Rough Draft: Every Writer’s Essential Goal

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The rough draft. Without a doubt, it is the most important element of your writing. It doesn’t matter WHAT you are writing. Without a rough draft ( a first draft), your project is still just a collection of good ideas and disjointed thoughts.

I hear this all the time: I’m going to write a book or I’m going to get my blog out there. I even hear it from business people who tell me, Yes, I’m going to do that advertising plan. They proceed to tell me in great detail about their writing ideas. And I can tell you honestly, I’m yet to hear one of them describe a book or project that wouldn’t be great!

However, I can also go back to a great number of those same people (some of them years later now), and see that their writing dream is still just that–a dream. It’s yet to take shape. What’s up with that?

The Rough Draft: It’s Truly A Beginning

If you follow my posts at all, you learn that I am all about helping you be a successful writer. And you also learn that there are many parts to that. As I looked through topics I have dealt with, I suddenly came face-to-face with an elephant in the living room!

That elephant is your rough draft and its vast significance and impact on your life. Yes, I said “on your life.” It reaches far further than just your writing project. Until you have completed your first rough draft, you haven’t really experienced what it means to be a writer! It takes you to a new level.

I know, that’s a bold statement, but I believe it’s true. Yes, I have a lot of experience working with book writers, but I also know it to be just as true for bloggers. My journey this year in taking my business from conventional to online via this blog is my own personal proof!

The truth is, if you plan out your writing, research it, organize everything just right, and have all your ducks in a row, it all goes nowhere without that rough draft. It creates its own turning point in your writing. The rough draft is a huge milestone.

The Rough Draft: Why Is It So Difficult?

That’s a good question, and one that has a wide variety of answers. Likely the answer is unique to each writer. Rough drafts are the seemingly impossible milestone to reach. What a shame that is!

So, why IS it so doggone difficult to take your project that far? In my years of working with writing clients, there are a few keys that stand out on this. Let’s check out some of them here:

  1. Commitment
  2. Discipline
  3. Focus
  4. Fear
  5. Self-criticizing

We could talk about an endless list of others, but these cover a lot of territory very well. Let’s take a look at each one in detail to see which, if any, sound like you!

1. The Rough Draft & Commitment

For sake of this post, let’s say your writing dream is to write a book. You talk your concept to anyone and everyone who will listen or stand still for five minutes. Sure enough, it IS a great idea for a book!

Once those conversations are over, this is where the real condition of your book project is revealed. You have to ask yourself, Am I just talking about a pipe dream or am I committed to doing everything required to get this book written, published, and marketed? 

That conversation with yourself is vastly more important to your success than all the concept discussion you will ever have. Commitment is not automatic. You don’t just come up with a great idea or story line for your book and then–presto!–it’s on the bookstore shelves selling more copies than Harry Potter. Good luck with that!

Yes, those exciting stories are out there about someone writing their entire rough draft on a napkin in a train car or in a week’s visit to some special location. Those are amazing, but they are not the norm.

Writing your book requires your time, your effort, your commitment if it’s going to happen. I’ll be honest with you, there are plenty of people walking around today with great books stored up inside that will never get written. And lack of commitment is a top reason why that is true.

2. The Rough Draft & Discipline

Yes, if commitment isn’t a tough enough word to deal with, let’s bring up DISCIPLINE! Yet without it, your rough draft will never become a reality.

The old adage, talk is cheap, is true enough. My goal is not to aggravate you, but to light a fire under you! Discipline, when correctly applied, becomes the best friend your writing will ever have.

So how do you properly apply discipline to your writing? I use three simple rules to keep my own discipline in order so I can complete a rough draft.

  • Set realistic writing goals and schedule
  • Consistently write according to your goals and schedule
  • Never reread what you’ve written

Realistic writing goals

These cover all aspects of your project including purpose for the book, concept, research, outlining & organization, and writing sessions. It sounds like a lot, and it is!

That’s why it is imperative to be REALISTIC in your project’s goals. All projects differ, but all have some degree of all those elements. It’s all part of deciding what you want to say, how you want to say it, and when you want the public to read it.

Ultimately, you have to apply your goals to the calendar. Be realistic in your expectations when you do this. Don’t crowd yourself and squash creativity, but don’t stretch it out so thin that you lose sight of it along the way. And remember, it is not truly a goal until you have committed it to time via your calendar.

Consistently write

Schedule your writing sessions to follow your goals in an organized fashion. Not every book is written from the first chapter to the end in that order. My experience is that this rarely happens.

But every time you sit down to write, stay in your good working flow. This ensures a higher quality in your rough draft than just random thoughts and ideas. Follow your research and your outline or writing plan.

Never reread what you’ve written

Ah, now this is where I catch a lot of people! You write for  awhile. Then you stop and read what you wrote. Next thing you know, your inner critic  has dissected it all and laid it out in front of you along with every iota of criticism it can muster.

