Your First Draft Doesn’t Have to Be a Masterpiece

Layer your work instead

Diona L. Reeves
7 min readSep 28

Stacks of colorful papers to represent a layering process
Photo by Andrew Pons on Unsplash

My first drafts are terrible. Ramblings, incomplete storylines, no sense of order or cohesion.

The second and third drafts aren’t much to brag on, either, but I don’t stress about them as much as I used to.


Because I’ve learned the value of layering my work.

The Process in Action

One chilly winter morning in 2021, I turned on the electric fireplace in my office. The holidays were forthcoming, but instead of the usual spark I get at Christmastime, I felt sad.

As I warmed my hands before the blower, I envisioned a young woman staring into a real fireplace. Her house was cold, like my office, and she was depressed.

I reached for my trusty writing tools and captured the thoughts swirling in my head. I quickly filled two pages with a scene involving the main character, Jaq, and her recent heartache.

I was on a roll. I jumped to another page and captured a series of events that would serve as my base storyline. More characters popped into my head, and I noted their basic traits and connection to Jaq.

As my notes progressed, I discovered why she was cold and why she was depressed and alone. Over the next seven weeks, I drafted an entire book around Jaq’s heartache and a wealthy family’s attempt to destroy her.

As I reread the text, I liked the story and the characters, but it lacked depth.

So my next review focused on the details. From descriptions about the town and what the characters were wearing to the food they ate and the drinks they consumed, I set about making the story more real.

My initial focus was Jaq, but as I revamped the scenery and layered in elements of the town and its residents, I realized its significance.

The Prescott Diaries was born.

Notes and draft files for The Prescott Diaries | Image courtesy of the author
Notes and draft files for The Prescott Diaries | Image courtesy of the author

A Case Study

Diona L. Reeves

Author of The Prescott Diaries. Writes articles on productivity, the writing process, and this thing called life.