Rough Draft = Present Tense (Visualizing the story)
When I write the Rough Draft for my stories, I’ve discovered that I tend to write in the present tense in order tell myself the story. This where I “Tell, don’t show.” When I write my rough drafts, I could almost call these “discovery” drafts because I’m discovering the story and figuring out what works and what doesn’t. I’m trying to accurately put on paper the visuals that I see in my head and that means that I’m not worrying about the audience. I’m trying to make sure that my plot makes sense (what’s happening in the story), the characters make sense (their motivations and why they do the things I envision), and the setting makes sense (where everything’s happening). This is where all the notes that I’ve taken/written down about the story get put into the structure of a story (Exposition, Opening Incident, Rising Action, Climax, Falling Action/Resolution) to see if they work correctly as a story. I’m simply relating to myself what I “see” in my mind and trying to accurately form/shape it into a story.
Working Draft = Past Tense (Dramatizing the story)
The Working Draft is sort of my shortened name for a “Work-in-Progress Draft.” This is where I do the REAL work for the audience. This is where characters names get finalized, this is where dialogue becomes more than a place holder and is what I believe that the characters really would say. This is where vivid details and description comes into play, this is where I really begin to try to “Show, don’t tell.” I try to find places to show emotions, to appeal to the five senses, and to foreshadow events crucial to the rising action and the climax. This is where my goals as the creator meets the needs of the audience. How can I best tell my story (that I came up with in the Rough Draft) that engages and exhilarates the audience? What techniques or effects can I use to maximum effect? This is where I do the “hard work” of writing. And the cool thing is that it isn’t set in stone–if I’m happy with the draft, I can stop and move onto the editing and submission phases, but if I’m not happy, I can go back and fix what isn’t working (which I did for the ending of Silence Will Fall) or I can start all over and re-draft the whole thing again from scratch–which I plan to do for Rocket-Man.)
I believe that a lot of my trouble (& I would suspect other writers as well) comes from the fact that for stories where I don’t lay the groundwork and do the rough draft (or the outline, or any of the other myriad words for prewriting), I find that the Working Draft RARELY (if ever) matches the vision that I had in my head for the story. And the opposite is true, I find that the more I use rough drafts and the more I use prewriting strategies, the more confident I am in the writing process and the more enjoyable the Working Draft stage becomes.