Why Writers Must Occasionally Vomit

by K. Kris Loomis in Writing

I recently announced to some of my friends and readers online that I had finished the “vomit” draft of my first novel. Did I get a few strange comments? Yep.

One good friend asked what the heck a vomit draft was, what purpose did it serve, and what was the big deal in finishing it. Here I was, drinking a celebratory martini, and she wanted to know what the big deal was!

Simply put, finishing a vomit draft is the BIGGEST deal and is the first crucial step in an author being able to complete her book.

What the heck is a vomit draft?

A vomit draft is another name for a writer’s first draft.

Many writers call it a vomit draft because, well, it isn’t pretty. First drafts are often full of plot holes, boring characters, and incomplete research. Vomit drafts often contain big marked off blank sections with a note to go back and add something later or to do more research.

Sometimes character’s names change mid-draft. Sometimes characters disappear altogether. Or the setting could begin in New York, but along the way, the writer changes her mind and moves the whole thing to Pluto halfway through.

Rarely does the finished product resemble the first draft. So why go through the process at all?

What purpose does the vomit draft serve?

The writer’s putrid first draft serves several purposes.

The vomit draft provides a sacred space for the writer to spew ideas onto the page without fear of negative feedback from others or self-censorship from herself. No one sees this part of the process except the writer. NO ONE!

Rewriting is where the magic happens, where the writer fills in the holes, plays with word order, and solidifies the themes that run through the work. After all, Hemingway said, “The only kind of writing is rewriting.”

The thing is, you can’t rewrite something that doesn’t exist.

So, the purpose of the first draft is to provide the writer material she can work with, can make better, can mold into something others want to read.

What’s the big deal in finishing a vomit draft?

The important word here is FINISH.

Authors are notorious for dragging their feet. I know writers who have five projects going at once but can’t seem to complete any of them. And I get it, it’s not easy.

But this is why finishing ANYTHING is a win. It’s a good practice run, a way for us to prove to ourselves that we can actually see a project through by completing something, even if it is the pukey first draft.

Because I finished my vomit draft, I have confidence that I can finish the first revision. And the second. And the many rounds of edits that will follow that.

I know I will finish my novel because I finished the vomit draft. I set a precedent for myself. I am a finisher.

Now, enough about vomiting; I need to get back to work. Those revisions aren’t going to write themselves!

K. Kris Loomis is the author of After Namaste: Off-the-Mat Musings of a Modern Yogini as well as several other nonfiction books about yoga and meditation, a travelogue about her time spent living in Ecuador, and a collection of short stories, The Monster in the Closet and Other Stories.

When Kris isn’t at her standing desk writing, she’s usually off playing chess, folding an origami crane, or practicing a Beethoven sonata on the piano. She lives in South Carolina with her husband and two cats.

You can find out more about Kris by visiting her author website, www.kkrisloomis.com, or by connecting with her on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram @kkrisloomis!

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4 Responses to “Why Writers Must Occasionally Vomit”

  1. Louise Foerster says:

    One of my very favorite explanations of the shitty first draft that I have ever read. Am taking on this philosophy as I baffle my way through my current NaNo adventure…perplexed by sudden turns and illuminating moments and really terrible dialogue — I can’t believe at times what I am typing and now I have this fine piece to encourage me along!

  2. Selma says:

    HAha. Loved this post Kris. Gracias! So that’s what that’s called. I had no clue, but fresh out of my very first vomit draft that’s exactly what that felt like. But mine came about while I soared up there with ‘real’ writers. It was them that put the air under my wing. It was so fun. I wrote an article in my blog about that. It was my first one. That’s how I want to do it again. In a community.
    So Kris, let me compliment you. That vomit draft is quite THE achievement. Now don’t let it sleep for too long. Reclaim it. Get it (draft) to do sit-ups. Get it (draft) in shape, we want to read. Please. Thanks. All the best. Selma.

    • Thanks for the encouragement, Selma! And you are right…community is so important when it comes to getting things done in your writing world. We all need air under our wings. Happy writing 🙂

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