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De-Roughing a Rough Draft

November 24, 2009

I will admit it; when it comes to my writing, I am a perfectionist (even with this blog). As in, after about five years of work, my story is nowhere near completion. In fact, when I first began, this story was very different from what it is now. Characters have been dropped and changed, and new ones have been added. Places have been renamed. Entire races have been added and removed. So how does a story change so much over the course of the writing process?

Now, the concept of a rough draft was one I loathed from the beginning. With a passion. So I didn’t expect what I thought, at the time, to be a great story to turn out to be nothing more than a rough draft for the finished piece (which has yet to materialize on account of I type slowly.) But that’s precisely what has happened. So, realizing that, I began “de-roughing”, as it were, my rough draft. So how does one go about “de-roughing” a rough draft?

  • I hate to say it… start with an outline. Why? Because an outline is the easiest thing in the world to alter. Yo can easily delete a section of an outline and replace it as the writing process moves along. Sometimes I wish I had begun with an outline from the get-go, rather than waiting around to write one when I was halfway through the rewrite.
  • Let me capitalize for emphasis: GRAMMAR CHECK. Basic issues with grammar are big issues. This is not to say that the Microsoft Works Word Processor Grammar Check function is all-powerful and always right. Sometimes what it may see as an error is, in fact, a cleverly artistic play on words or the like, but it will pick up on words you may have skipped in a flurry of fast typing. It’ll also pickup on those run-on sentences you wrote and then forgot about. Just PAY ATTENTION to what it’s picked up as an error before you hit “Change”. (BTW, for those of us who are not so versed in the ways or Microsoft Works Word Processor, all you need to do to find the Grammar Check, really, is type something along the lines of “hhgvfgeufygf” and then hit Spell Check. When Spell Check pops up, check the box in the lower left corner of the Spell Check window that says “Check grammar”. Very simple. Make sure you delete “hhgvfgeufgf”, by the way, unless of course that’s the name of a character.)
  • Grammar Check’s best friend (and again I emphasize): SPELL CHECK. Even easier than Grammar check, this function picks up typos and misspellings (duh). Now a side note: Spell Check may identify certain character’s names as typos, so PAY ATTENTION and don’t simply zip through Spell check’s LONG list of supposed spelling errors. Spell check, like Grammar Check, is NOT God. Here’s a tip: If Spell Check continuously ID’s a character’s name as a typo, add it as an accepted spelling. When the name comes up as an error in the Spell Check window, hit the “Add” button rather than “Ignore”, “Ignore All”, or “Change”. The word will no longer appear as a typo.
  • As with writer’s block, ANY and ALL bits of action and dialogue that you come up with should be written down. They may seem asinine at the time, but I guarantee that much of the dialogue and such that you write down will, eventually, find its way into a story. This goes for names as well.
  • Having trouble naming a character? Check out www.name-meanings.com for an EXTENSIVE list of names from all over the world, as well as their meanings. Try to find a name whose meanings can be related to a character’s personality or actions (such as a name meaning “defender” for a soldier). Do not fear making up names!
  • Write it out in longhand if it helps. Often, when you sit down to type it, you will find that much of what you wrote needs to be rewritten. DO NOT THROW OUT THE ORIGINAL!!!! You may find out that bits you dropped out of the second draft may make it into the final. I have a friend who wrote an entire play out in longhand, and it was helpful for him. As with typing everything, however, it all depends on you. If you find typing is easier, by all means, type away! Just print out copies of each draft, in case you want to use something from the first draft that you dropped from the second draft in the final draft.
  • Write as many drafts as you need until your story is where you want it.
  • Have a friend read your first draft, and take criticism in stride. Consider the person to whom you give the draft to preview to be part of your audience, because they are. If they are confused by a passage, chances are anyone else who reads it will be confused there as well.
  • Rewrite if you must. Feel free to start over completely! Just make sure that you save your first draft. I rewrote a good portion of my work, and it helped a LOT.

Most importantly: PERSERVERE. Never set a deadline for yourself. That kind of pressure distracts you from your writing. Enjoy the writing process! It’s the best part of the author’s experience.

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