A rough draft is the first attempt by a writer to express ideas in a written format. It is called "rough" because it is not the finished product. It is preceded by the prewriting steps of brainstorming, researching and outlining and succeeded by editing and revising.
For informational and persuasive essays, the rough draft stage of the writing process includes generating a thesis statement or a controlling idea, forming body paragraphs with main ideas and details, and constructing concluding remarks. The result should be a fully formed argument or informational text ready for editing.
For narratives, the rough draft stage consists of crafting dialogue, narration, description and plot events in the author's desired order. The end product should be a complete story that requires revision in style, content, organization, format and conventions.