Rough Draft is not a Perfect Draft

I’m working on a retelling of Aladdin. I outlined the plot, and I felt good about it, but now that I’m in the drafting stage, I’m getting all the self-conscious “not good enough” vibes.

I’ve had to step away from the draft and remind myself that a rough draft is not the final draft. It’s okay to have scenes that are incomplete; I can cut those or add to them later. It’s okay for characters to say silly things, to state rather than imply, to use the passive tone and boring description.

Those things are okay (I tell myself) because a rough draft is not about pretty sentences. Rough drafts are about the story. The plot. Character motivation. Cause and effect. Consequences.

Those things need to be hammered down and 100% certain before I start making things “pretty.” I need the foundation before I start adding curtains or throw pillows.

And I have to say it to myself every single time. It’s a wonder I ever got that first novel finished.

It has gotten worse the more I write. I know that feeling of having a “finished” draft, of being ready for beta readers, of being ready to query. So that’s the feeling I want when rough drafting, but it’s not ready. And I get frustrated at myself for not writing better NOW.

And I’m frustrated at myself for not having the story solid by the rough draft. There’s holes; I can see and feel them. I’m trying to plug in those holes, but then I second-guess myself.

Rough drafting is such a mess. All this hacking and carving and plastering and trying to find a story within the junk.

The rough draft is the time for “What if this happened?” and “What if this character did this?” “What if I throw a sea dragon in this scene?” “This scene is lacking. It needs… pirates.” And then I throw around words like a madwoman trying to find what works and what is just ridiculous.

But, alas! I love it so.

For all the other writers our there struggling with rough drafts and first drafts – I feel you. Don’t let the monumental task of writing a novel beat you down. You’ll get there. It just takes time, brain power, and caffeine.

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