The Rough Draft

Ah, the rough draft of a story.  The bare bones skeletal frame.  The thing that is supposed to be terrible and messy and no, we shouldn’t care.  But often times we do find ourselves caring because, in many cases, a lot of us writers are perfectionists in one way or another.  I keep telling people not to be a perfectionist when it comes to writing because then you’re never going to get anywhere.  But then I sort of realized I was doing that myself, though in a slightly different way than those other people I was saying that to.

I found that I was being a perfectionist in terms of story.  I wanted to make my first draft as perfect as possible in terms of its story and characters and I couldn’t actually get to the end of it until I had accomplished that.  Then I realized I was doing that and just how stupid I was being.  I often like to try and logic my way out of these situations by saying things like, “But if I know the story is terrible right now, I should just go back and start over so I can get it right instead of wasting my time with this draft that won’t work.”

In many cases, the above is true and you should actually do that, but if the problem is just that you need to change a few scenes or rearrange them, but otherwise what you have is going to be moderately the same (like what is happening to me in my current WIP), there is no need to start all over.  Make editing notes for your next draft, sure.  But if you can keep those changes in mind while you continue to write, you can probably pull out something good for a rough draft and you won’t have to do quite as much rewriting hopefully.

Too often I just decided that a rough draft was the first draft of the story, so I should go ahead and give it to the people I have looking at stuff for me for feedback.  But as often as I do that, I’ve finally come to the conclusion that there’s no need to do that.  More often than not, I realize the mistakes and errors in the rough draft stage and know what should be changed to the next draft of it, which means I don’t need nitpicking critiquers to come in and tell me all the things I already know about it.  So now I finally understand why some people have said that they can’t show their stories to people until they’re at least two drafts in, if not further.  I was just too stupid to realize it.  Or too much of an attention hound.

I like showing my stories to people because if I know someone is reading it with genuine interest, it gives me motivation to keep writing it.  I know that’s the case for a lot of other people, too.  So I’ve decided that I’ll just let anyone know about my rough drafts and that I’m writing them, so if they want to read it they can, but they will be rough and they will be changed later on.  It’s best to do this with a network of close friends who are understanding about this kind of thing.  And heck, they’re probably liable to help you through rough spots, too.  Usually they’re more understanding than a group of peers coming in to critique for you.

So, to sum up all this rambling: When you’re writing a rough draft, don’t be a perfectionist.  It’s going to suck, and that’s okay.  Just keep an open mind about it that you’re going to be rewriting it later.  The rough draft is the framework of the story, and the final product will look much different from the framework, but the framework is the most important part of it.  Don’t rush yourself, but you can always sand it down and polish it later.

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