Rough draft

What is a rough draft? And when does it become something more – a novel, for instance?

In ‘Thirteen Ways of Looking at the Novel,’ Jane Smiley says that “every rough draft, by being complete, is perfect.”

I found this take on the rough draft very encouraging. If, simply by finishing the first draft of a novel, I am creating something perfect, that’s probably enough to keep me sloshing through those pages, day by day, one sentence at a time.

She goes on to say: “A novel comes alive, even to its author, as it precipitates onto the page.”

For me, no matter what the form, if it’s words on paper, a rough draft is gruelingly hard work. I think of inspiration as more like sugar in my tea. It’s the sweetener, not the substance. So the image of my novel ‘precipitating onto the page’ is very sweet indeed.

Smiley concludes by saying: “In fact, to write through to the end of the rough draft, in spite of time constraints, second thoughts, self-doubts, and judgments of all kinds, is an act of faith that is invariably rewarded – the rough draft of a novel is the absolute paradigm of something that comes from nothing.”

So. Those laboriously written, slowly accumulating pages will someday be an ‘absolute paradigm’ that, simply by being complete, will be ‘perfect.’ I think I’m ready to tackle chapter six once again.

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