Common ‘first draft-itis’ symptoms to look for

Ever suffer from a bad bout of “first draft-Itis”?

We all have. First draft-itis refers to the various flaws that everyone – including the author – during a first read of the manuscript can quickly agree should be corrected. In short, they’re common flaws that appear in first drafts.

What are some common problems in first drafts? In my editing of novels, short stories and nonfiction books, I generally see:
• Spelling errors (usually just typos)
• Punctuation errors (especially with commas and quotation marks – you know, those pesky little rules we didn’t bother to learn in sixth grade)
• Capitalization errors (particularly with pronouns used during dialogue)
• Misplaced modifiers (such as “We ate the hamburgers we just bought quickly” really should be “We quickly ate the hamburgers we just bought.”)
• Using vague words (like “thing”) and weak verbs (like “walk” instead “saunter”)
• Shifts in verb tense (often moving between past and present tense)

Many other problems can’t be quickly agreed upon and so aren’t first draft-itis: Plot turns that don’t seem to make sense, characters acting in a way contrary to how they were previously presented, and point of view shifts. These issues all are a matter of craft and style. In addition, what might be perfectly acceptable in one genre, such as a romance, won’t fly in another genre, such as literary.

First draft-itis certainly is not a problem – so long as you take care of it. The best medicine is to proofread and edit and revise … over and over until you get it right. You don’t want to send out a manuscript to a literary agent or a self-publish it on when it’s full of errors.

In short, your first draft shouldn’t be your final draft. If it is, first draft-itis can be fatal.


My name is Rob Bignell. I’m an affordable, professional editor who runs Inventing Reality Editing Service, which meets the manuscript needs of writers both new and published. I also offer a variety of self-publishing services. During the past decade, I’ve helped more than 300 novelists and nonfiction authors obtain their publishing dreams at reasonable prices. I’m also the author of the 7 Minutes a Day… writing guidebooks, four nonfiction hiking guidebook series, and the literary novel Windmill. Several of my short stories in the literary and science fiction genres also have been published.