Tuesday, September 7, 2010

The Point of the Rough Draft

There are many types of writers. There is the casual writer, the serious writer and the professional author. While there are many different subsets of writers, I find that these three basic categories often catch most people. Not all people, of course, but like a good stereotype, there is truth to be found in it.

This could also match the experience level of the writer. A serious writer, however, can still be a beginner.

What does this have to do with a rough draft? It is simple. I strongly believe that these three types of writers view the rough draft in drastically different lights.

I will make a disclaimer here. This post is on a rampage with the stereotypes. In fact, there may be some good old fashioned mockery thrown in with the stereotypes. I am not making fun of any of you. In fact, I am poking the most fun out of myself, as I can see how my personal journey as a writer has reflected on this concept of the writer stereotype in regards to rough drafts.

The casual writer -- or "My rough draft is my final draft!"

When I started my journey as a writer oh so long ago, I was convinced that I was perfect and infallible. (Please. Snort. Laugh. Just don't choke on your tea or coffee. We'd rather the audience be alive to enjoy the rest of the humor in this posting.)

My first book. I was convinced that all I needed to do was send it to some fortunate agent who would be delighted to receive what would -obviously- be a bestseller...

I have to take a short break here to stop laughing at myself.

If you are in this stereotype, please do not be offended. There are a few people in the world who can write a perfect first draft. These people are often professionals. They are also extremely rare.

They typically write extremely slowly and do extensive plotting before they write a word to the page. Sometimes I would classify their 'plot lines' as a draft just due to their level of completeness.

As a casual writer, I think the importance of the rough draft is often lost or missed in the general excitement of writing a book. You may have written many drafts or you could be working on your first. No matter what, I think that it is very important that you take a moment to consider a point:

The rough draft exists for you to find out just what your story is about. It is there for you to experiment and to enjoy writing. It is not a place where grammar rules all. It should not be the place where you edit. You should be putting words to the page with the goal of expressing what you need or want to express in a scene. It exists for your personal gratification.

Edits are for the second, third and fourth drafts. Depending on just how far you took the experimental process, you may end up with five or more drafts. This is alright.

Writing is a lot of work, but you are supposed to have fun with your rough draft.

The serious and professional writer usually share very similar views on their rough draft policies. Of course, writing is a subjective task and there is no one right way to do it. But, I have not yet met a published author who did not make use of the rough draft as an experimental toy. I even know one lovely fantasy writer who realized her one book project was actually two books and split it halfway through her rough draft.

I seem to recall her worrying about what her agent and publisher would think of the sudden change. (To throw it out there, it worked out fine.)

The rough draft can surprise even the experienced professional. Allow yourself the freedom to experiment and to play. Edits are for the second draft.

The quicker that you acknowledge that your first story or your first draft will not be publishable (and barely tolerable in some cases) you will be much better off. You may even find yourself completing the first drafts quicker and more consistently.

That said, I feel that it is important that you remember one important thing:

You must find a style of writing that suits your needs. This starts with the rough draft, and must continue right through editing and polishing.

But I think it is definitely worth noting that the poor rough draft is underestimated and underutilized. Let your rough draft serve as a powerful tool in your writing hobby or career. The more freedom you give yourself to play in your draft and experiment, the more you will grow as a writer.

Publishers and agents do not want static authors who cannot mold their style and mature. In order to mature, you need to play. In order to play, you need to be flexible.

Most of all, you need to be willing to try and to leave your comfort zones.

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