21 YA Authors Describe Their First Drafts In One Sentence — And It's Not Pretty

Courtesy of Penguin Random House; Margot Wood

Every November, writers from across the world settle in to finish a 50,000 word novel in one month. Yep, you read that correctly. That's about 1,666 words every single day, including Thanksgiving. So, why would anyone want to do that to themselves? Well, it's all part of National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo, a fun fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants approach to novel writing that can be a huge help to aspiring authors who need a firm deadline and a gentle push to get their words on paper.

If you think this sounds like a gimmick, you couldn't be more wrong. More than a few famous novelists have started what would become published novels during NaNoWriMo. Erin Morgenstern began The Night Circus during one of these challenges, and Rainbow Rowell wrote Fangirl during another.

Of course, writing a 50,000 word novel is no easy feat by any stretch of the imagination, and you shouldn't expect the manuscript you have on Nov. 30 to be ready for submission. What matters is getting the words down so you have something to work with — something you can revise, and revise, and revise some more. I asked 21 young adult authors to describe their first drafts in one sentence. Hopefully, it will inspire you to get your own first draft down on paper, once and for all.

Tillie Walden, author of 'Spinning'

Courtesy of Tillie Walden

“The first draft of a story always makes me think of uncut gem stones; it feels rough and imperfect in my hands, but there is always something beneath the surface that is completely magical.”

Click here to buy Spinning.

Marissa Meyer, author of The Lunar Chronicles and 'Renegades'

Courtesy of Julia Scott

"The first draft for Renegades included a prestigious boarding school for superheroes, a secret villainous cult, and a protagonist named Clara who had an invisible pet thunderbird... in other words, it bears virtually no resemblance whatsoever to the finished book."

Click here to buy Renegades.

Ari Goelman, author of 'The Innocent Treatment'

Courtesy of John Goldsmith Photography

"If I'm lucky, my first drafts have a handful of polished scenes, the bones of a plot and – if I’m really lucky – a character with whom I want to spend more time."

Click here to buy The Innocent Treatment.

Jennifer Mathieu, author of 'Moxie'

Courtesy of Pablo Gamez

"The first draft of Moxie started with the ending - I actually thought it would be a good idea to begin with a teaser prologue that would give readers a glimpse of the climactic final scene; I'm so happy I decided against that, but it was a good exercise to have the ending in mind as I wrote the first draft!"

Click here to buy Moxie.

Adam Silvera, author of 'They Both Die At The End'

Courtesy of Margot Wood

"For the first draft I "Tell Now, Show Later" because I gotta learn the characters and story first by TELLING myself before SHOWING you."

Click here to buy They Both Die at the End.

Patrick Ness, author of 'Release'

Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images

“The first draft is a secret that no one ever needs to see, but it leads to the second draft, where the book really begins.”

Click here to buy Release.

Arvin Ahmadi, author of 'Down And Across'

Courtesy of Joe Power

"A first draft is texture."

Click here to buy Down and Across.

Kristin Cashore, author of 'Jane Unlimited'

Courtesy of Laura Evans

"My first draft is a courageous shout — 'I’m writing a book, dammit!' — that gets me through to revisions, where maybe I can finally start to see what this book needs."

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E.K. Johnston, author of 'That Inevitable Victorian Thing'

Courtesy of E.K. Johnston

"I think and think and think, and then the first draft pours out on to the page, ready to be expanded in the direction I actually meant for it to go."

Click here to buy That Inevitable Victorian Thing.

Ashley Woodfolk, author of 'The Beauty That Remains' (March 6, 2018; Delacorte)

Courtesy of Ashley Woodfolk

“My first draft had gaping plot holes, three main characters who sounded exactly alike, and a whole scene pulled, unconsciously and nearly word for word, from a movie."

Click here to buy The Beauty That Remains.

Kirsten Miller, co-author of 'Otherworld'

Courtesy of Kirsten Miller

“A first draft is a marathon that you're certain will break you until the moment you cross the finish line and it's DONE.”

Click here to buy Otherworld.

Sarah Dessen, author of 'Once and For All'

Courtesy of Sarah Dessen

"My first drafts are messy and imperfect. Later, bad scenes can be cut or fixed, sentences tweaked, ideas changed: it's all good as long as you KEEP GOING."

Click here to buy Once and For All.

Laura Sebastian, author of 'Ash Princess' (April 24, 2018; Delacorte Press for Young Readers)

Courtesy of Laura Sebastian

“Bare bones; the muscle, sinew, skin, hair, etc. all come later.”

Click here to buy Ash Princess.

Kendare Blake, author of 'One Dark Throne'

Kendare Blake/Instagram

“Every book is different, but lately, my first drafts are so bad that it would take more than one sentence to explain it; it's like a really long writing exercise... an exercise in remembering how to write.”

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Jared Reck, author of 'A Short History Of The Girl Next Door'

Courtesy of Jared Reck

"Because I’m a painfully slow writer — I write a few scenes by hand, then go back and type and revise, then back to hand-writing — the first finished draft of A Short History of the Girl Next Door was pretty polished; it just took me four years to get to that point."

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Tae Keller, author of 'The Science of Breakable Things' (March 6, 2018; Random House Books For Young Readers)

Courtesy of Tae Keller

"The first draft of The Science of Breakable Things had it all: typos, clichés, wooden dialogue—but it crackled with energy and reminded me how much I love to write."

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Jen Wang, author of 'The Prince and the Dressmaker'

Ye Rin Mok

"First drafts are like practicing dance moves in your room alone in the dark; it doesn't matter what it looks like because it's just for you."

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Emily X.R. Pan, author of 'The Astonishing Color of After' (March 20, 2018; Little Brown Books for Young Readers)

Courtesy of Emily X.R. Pan

"My first draft was a haphazardly mowed path through a dark and scary overgrowth of trees and weeds; it took a dozen more drafts to prune and trim, plant new things, string up some lights—so I could arrive at something of a garden."

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Peter Bognanni, author of 'Things I’m Seeing Without You'

Courtesy of Peter Bognanni

"The first draft of my latest book was essentially the longest and most pretentious run-on sentence about mortality ever written."

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Sara Holland, author of 'Everless' (Jan. 2, 2018; HarperTeen)

Courtesy of Sara Holland

"Arranging my ideas into a cohesive hole is always like herding cats — angry, magical cats that run away if I make any sudden movements."

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