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In The Praise Of The Ugly Draft by Keira Dominguez

Today I would like to welcome guest writer, Keira Dominguez. Enjoy!


First drafts are supposed to be basic. On my journey to become a published author, I resonated with quotes like this one from Shannon Hale:

“​I’m writing a first draft and reminding myself that I’​m shoveling sand into a box so that later I can build castles.”

Judy Blume said it with delightful ghoulishness:

“​The first draft is a skeleton…. just bare bones. The rest of the story comes later with revising.”

So, when I sat down to be a Professional Author Lady, I knew my first drafts would be basic. There would be chunks missing and swathes that needed to be shifted. Over time, I also embraced the fact that my draft would be ugly.

“How ugly?” pipes up the sweet little artist in my head; the one that dreams of rivers of prose rippling down from a sacred, mist-topped mountain. The answer is: Very ugly.

The realization that ugliness was necessary to my development began when I was writing my second book. I had been following the formula that had worked well with my first book—squeeze in time all week to polish one chapter that would then be submitted to critique partners.

But weeks piled up and my publisher was waiting for a polished manuscript like a neighbor mowing her lawn and ever so casually lifting her neck to look over the fence. I would have to move faster than ten pages a week.

Also, I was struggling with my weekly assessment. I was absorbing critiques and found myself unable to move forward on the book was in my head—an elusive butterfly even on the best of days.

So, I gave my mangy draft a hard look, told my wise critique partners that they would get a look at it when there was something to see, and then I retreated into my writing cave until it was just me, my laptop and bag of Twizzlers.

At first I attempted to write my first draft as though I were still submitting for critique. Coherency and consistency were my goals, even if no one would see the words. I had self respect, after all.

Then I found a better path. (My better path and your better path might be totally different. I don’t know your life.) I began to write ugly.

Instead of agonizing my way through a scene, I set a timer for twenty minute writing sprints and watched as things came out of my fingertips that left my internal editor clutching her pearls. I offer you a not-at-all-exceptional example from my latest ugly draft:

“Wake up, XXXMEANINGFUL PET NAMEXXX. Wake up.” Mary put down the XXX thing she cleaned that she wasn’t really interested in XXX to watch.

My sweet little artist read that and started shoving Twizzlers into her mouth. These sentences mortified her. But I hope to coax the refined sugar out of her hand with promises that she can have her way with the renovations as soon as I pour the foundations and get the scaffolding up.

Some of these rough, foundation parts will include lists of sensory details I might want to work into a scene. The narrative might stop mid-paragraph with an all-caps question (“WHY IS SHE DRESSING FOR A BALL WHEN SHE KNOWS ABOUT THE SOCIOPATH GARDENER?”) or gallop ahead with non-existent transitions.

In building my Word Palace, the first draft is when I need the bulldozer and the backhoe. Earth will be ripped up and moved, concrete-spattered forms will get whacked into position. During the first draft is when I hunch over outdated blueprints as delivery drivers back up massive trucks on my lawn. The pretty things—those rivers of prose—can come later. It’s time for the ugly.



Keira Dominguez is the author of two sweet, magical Regency romances--Her Caprice and The Telling Touch.

She lives in Portland, Oregon with her husband and five children. When Keira is not busy avoiding volunteerism at her kids’ schools like it is the literal plague, she enjoys scoring a deal at Goodwill, painting her walls an unnecessary amount of times and being seized by sudden enthusiasms.

You can purchase all of Keira's novels at the links below!



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