Ugly Duckling Writing

by Linore Burkard

Since surely you are familiar with the fairy-tale of the ugly duckling who became a beautiful swan, I won’t bother with a recap. But what is “ugly duckling writing,” you wonder?  In a nutshell, Rachel Hauck described it in a recent post here on Novel Rocket

“I fast draft a very ugly novel, then I rewrite. Almost from scratch. I layer and fine tune, change and deepen.” Rachel Hauck

Since I wrote the lion’s share of my current novel, RESISTANCE
in little more than a month,
the above quote fits my experience for this
book. I have a first draft that is, in literary terms, “a very ugly
novel.” But to me, it’s like  gold. Because I know that the finished
novel–the graceful swan–is in there, and that I will hone the work, develop the best parts,
revise and rewrite and come out in the end with a book
that–hopefully–many will want to read. 

expected to let the book rest during this past busy Christmas season, but I found myself working on it, rewriting and fine tuning.
Changing and deepening.

And, when I think about it, I realize that all of my novels started out as ugly ducklings in some degree or other. In all likelihood, whether you’ve got one published book or thirty, yours began that way, too. As ugly ducklings.
Newer writers often don’t realize that this is not unusual. I hear from some who get so discouraged when faced with an ugly duckling novel that they want to quit. 
So here’s my takeaway for them–or for any writer discouraged by a messy novel. 
Don’t give up on a book just because you feel, after finishing the
first draft, that it is in no shape to get published. The truth is, if
you keep working on it, haven’t lost your original vision for the work,
and are determined to find the real story and make it work–you probably
are times when it’s right to put a manuscript away in some drawer,
never to see the light of day. This is often the fate of a first attempt
by writers at novel-writing, and there’s nothing wrong with that. We all need to practice and learn somewhere, somehow.
My first hatchling!

But it is not a universal
experience. My own first novel must have gone through a dozen drafts before it was publishable. But eventually, it became a swan. I might have given up any number of times when it looked like an awkward, ungainly fledgling–but didn’t.    

How to tell if your novel is drawer-worthy or worth editing? 
I believe most books can be salvaged into good works IF the original vision is strong.
What is a strong original vision? A great story!
Do you have a great
story? Something that can touch a heart, strike a deep chord with readers? Then keep working on it.
Chip away at that thing until the beauty of it shines, and your ugly duckling is a thing of the past.
After that, you can release your beautiful swan–to an agent, an editor, or to the world.   
Linore Rose Burkard writes historical romance and, as L.R.Burkard, YA/Suspense. Linore enjoys teaching workshops for writers, is a mother of five, and still homeschools her youngest daughter, preferably with coffee in one hand and her iPad in the other. Linore’s newsletter (another labor of love) includes two book drawings per month. For a chance to win one of her novels, simply join the mailing list at either website. (, or