Overwhelm follows closely, and before you know it, you’re not writing anymore. You’re too busy beating up on yourself and shaming yourself into thinking you’re just about the worst writer on the planet.

With all of that going on, no wonder your rough draft is a phantom at best. You have to shut down that inner critic. We all have one. It’s a strong negative voice hell-bent on stopping you. It’s rooted in fear and insecurity and it is deadly to your writing.

The way to turn it off is to stop rereading your work. Let all  your writing go into finishing that rough draft. There is an appropriate time for revising and editing, but it is NOT when you are creating your rough draft! Never!

3. The Rough Draft & Focus

Focus is such a tricky thing; it’s so easy to lose it! One minute you’re working in a straight line, and in the next you’re totally off track doing something not even remotely related to your project.

Many rough drafts fall victim to lack of focus. Take a minute to look at your own focusing skills. I dare say everyone has a weak spot or two where focus flies out the window and you run a-ground for the day.

The need for unbroken focus is why I tell you to block your distractions when working on your writing project. Your rough draft depends on your ability to shut down things that don’t pertain to its creation. It’s not a book until that first draft is complete.

Shut down distractions. Create a quiet peaceful place in which to work. Set the mood that best encourages and supports your undivided attention for writing. Family members and beloved pets will be none the worse for wear in having to step aside for a time in the evening to let you write. Friends will not unfriend you on Facebook if you are not available 24/7/365. (Some of them might even buy a copy of your book when its published!)

The point: without focus you won’t write, and if you don’t write, you won’t ever get that rough draft finished.

4. The Rough Draft & Fear

Fear wears so many different faces, sometimes it’s hard to recognize when it’s around. It seems to me that it abounds among the creative crowd. And it holds so many back from the freeing success of real expression.

Some of the masks that fear wears look like failure, inferiority, unwarranted competitiveness, vulnerability, and a  host of other uglies. What do you fear about writing your book? Identifying it is the only way to begin to deal with it!

The truth is, sometimes you can chase away the fear and move fearlessly forward in pursuit of your writing dream. Your rough draft will be the amazing prize for your efforts.

But at other times, the fear doesn’t seem to go away regardless of how much you try to dump it. In those cases you have to learn to just do it afraid. Trust your instincts about yourself, your writing, and your book concept. Again, the completed rough draft will be your reward.

Whichever of these two fear scenarios fits your situation, realize that it is JUST fear, JUST lies. Move it out of your way or write in spite of it. The reward is the same–your book reaches that manuscript level where it can then be refined and edited into a real book!

5. The Rough Draft & Self-criticism

We touched on the inner critic who constantly reads over your shoulder and tells you how badly you write. That’s only part of the monster of self-criticism.

The world is full of authors and writers of all kinds and at all levels of achievement and skill. How do you view yourself in light of other writers you admire or who are “stars” in your genre?

Self-perception is a powerful player here. Your self-criticism can run much deeper than merely arguing the technical points of your writing. How you perceive yourself greatly determines whether or not you support yourself in your creation of a rough draft.

If you consider yourself beneath every other writer, you won’t be motivated to write. Likewise, if you believe that your concept is inferior or that your skills are lacking–all those things translate into less writing quality than what you really can do. And it all serves to keep your rough draft from completion.

The Rough Draft: You Can Do It!

Take another look at yourself and your writing project. What stands between you and a completed rough draft? I venture to say the answer to that likely falls somewhere within the contents of this post.

Get real with your writing dream today. Be honest with yourself in locating where you stand right now. Then take appropriate action to move into working on your project.

Make that rough draft a burning desire in your heart, a milestone to push for and work hard for. Once you have it finished, then the revising and editing begin. That is a whole different stage to the process, and can be quite fun and “educational” along the way!

But you’ll never get anywhere until you get that first rough draft finished! Come on! You can do it! This new year coming can be the year you publish your book! See ya at the bookstore!

Thank you & God Bless!


Hi I'am Jane Rucker

Writing is my passion. It consumes me. What a blessing it is to work from my home studio tucked away in the Ozark Mountains of southern Missouri! I enjoy sharing my life, my faith, and the hidden treasures all around me in these beautiful hills.

Comments (4)

  1. Lisa Thurman

    November 13, 2017 at 6:45 AM

    I’m impressed- I’m encouraged and I’m ready to write. Thank you Jane.

  2. Jane Rucker

    November 13, 2017 at 1:44 PM

    I’m always happy to hear that! You can do it!

  3. Charles Alexander

    November 13, 2017 at 10:17 PM

    One of your best! Thanks so much, Jane.

  4. Jane Rucker

    November 14, 2017 at 10:38 AM

    Thanks, Charles! It’s a really important topic to me working with writers.

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