How Rough a Rough Draft Really Is

Spikes Rough


by Lindsey Richardson


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.





Guest post contributed by Lindsey Richardson. Lindsey is a fantasy author who lives in Maryland with her husband and three cats. By the age of eighteen, Old Line Publishing expressed their interest in Lindsey’s novel, Cursed With Power. Lindsey has been both traditionally published and self published.

26 thoughts on “How Rough a Rough Draft Really Is

  1. This is exactly the stage I am in. I’m working on the first draft of a novel, and most all of the above points apply to the first write. But through the rough concepts and confusion, I see potential. And that is exciting.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. God I love rough drafts… I am indeed a happy camper when my computers desktop is littered with rough drafts waiting to be reexamined polished and published, but today my desktop is barren and my soul is empty for I must replant my garden and water the seeds with fresh thoughts.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Rough drafts are hard because that internal editor is relentless. But they are so necessary. I will, however, admit that one of my biggest fears is that I’ll die with a complete rough draft in my computer and some clown will decide to go ahead and publish it.


  4. All your posts have helped me gain confidence in my writing (and encouraged me to get out of the corner I had been stuck in for a long time,) and I will especally try to keep this in my as I edit the whole of my first draft for the first time.
    Thank you so much for writing this because, well, many of us writers needed to hear it!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. So happy to hear it! This is why I love the writing community; we’re all able to help each other (whether we know it or not).

      Good luck in your writing!

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Love this post! I think a rough draft is also supposed to make you cringe when you read it. Not because of all the choppy sentences or half-finished thoughts or sloppy technical stuff, but because it’s brutally honest. You’d want to die before showing it to somebody else. However, the same brutal honesty also allows you to write a better story. You just have to refine it in later drafts. Like you said, the picture will become more focused with each successive draft. 🙂


  6. I feel that way a lot, especially with the rough draft that I’m currently writing for the second book in a trilogy. Intellectually, I know you don’t get it right the first time, but looking at some of what I’ve written so far makes me cringe and feel like I’ve missed the mark. Then again, maybe it’s the Middle Book Syndrome that I’m feeling.


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