I haven’t read a lot of other author’s beginning drafts. I’ve read many, but not on the scale of a slush reader or editor. Even so, I’ve looked at early drafts and thought smugly, “My early drafts are cleaner than this.”
When you’ve got a bit of Impostor Syndrome going on, you take pride in what you can, sometimes.
I write cleanish early drafts. But they’re far from perfect, and for good reason: every writer needs an editor.
We get too close to our own work
After pouring so much time and energy into a story, we become numb to the details. Even if we put it away for a long while (which we should all do!), when we come back, we can still be blind to places where the story just doesn’t work. If you want to know if you evoke specific images or emotions, you need to put the work in front of other people and harvest their reactions.
Note: If they do not see your genius, do not try to convince them of it verbally, or outside your story. You don’t have to agree with everything they say, but you should respectfully acknowledge their views, and use the opportunities they give you to make your work better.
Just as we have darlings that need killing, we all have a set of mistakes we frequently make
Every writer is unique. We all have different backgrounds that we draw on, and different writing styles. Some people are plotters, some are pantsers, and some of us are somewhere in between. And, we all have certain mistakes that we make without noticing.
My common mistakes include: frequent use of passive voice, qualifying words, using longer sentences than I should, and mixing up narrator and character voices. Some stories, I make more of these mistakes than others. I’m getting better at catching some of these problem areas, but I still make these mistakes frequently. Often, I don’t see the mistakes when I go to edit my own work.
What makes sense in our head doesn’t always translate to the page
We imagine our plots, settings, and characters for months or years. We work it out in our head, and we bend over our keyboards or notebooks, trying to translate the crystal clear images in our mind onto the page. It’s a daunting task, and just talking about it now makes me wonder how I’m able to do it at all. It’s like we’re setting out to do slow, clumsy telepathy.
The translation isn’t always perfect, and just as we can’t hear our own accent, we don’t always see where the image hasn’t coalesced on the page correctly. It takes another set of eyes to see the missing pieces.
I stated that we all need an editor, but this doesn’t have to be a single individual. It could be a writer’s group, or several writer’s groups. It could be a collection of skilled beta readers.
If your lovely wife is reading your work, she can be an amazing asset. Just remember that people that are close to you might try and spare your feelings. Or, if you’ve talked to them about your work a bit, they might be too close to your work as you are. They may even become numb to your particular set of flaws.