Scratch the First Draft: Start a Protodraft

Scratch the First Draft: Start a Protodraft

What is the Protodraft and why is it your new secret weapon?

First, let’s talk about the First Draft. If you’ve never finished a First Draft, then you are not alone. Planning a story is easy, but once you start writing, it can quickly fall apart due to all kinds of different reasons.

Reasons Why A First Draft Fails

Writing Quality

The First Draft can fail for a number of reasons.

The main reason that a First Draft fails is because new writers get demoralized. Remember how easy it is to plan a story? During that planning process, you have all of these grand ideas. In the draft, you actually have to write an execute those ideas. The gap between the planning and the writing is simply enormous.

A lot of writers get demoralized when their First Draft doesn’t immediately feel like a finished novel.

You’ve heard this piece of writing advice time and time again: Your first draft will suck. You are not the exception. Even established authors don’t write the first draft with prose and elegance in mind. The First Draft for any author is about getting the ideas down, not making it pretty. All of the elegance, prose, and artistic touch come in later edits.

New writers know this deep down. But, reading what you wrote the day before can make a new writer not want to continue.

The Hump

The Hump is another reason that authors don’t finish their First Draft.

What’s the Hump? The Hump is the point in your novel after the introduction and before the climax. Remember in Freytag’s Pyramid in our post on plot? Freytag’s Pyramid, describing plot in the most basic of ways, even has trouble addressing the Hump.

The Hump is your rising action. It’s also the largest portion of your novel. You can spend time and plan out a good introduction and inciting incident, but the Rising Action is where all of the real writing work happens. It’s the moments between inciting incident and climax. It’s the development of the plot and the characters and the setting.

The Hump is all of the steps your story must take until you hit the climax. And new authors don’t plan the Hump enough.


Simply put, writing a book is a long process. It’s like committing to an exercise program. It takes effort to start, but it takes WAY more effort to actually continue through it. Checking in and committing the time each day to write is hard to do. Life happens. Your routine is thrown off. The hardest thing to do as a writer is to continue writing.


How To Fix This

Most issues with a first draft stem from your expectations of a story. The intrinsic pressures of writing and finishing a First Draft can be stiffling.

The Protodraft is here to fix that.

Erase the First Draft from your mind. Erase those anxieties and fears of your First Draft being bad. Erase your expectations of what you want that First Draft to be.

We’re moving the First Draft back.

After you have planned your story, outlined it however much you want to, then you start the Protodraft.

What’s the Protodraft?

The Protodraft is your get your story down, no matter what, do whatever it takes, it’s okay if it’s dirty draft. No rules. The ONLY thing that is important in the Protodraft is that you get that story down.

  • 15k words in and you think that this story would be better as First Person instead of Third Person? Make the change and keep writing. Don’t go back and spend time changing those 15k words. That’ll happen in a future edit. Keep writing.

  • 20k words in and you want to change the name of your main character? Do it. Keep writing.

  • 25k words in and you think that this story needs to move to a different setting? Move it.

  • 30k words in and you want to add a new perspective character? What’s stopping you? Do it.

The Protodraft has one goal. Get the story down. You’ll be doing like 5 rounds of editing anyways. Leave all of those corrections for later drafts.

The most important thing is that you keep writing.

In a First Draft, you might be enticed to go back and edit each of these changes to your draft. After all, the First Draft should be the first interation of your story.

The Protodraft, on the other hand, is about momentum. It’s about movement. It’s about progress. It’s about learning to write so that you actually finish and learning to leave edits for the editing process. Not the drafting process.

Does It Work?

The Protodraft is what single-handedly improved my writing output, writing excitement, and writing enjoyment. I highly recommend you strap in for the ride and hit the Protodraft. There is nothing more satisfying than making progress in a story and watching that word count grow and grow.