for recipes that even I couldn’t screw up – or so I thought.  Anyway…the above picture is a pretty good depiction of what I ended up with.  Well, actually it didn’t even look that good.

But as they say from my hometown, “pie is pie, and you don’t waste pie.”  So, we ate it.

Was it the best pie in the world?  Not even close.  Was it the worst pie in the world?  No.  And even though Gordon Ramsey would definitely send me home from Master Chef if I turned in a pie like that – we didn’t waste it.  And it had a very short life because it was gone in less than 24 hours.

So, what does my ugly pie have to do with a first draft?

Actually, first drafts of novels are a lot like ugly pies, because they:

  • Are less than perfect on technique
  • Are sometimes one big hot mess
  • Don’t look the way they ought to
  • Have some cracks and fissures that shouldn’t be there
  • Aren’t competition worthy
  • Are uneven and patchy

However, an ugly pie can still taste good and so can your first draft.

The thing about first drafts is that they aren’t supposed to be perfectly written works of art.  They are the beginning.  The starting point.  They are the uncensored passion you felt for the story when you got the idea.

First drafts are that rush of words that sprang from you fingers as they flew across the keyboard.  The whacky characters and crazy dialogue that bubbled out of the cracks.  The tempest that burst out of the tea pot.  The embryo of what will someday be your fully formed and matured story.

So give yourself a break – play with the recipe

To me, the whole idea of a first draft is about giving yourself permission to do anything and everything with your story.  It’s the time you can put in the scene that you know you’ll probably have to cut later.  The time when your characters get to tell too many jokes.  When your villain practically has Bugs Bunny pointing at him with the big arrow.  The broad strokes if you will.

Every writer is different.  Some outline, some don’t.  Some try to write a first draft and edit at the same time and go Cray Cray, but most don’t.  Some write several drafts and some feel they have it right on the third draft.  But it’s a process and you don’t have to rush it.  It’s your process, only you know when your pie will be perfect, but in the meantime, I say enjoy every morsel.

What’s your process?  Made any ugly pies lately?

Writer Chick

Copyright 2013

2 thoughts on “Ugly pies and the first draft of your novel

  1. With a title like that, I had to rush right over! As for writing and first drafts, you know without my saying it that I’m one who writes and edits at the same time, which is why I never get anywhere. I’ve been an editor for too long to move past a bad sentence without fixing it. I’m my own worst enemy.

    Hey girl!
    LOL – I know that title – thought of it after I ate all that pie.

    Well you have editor genes so for you I think it makes sense. But for me, it was a real breakthrough to just give myself permission to go wild on the first draft. You can always edit later and refine your technique – but you can’t really reproduce that initial passion for the story. Know what I mean?


  2. Step 2) Take another hour and expand that sentence to a full paragraph describing the story setup, major disasters, and ending of the novel. This is the analog of the second stage of the snowflake. I like to structure a story as “three disasters plus an ending”. Each of the disasters takes a quarter of the book to develop and the ending takes the final quarter. I don’t know if this is the ideal structure, it’s just my personal taste.


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