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  Home > InfoWrite > The Writing Process > Writing the First Draft

InfoTrac College Edition

Writing the First Draft

What Is A First Draft?

A first draft is just that -- a first try. If you are lucky, your first draft will capture the basic form and content needed to shape the final document. In many cases, however, your draft may be a loose collection of ideas -- a type of directed freewriting. Some first drafts need only fine tuning and editing, while others may have to be discarded.

Strategies For Writing A First Draft

  1. Review the assignment, your thesis, and your outline.
    To produce an effective draft, it is important to keep focused on the final product. Make sure that you address the needs of the assignment. Keep your reader in mind as you examine your thesis and outline.
  2. Be open to new ideas -- but avoid becoming sidetracked.
    As you write, one idea will no doubt spark new connections, memories, and associations. To keep your draft focused, review your notes as your write. Realize that you may come up with many ideas that are interesting but not appropriate for your paper. A good essay is focused -- it is not simply a collection of everything you have to say about a subject.
  3. Don't stop to make corrections, check facts, or look up words.
    Your goal in creating a first draft is to get your ideas on paper. If you stop to check spelling or search your textbooks for a statistic -- you may run out of time or break your train of thought. Instead, note problems as you write. Underline or circle words you think misspelled or misused. Make parenthetical reminders to check facts or verify quotes. Keep writing and get your main ideas down.
  4. If you run out of ideas, return to prewriting to explore ideas or change topics.
    Sometimes you may find yourself becoming stalled after a few paragraphs. You may find that you cover all the ideas on your outline in a hundred words. Read your paper aloud. Do you fully explain your ideas and support them with details or do you simply state them? Can relevant details be added to keep the paper depth and texture?
  5. If the draft becomes too long, review your topic, thesis, and outline
    If you discover that the draft is getting longer than you expected, pause and examine your goals. Have you limited your topic? Are you trying to address a subject unsuited to the assignment? Could your thesis be tightened? Are there secondary details that could be deleted? Read your paper aloud -- are there redundant passages that could be trimmed or deleted?

When you complete the first draft, set it aside to "cool" before attempting to revise and edit it. When you return to your writing, review your assignment and goals. Before beginning to correct grammar or adding new ideas, make sure that your draft is on target.

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From The Sundance Reader, Third Edition, Web Site by Mark Connelly.