Usually, when a writer creates a work, it does not all come out perfectly at the very first attempt. So, each version of the work is called a draft. The writer generally begins by putting some words down on the page, and then s/he revises or changes the content later on as s/he gains a clearer idea of what s/he is trying to achieve. The first draft would then refer to the initial attempt, and the final draft would refer to the completed work.
Defining a draft
You have surely heard the term draft within the context of your classes. Would you like to now gain a deeper understanding of the word? A draft is essentially a "version" of a work of art. It usually refers to a relatively early version, before the work is completed or ready for the eyes of the public. For example, Ultius writers generally produce a draft before they submit their final work to customers.
For your reference, here are some examples of the literary term draft being used within the context of real sentences.
"The professor thoroughly marked up the student's rough draft, but she also gave him encouragement, letting him know that he had plenty of time to revise the thing."
"The temperamental composer burned draft after draft of his symphony until he was convinced that he really did have something that would deserve to be heard by others."
"The brilliant writer insisted that he never had to write more than one draft of any paper: he only wrote when he was ready, and it always came out good the very first time."
In case there is still any confusion about the meaning of the term draft, here are a couple simple rules you can follow in order to make sure you are using the term correctly.
1. A draft is usually accompanied by a modifying adjective of some kind. For example, you can have a "first" draft, or a "rough" draft, or a "revised" draft, or a "final" draft. Essentially, anything but the finished work of art can be called a draft. This means that it is possible for an artist to have multiple drafts of a given work; and the adjective is often necessary in order to clarify which exact draft one is talking about.
2. It is important to distinguish this usage of the term draft from other usages of the word. For example, "draft" can sometimes be used as a verb, when it usually just means refers to the process of creating a draft (noun) of some document. The word can also refer to beer served in a certain way, or to a nation forcing its young men into military service. The verb is related to the noun being discussed here, but the other two usages are completely unrelated.
A step in the writing process
The term draft is connected to the basic nature of the creative process itself. Usually, when an artist expresses his ideas for the first time, they are not expressed in the way that it ultimately will be in the final work of art. The artist creates a draft (or several of them); and then s/he works with and refines these ideas until s/he is satisfied with them and believes that s/he has developed them as fully as possible. Clearly, it is necessary to distinguish between an earlier version of the work and the final version; and this is the purposes served by the term draft.
It is also worth noting that the term draft implies a kind of self-consciousness on the part of the artist. For example, a bird does not compose a "draft" of its song; it merely sings. Likewise, it is unlikely that primitive human beings revised their cave paintings until they felt truly satisfied with them. The process of making draft after draft implies a kind of critical reflection that may well be a relatively late development in human consciousness.
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