You've read the assignment prompt, brainstormed ideas and selected a topic. Now it's time to sit down and write your rough draft. As the name implies, a rough draft is a working copy of your paper that you'll later revise into a more polished final version. Your rough draft will be most useful if you see it as a fluid document that will undergo drastic change throughout revision rather than a static, single version of the assignment.

Don't Aim for Perfection

Your ultimate goal may be to get an "A" on your paper, but even the best writing begins with raw material. Rather than aiming high on your rough draft, use it as an opportunity to explore, organize and structure your thoughts into paragraphs. Since you'll eventually revise your draft, it's likely that much of it won't survive in the final version of the essay. You may decide to cut multiple paragraphs or even redevelop the paper based on an idea from the rough draft. As a result, don't fret too much about punctuation, grammar or spelling. Instead, focus on getting your ideas on paper and honing the structure later.

Write From an Outline

Getting your ideas written down may be your primary goal, but crafting an outline will make your rough draft more useful as you move through the revision process. It can also make the process of getting started a little less intimidating, giving you material to start working with rather than just a blank document. Try using roughly composed sentences to construct each point in your essay instead of just jumping in and writing your paragraphs. This will not only help you organize your ideas before you begin writing, but it also gives you a starting point for each of your main points.

Don't Procrastinate

A rough draft isn't something you write the night before an assignment is due and then hand in the next morning. Waiting until the last minute rather than taking the time to work through the writing process will cost you the experience of developing a project from beginning to end, not to mention your grade on the assignment. If your instructor doesn't give you a deadline for your rough draft, set your own deadline for when you will have it completed, giving yourself enough time to create your raw material, reshape it into multiple drafts and create the final version.

Write out of Order

If you can't immediately think of the perfect way to hook your reader's attention, don't waste time staring at the blinking cursor on your computer screen. Instead, move on to a section of the essay that you know you can get on paper right now. This might mean composing the body paragraph you feel you have the most evidence for or drafting the part of the essay that you're most interested in exploring. Because the introduction is usually the hardest part to write, many authors actually leave it until the end so they can structure it to fit the rest of the essay.