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Don't Make This First Draft Mistake
Episode 4910th January 2023 • Writing Break • America's Editor
00:00:00 00:11:31

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Rosemi is back from holiday, and she comes bearing gifts for you. She also tells you about a common and easily avoidable first draft mistake rookie writers make.

Music licensed from Storyblocks:

“More Jam Please” by Raighes Factory

"Clever Girl" by Humans Win

"Late Night Drive" by Amber Waldron

"Coast of Mexico by Bostick

"Smoking in the Dark" by Humans Win


Rosemi Mederos:

If you have plot bunnies coming out of your plot holes, it’s time for a writing break.

Boy, did I miss talking to you. Thanks for joining me for another writing break, and happy new year to those of you who follow the Gregorian calendar. May your new year energy be motivating and sustainable.

The gift-giving theme of season 3 continues, and I have a lot of treats for you today.

The Writing Break cafe awaits, so let’s grab a table and I’ll fill you in on some publishing news.

Recently NPR interviewed longtime editor Robert Gottlieb, who has worked with Toni Morrison, Michael Crichton, Nora Ephron, and Joseph Heller. In fact, it’s because of Gottlieb that we say Catch 22 instead of Catch 18.

There’s a new documentary coming out about the working relationship between Gottlieb and political writer Robert Caro. The documentary is called Turn Every Page. I read and enjoyed Gottlieb’s memoir, called Avid Reader, and I am certain I’ll make time to watch Turn Every Page sometime this year. If you get to it before I do, let me know what you think. In the meantime, check the show notes for a link to the 45-minute NPR interview and a link to the trailer for Turn Every Page. They might deepen your understanding of what a book editor does.

the show notes for a list of:

Also in the show notes is an excerpt from Victory City, Salman Rushdie’s 15th novel, which is scheduled to be released next month.

Now, let’s head to the Puget Sound to quench our wanderlust.

What better place to kick off the new year than at Wanderlust Book Lounge in downtown Bothell, Washington? This bookstore opened just last summer, and they’re already a staple in the community. The natural light that spills in from all sides pairs beautifully with the wood floors and dark brown shelves. The space manages to be both ethereal and grounding. The welcoming bookstore owners take the time to ask their community what type of books they read and then stock their shelves accordingly. It’s a great place to spend the day, whether on your own or with friends.

Let’s take a look around and check out a self-published book that might intensify rather than satisfy your wanderlust.

The next time you’re in a reading slump, do yourself a favor and use the Look Inside feature on Amazon to read the first few pages of Mexican Sunset: The Vision Quest of a Modern Day Explorer by Rick Jebb. It’ll be like splashing your face with cold water from a mountain stream.

“After the unexpected death of his thirty-eight-year-old stepfather, fourteen-year-old Rick embarks on a five-year journey that begins in the Midwest's Edenic Driftless Area canoeing a mysterious wild river in eastern Iowa….If anything kept him moving forward, it was the delusion of his magical thinking…On Colorado's high chaparral, just as he begins to reconcile his industrialist roots with his curious artist's soul, Rick falls in love with a girl from Sinaloa, Mexico. After high school, he hitchhikes back and forth across the country, visiting old friends before returning to Mexico to find the girl. Traveling the back roads of Mexico with new friends, looking down from the top of an active volcano, and taking a dangerous acid trip at the edge of Cholula's Great Pyramid, he comes to see his life's trajectory reflected in the struggles of his ancestors and buried in the secrets of Mexico's past.”

If you like the first few pages, I hope you find the time to read this book in its entirety.

Now, let’s use those mid-century style leather arm chairs as today’s Overthinking Couch.

I was recently hired to do a developmental edit for a knowledgeable writer. This is a first-time author who is an expert in his field and has a lot of great information to share, but the organization and completeness of that information needed work in order to be well received by the intended audience. So, I did the job I was hired to do, and then the project manager and I awaited the author’s revised draft. In the end, the acquisitions editor had to hunt down the author in order to get the revised draft. When the new draft was submitted to me, a note was attached to it that said the author was sensitive, and that we were going to have to accept that the author did not want to make several of the revisions I suggested. This is despite the fact that I’ve been doing developmental edits for this publishing house for years and the project managers agreed with my comments.

So, what’s going wrong with this project? Well, the publishing house is so afraid of losing the acquisition that they’re going to push a subpar book through. If you’ve ever read a book and wondered, where was the book’s editor? I can tell you there’s a good chance they pointed out the flaws that you’re seeing, and the author chose to move forward without changing the manuscript. Over time, bad reviews will often humble a writer, and they’ll start to see the wisdom of their editorial team, but editors don’t want you to suffer that public humiliation. They want you to put out a masterpiece.

During my winter break, I overthought about what was happening with the current author. In the margins he even replied to my comments with statements confirming that I was correct, that he saw my point, that what I said made sense, but that it was too late to make any changes.

manuscript, as the book has a:

Your first draft is just the beginning, and thank goodness for that. No matter how good or bad your first draft is, your final draft is going to be immeasurably better.

In the words of Louis L'Amour, “There will come a time when you believe everything is finished; that will be the beginning.”

I’ll talk to you again next week. Until then, remember, you deserved this break.

If you would like us to visit your favorite independent bookstore, feature your favorite independent author (even if it’s you), or discuss something you’re overthinking about, please email me at

Thank you for making space in your mind for The Muse today.

Writing Break is hosted by America’s Editor and produced by Allon Media with technical direction by Gus Aviles. Visit us at or contact us at




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