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Let Your Draft Be Rough – But Get It Written!

roughdraftOver and over again I hear from people who want to write but have all sorts of ideas about why they can’t get started. Or why what they write isn’t good enough.

Although I have some understanding, because I was there once myself, I really don’t have much sympathy. Particularly now that we have computers that check our spelling and allow us to change anything to anything with relative ease… almost too much ease. Maybe I’ll write about that next.

A great tool in the writing game is the rough draft. I love ’em because they allow me to get words and ideas down on paper – well, the screen – without committing. It’s a place I can almost think out loud. As the words appear on the screen I quickly get a sense of what’s working, and what’s not, of what’s missing and what is superfluous.

In fact it’s been said that we freelance writers down’t write, we write rough drafts. At least that’s how almost everything you’ll ever read gets started – with a rough, sometimes very rough draft.




Take a look at the image – it’s an accurate picture of what happens with a draft, and my hunch is this isn’t the very first draft of this book. With computers and word processing programs we tend to make corrections as we go along. Substantial amounts of rewriting get done onscreen and it isn’t until later that we print and begin marking up in red pencil as it were.

Back in the days of typewriters a writer could tell you how often he rewrote a piece – that’s no longer true. Very few writers I know actually complete a piece, then rewrite it from start again and again the way we had to do in the past. It’s more organic now.

If you don’t draft nothing happens!

But if you don’t get that first draft done, if you don’t put that first word down, then the second, etc. etc. etc. you won’t have any rewriting to do, because you won’t have written anything.

Sure it can be scary, but probably no more scary than the thought of never having even tried. Of course that first word or first sentence may have to be changed… so what? It’s a rough draft – that’s what they’re for!

Once you get something written, the rewriting is where you do the polishing, not in the first draft! Polishing is what makes a piece work. That simply can’t happen, however, until you’ve drafted it.




Get started. Get something written and go from there. Draft and rewrite. Draft and rewrite. That’s what successful writers do every day. Over and over again. It’s our practice. It’s the way we get better at our craft.

What’s your take? What have you learned from writing rough drafts? How do you get started? Let’s talk about it.

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{ 4 comments… add one }
  • First drafts are usually hard for me. But I’ve gotten better at letting go of editing as I write. That’s why NaNoWriMo is so great–it forces you to just WRITE. You don’t have time to be perfect!
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  • I agree with your spin on the draft. This is the first and hardest part. For me it is just getting something, anything down and then reshaping, adding, deleting and reworking. Actually, the second, third and fourth revisions are actually easier for me. Great post and thanks for your point of view.

    • Steven, since I’ve gone to computers I never know which draft or revision I’m in…I know some people like to track that, and some must, but not me.

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