If you’ve ever wanted to tear up a first draft and cry… and maybe thought about giving up on writing altogether… listen up. 

I’m Nicole Breit, award winning writer and creator of the Spark Your Story Lab and I help writers craft their best work and share it with the world.

Most first drafts have at least one gem worth saving… and today I’m going to help you pay attention so you don’t miss them.

Watch The Video Here.

In ‘Another Shi**y First Draft? Try This!’, you’ll learn:

  • how to refine that first draft to get you closer to finishing a polished piece
  • three tips to help you mine the gold in your early drafts
  • how to seek the heat in your first draft. Confused? Watch the video or read the key takeaways below😉 
  • an interesting use of the mind-mapping tool for writers
  • what to do when you’re feeling discouraged with your first draft


Your key takeaways from ‘Another Shi**y First Draft? Try This!’.

If you’ve been a part of my community for a while you know how much I love to talk about unique ways to move past blocks and finish a strong first draft. But I don’t often talk about the next important step: how to refine that first draft to get you closer to finishing a polished piece.

Writers, re-vision is where the magic happens with writing! And today I’m really excited to share three tips to help you mine the gold in your early drafts.

I believe the job of a first draft is to just open the door, inviting the creative brain to toss out some seeds that might feel insignificant but hold the potential for powerful storytelling.

So let’s get comfy – hit pause, grab a pen and paper.  You’re going to want to take notes!

Here’s my first tip: Seek the heat

One of my most admired writing instructors, Betsy Warland, taught me this trick in a workshop. Read back your first draft and underline or highlight sentences that feel prickly with energy or heat. 

Do not throw out a draft without scanning for a line with heat first… you don’t want to lose the heat! You want to find out where it might take you. 

Try writing one of your highlighted sentences on a piece of blank paper and then write another line, and another. Go deeper. Expand. Ask yourself what else is there to explore, remember, turn over? 

Where there’s smoke there’s fire so stay open to where those warm sentences lead… and continue the practice with every draft. Read back for the heat, highlight, and write to find out what’s hidden inside just waiting for you to unpack.

Here’s tip number 2 to refine your first draft: Stay open to surprise

One of the most exciting things that happens when writing is discovering something new and unexpected – especially about a story you think you know inside out.

An interesting new thought rises to the surface; we make a connection we hadn’t made before.

Often these discoveries only happen when we’re in the writing process… not when we walk around ruminating on a story we want to write. Remember this when you’re feeling discouraged: it’s worth it to keep showing up to write an imperfect first draft because you never know what might happen. 

You can use the same highlighting technique when something turns up in a draft that surprises you: write that sentence on a fresh piece of paper and write into it further, staying open and curious.

You can also use mind mapping as a way to generate more information that might enhance your story. 

If you’ve never used a mind map the process is simple. You write a word or phrase in the centre of a piece of paper, circle it, then for every connected idea that comes up draw a line out from the centre and write each new thoughts down in it’s own bubble. You’re creating a hub and spoke graphic capturing associated ideas, thoughts, images or phrases that come up for you.

Review your mind map for – you guessed it – anything that feels prickly with heat. Then delve further into the writing to see what else is there.

And my final tip for you: Look for an image

Read back your draft for vivid descriptions. Watch for stand out nouns . Remember that imagery can refer to any of the senses, not just a visual. 

Are there any word pictures that describe a sound, smell, taste or touch? How could you develop that image further, make it more vivid, evocative or clear?

If you’re feeling a bit lost in your first draft, remember that images are one of the most powerful elements of craft we have for storytelling. They can even become the focus of a piece. 

Could that unforgettable hail storm, lost barrette, squeaky door or the smell of your grandmother’s chicken soup open, close or hold together your work-in-progress if you made it the focus of a piece?

So there you have it – my three techniques for going deeper into a first draft and finding the gems so you can polish them in revision:

  • Seek the heat
  • Stay open to surprise
  • Look for an image

When you’re feeling discouraged I want you to remember one more thing: some of your best lines wouldn’t have been written if you hadn’t written a lot of other lines first. 

Now, if you’re keen to write better stories faster, I have an invitation for you. 

In November I’m hosting my second writing challenge… and I’d love to see you there!

In my 5 day writing challenge we’re going to generate one 100-word story a day for five days, and if walking away with 5 new stories isn’t sweet enough there *will* be giveaways for writers who follow the criteria to qualify.

Learn more and sign up using this link. I hope to see you there!