Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Behind the Books: A First Draft Isn’t a Mistake

When I present the school visit program, Creating Nonfiction: Researching, Writing, and Revising, I show the image above and ask students what all those red marks are on my rough draft. Of course, the answers I’m looking for are “edits” and “revisions,” but sometimes students say “mistakes” or “things that need to be fixed.” And this really bugs me.

What I tell them is that writing isn’t like math. In math, if I said 2 + 2 = 5, then I’m wrong and I need to fix the mistake. But in writing, there is no right or wrong, and a rough draft is an important first step.
Revision is about improvement. It’s about taking something that’s okay and making it extraordinary. A first draft is important because you can’t improve something that doesn’t exist

And then I tell them that, for me, revising a manuscript is like renovating a home. This is a comparison they really seem to get.


  1. That's such a perfect analogy, Melissa, to highlight that it's a process vs. a mistake :).

  2. I agree with Maria - this is just the perfect analogy!

  3. I'm thinking you're also helping teachers rethink how they talk about their kids' work, something that lasts long after your visit.