The Roughest of Rough Drafts

rough drafts

A rough draft in a way is like a picture. It’s never perfect the first time you do it, and it’s not meant to be. Rough drafts are the most crucial parts of our craft. They shape the story, characters, and without you realizing it, they also shape you (the author). Last time I spoke about what it takes to begin writing your next story, but now I want to dive deeper into when you’re writing the rough draft.

The first moments your book comes to life is when you write the rough draft. It’s not meant to be easy, and if we go back to the metaphor about photographs, it’s going to take several attempts. Sometimes that rough draft gets rewritten three, four, etc more times. And sometimes it’s hard to see that this is normal. This is a part of our craft, and it’s necessary for our book to survive. Rough draft material has no place amongst book shelves, bookstores, and within reader’s hands. The rough draft is simply for you, the writer, and no one else. You might share it with others to allow them to see where the book has started, but overall this first step of bringing the book to life is only a step in the right direction. There’s still more steps awaiting you.

The honest truth about rough drafts is that they are rough in every way.

  • unfinished thoughts
  • lines or paragraphs for names/places/scenes you haven’t determined yet
  • incomplete backstory
  • choppy dialogue
  • weak beginning/ending
  • contradictions, spelling errors, confusion, unanswered questions

And that just lists just a few of what’s completely ordinary to have in your rough draft. That’s what you should expect and be okay with as you write through it. This is the first time your book is being written, and I cannot stress enough that you’re the only one equipped to write the story in your mind. So don’t be comparing yourself, worrying about the end product, or stressing about the future while you are working on this. This is eventually something you’ll look back on once you have the final version of your book and laugh (and maybe gasp too). It’s something that writers later on love to share glimpses of because we can’t believe we actually wrote that the first time around.

Oddly enough rough drafts even have the potential to bring out the best of your story. It might not be in there the first time around, but once you read it through greatness can come from it. New characters, a stronger plot, perhaps even a total twist (that you didn’t see coming [and neither will the readers]).

So go ahead and take the picture. It might seem blurry and unclear the first time. Go ahead and write that rough draft in whatever way you can best convey your ideas. It might seem unclear too, but the second time and third time you’re working on the next version of your book the focus will become clearer. The subject, the passion, and the hard work will all become clear with the more time you pour into it.

What’s a rough draft you remember most clearly writing? When you look back on it, what do you see and how much did the story change as time progressed? Leave your comments below; I can’t wait to hear from you. And if you have a suggestion on what you want to hear about next, let me know!

Lindsey Richardson

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