• Cadence Mandybura

10 Metaphors for a First Draft (Part 2)


Image by Steve Johnson


In my last post, I started exploring metaphors for a first draft. Why? Well, it’s something to do other than work on an actual story draft, because hey, that’s hard. (A post about procrastination is coming, I promise, as soon as I get around to it.)

Okay, I’m kind of joking, and kind of not. First drafts are hard, psychologically. They’re simply never as good as you want them to be, which is humbling at best, demoralizing at worst. And what I’m beginning to realize is that that’s probably never going to change, no matter how experienced you are as a writer.

So instead of expecting first drafts to become easier, let’s instead think about them in a different way. Changing your perspective is easier than changing the work of writing, because that will always be the same—both challenging and rewarding.

So here we go, Part 2! Imagine your first draft is…


Image by Linus Mimietz


…primordial ooze. I’ve always loved the idea of primordial ooze (also such a satisfying phrase to say: seriously, say it aloud, and enjoy those vowels)—a mess of organic molecules, waiting for some mysterious spark to turn them into living creatures. Perhaps your first draft feels inert right now. It’s not beyond hope. It may just need a revision to leap from the page.

…a sketch. Since I’m no good at drawing, I’m always impressed with what visual artists can turn out with just a pencil and pad. Maybe it’s the subject, the composition, or the effect of just a few lines that I find beguiling. Do I judge the sketch harshly for not looking like a finished painting? Of course not. Should you judge your draft for not being a polished manuscript? Of course not!


Image by Fredrik Öhlander

…a dog turd. You know what, maybe all you need to do is clean it up and dispose of it responsibly. But the dog feels a lot better now.

…a recon mission. You’re just finding the lay of the land. Maybe you’ve found your story already, perfectly built, exactly as you expected. But maybe you spent days hoofing around a field until you’ve finally caught the scent of the story you really should be telling. At least now you know which direction to go.


(This was definitely the case, by the way, with my story, “A Tea Party for Nomi.” While the first draft had a few key elements of the final piece—a hike in the woods, a traumatized main character, a dog—the story was completely different. Still, the first rewrite was relatively easy because I had already explored the territory.)


Image by Drew Hays


…a science experiment. You probably can’t be quite as scrupulous as real scientists, who control variables and prefer quantifiable data… but what you can share with them is their basic drive: curiosity. Your goal in this draft is not to write a Pulitzer winner; your goal is simply to try something new and find out what happens. Write in the second person. Tell your story in reverse chronological order. Don’t save the cat. Set up your experiment, detach your emotions from the outcome, observe what happens—and learn from it. Many future experiments await.

Happy writing! 💚

©2020 Cadence Mandybura