5 Tips for Writing a First Draft

~ Drafting: The Second Step in the Writing Process ~

You’ve had the idea. You’ve gathered your thoughts. You’ve done some great prewriting. What’s the next step in the writing process?

Once you have done some prewriting and compiled all your thoughts, the task is simply to write. That might sound intimidating but remember Faulkner’s advice: just write it down and take chances. It doesn’t matter whether or not the first draft is a masterpiece. In fact, don’t expect the first draft to be a masterpiece. Even the most prolific writers, like Faulkner, rarely produce masterpieces on their first try. The first draft should be an experiment; don’t be afraid to make changes because your ideas, and your draft, will change and evolve as you write, revise, and edit. 

Are you writing a report for school or work? Are your preparing for the essay portion of your high school equivalency (HSE)? Below are 5 tips to help you begin drafting.

1. Use the list, outline, or map that you created in the prewriting stage, but don’t feel bound to it.
As you write, your ideas will become clearer and more concrete as you start to make connections and organize all your thoughts. Use your prewriting tools to help guide you and set a structure for the essay, but make adjustments as needed. You may need to change directions with the essay or add/take out examples that you thought might help support your idea. Use what works from your prewriting, but don’t be afraid to cut or discard what doesn’t.

2. Keep in mind that this first draft is for you.
Since you are writing for yourself at this point, always keep in mind that this draft does not have to be perfect. You are writing to get your ideas down and not for precise language and sentence structure. Don’t worry about mistakes in spelling, grammar, or punctuation. You will have an opportunity to fix it all in the revision stage.

3. Focus on organization.
The drafting stage is the perfect time to carefully consider how you are piecing your ideas together. Try organizing your notes from the prewriting stage in a logical way, if it’s not already in an outline format. If you already have an outline, try writing an introductory paragraph and creating some transitions between your ideas to see how they flow together. Rearrange or reorganize wherever needed.

4. Develop your ideas and examples.
Take the ideas and examples you wrote down while brainstorming and try to turn them into complete sentences and then body paragraphs. A way to start this process is to write a topic sentence for each of your ideas and then use the examples to help build the body paragraphs. While writing, if an examples does not work, don’t be afraid to cut it or change it. Go with the flow of the essay and make sure that you include ideas that you can develop fully.

5. Take your time.
Although we often wish writing happened quickly and without much thought, writing always takes time. It’s important to allow yourself the time needed to organize and develop your ideas fully; therefore, don’t try to rush the process. Give yourself enough time to write and be happy with your first draft. This may mean drafting over the course of a few days or a week. Spread it out and don’t watch the clock.

As William Faulkner said, “Get it down. Take chances. It may be bad, but it’s the only way you can do anything good.”

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 The 4 Steps in the Writing Process: There is no magic pencil
Step 1: What is Prewriting & How Is It Done?