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10 Common First Draft Issues


First drafts are loveably troublesome, and it’s easy to miss some of their weaknesses and problems. That’s where a great editor is worth their weight in gold. Editors are accustomed to dirty first drafts, and how to mold them into beautiful and intriguing works of art. In this post, editor Tex Thompson will share the 10 most common first draft problems that she sees.

Tex is our go-to editor here at Inkers Con. She lit up our stage in 2019 and has been back every year since! She’s joining us again in 2022 to give a presentation on prose, which we cannot wait for.

Grab a pen and paper, because we have unlocked an excerpt from Tex’s 2019 class, and know that it will get your mind whirring with ways to improve your current novel. Click below to watch, and enjoy!

In this video, Tex recaps the top 10 issues she sees when she looks at a novel’s first draft. Here’s her list:

  1. Too much ‘but fortunately’ and not enough “oh sh*t” in the story.
  2. Not enough hard choices for your characters. What will it cost them to do the wrong thing? What is the right thing?
  3. The central conflict does not grow or change much. The problem on page 50 is the same on page 300.
  4. Too many words/pages doing too little. Narrative multi-tasking is a must.
  5. Holding one ‘note’ too long, with not enough changes in pacing, emotion, or the status quo.
  6. Too many answers at the beginning and not enough questions at any random point. The result? Places where it is easy to put the book down.
  7. Unclear emotions and expectations. Characters’ feelings are muted or missing from the page.
  8. Skimping on the hard stuff (what you struggle with writing).
  9. Including too much fun stuff (what you love to write).
  10. Too many first ideas and not enough surprises for the reader.

This clip is just an excerpt from her presentation, so there are some references that might not make sense. Tex Thompson, the speaker – is an incredible presenter. If you’ve enrolled in our 2019, 2020, 2021, and 2022 conferences, be sure to look up and watch her presentations. They are still available through your online access.

Good luck in your edits! We hope this list will help you to see any problems and potentials in your manuscript.

The upcoming 2024 Inkers Con conference offers dozens of brand new classes (including six craft classes!), Q&As, author discussions and more! Join us in Dallas or online!