Writing

First Draft vs. Second Draft: How Writing Process Differs

Written by MasterClass

Last updated: Jan 10, 2020 • 2 min read

Although the writing process is different for everyone, you’ll probably notice a big difference between writing the first and second drafts of a new piece.

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What Is a First Draft?

A first draft, also known as a rough draft, is the very first version of a piece of writing—a rough sketch of what your finished work will be like. A first draft is written after the outline is finished and is usually done without much editing. The point of the first draft is to further flesh out your story and provide it with more detail.

What Is the Process of Writing a First Draft?

Generating the first draft is an exercise in getting everything down that you can get down. There’s always time later to reassess and comb through what you’ve generated in later drafts. When you are drafting, don’t edit yourself or criticize your choices.

Writer’s block is the biggest enemy in the first draft. If you feel stuck at certain points in your draft, it’s best to push through and just get something onto the blank page. Just keep writing, and complete the first draft. Every book you write will go through many revisions before you’re finished.

At the first draft stage, you can sit down and have fun with your story—focus on getting through it from start to finish, and remember that you can always go back and change things later. You can write straight through a draft, jump around, reread the previous day’s pages, or any combination of these methods. Once it’s complete, try printing out your first draft to get a tangible sense of your accomplishment and to begin working on your second draft.

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What Is a Second Draft?

The second draft is a chance to tap into your inner editor and rearrange your story and figure out the main plot points. You might start proofreading in your in this draft stage, looking at details like word choice and sentence structure and fixing typos, or you might save that for your third draft or fourth draft, focusing on big changes like plot holes, point of view, and character development.

What Is the Process of Writing a Second Draft?

Once you’ve finished your first draft, the first thing to do is go back to the beginning of your manuscript and carefully read through it. The second draft is all about finding surprises along the way and starting to tease out the shape of your story. What kind of story do you want to tell and to what kind of audience? What are the main points of your essay, the plot and subplots of your novel or short story? In further reads of your manuscript, identify what’s not working. That will help you identify where you need to spend more time, especially when it comes to plot.

After you’ve made your first round of edits, seek out honest feedback. A pair of fresh eyes can help you see things that you may have missed in your second draft.

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