A first draft is a rough sketch of your future piece of writing. Sometimes your first draft may become the final one due to it being rather satisfactory, but in most cases, it requires further work. A first draft is a way to elaborate on the main points of your essay stated in your outline, giving them a sample form. It may seem paradoxical, but while being one of the most important stages of the writing process, most first drafts don’t require a tremendous attention to detail.
Steps for Writing a First Draft of an Essay
- Take a closer look at your assignment and the topic if it was given to you by your instructor. Revise your outline as well. This is needed for your clearer understanding of the tasks you must accomplish within the draft, and to make sure you meet the requirements of the assignment.
- Sketch out the introduction of your essay. At this point, don’t get stalled on form; introductory part should inform readers about what the topic is, and state your point of view according to this topic. The introduction should also be interesting to read to capture readers’ attention, but this task has more to do with thoughtful and scrupulous writing, and thus should be left for later.
- Based on your outline, start transferring your ideas to paper. The main task here is to give them the initial form and set a general direction for their further development, and not to write a full paper.
- Chalk out the summarizing paragraph of your essay. It should not contain any new ideas, but briefly reintroduce those from the main body, and restate your thesis statement.
- Read through the draft to see if you have included the information you wanted to, but without making any further corrections, since this is a task for the second and final drafts.
Key Points to Consider
- While an outline is needed to decide on what to write, the first draft is more about answering a question: “How to write?” In the first draft, you shape your ideas out, and not simply name and list them, as you did in an outline.
- When you start writing your thoughts down, it may happen that one idea or concept sparks new connections, memories, or associations. Be attentive to such sidetracks; choose those of them that might be useful for your writing, and don’t delve in those that are undesirable in terms of the purpose of your paper (academic, showing opinion). A successful piece of writing is focused on its topic, and doesn’t include everything you have to say on a subject.
- Making notes for yourself in the margins or even in the middle of the text is a useful practice. This can save you time and keep you focused on the essence of your essay without being distracted by secondary details. For example, such notes could look like this: “As documented, the Vietnam War cost the United States about … (search for the exact sum of money and interpret it in terms of modern exchange rates) U. S. dollars.”
- When you finish crafting your first draft, it is useful to put it aside and completely quit thinking about writing for a certain period of time. Time away will allow you to have a fresh look at your draft when you decide to revise it.
Do and Don’t
Common Mistakes When Writing a First Draft of an Essay
– Editing and revising a draft in process of writing. If you stop after each sentence to think it over, you will most likely lose your flow; besides, many people have an internal editor or critic who can’t stand it if the material is written imperfectly. Therefore, first you should deal with the whole draft, and only after that proofread and edit it.
– Paying too much attention to secondary arguments, factual material, and other minor peculiarities. The main goal of the first draft is to sketch out your main ideas; you can fill it with details later. If you think you will forget about an important fact or remark, make brief notes in margins.
– Ignoring the role of a first draft in the essay writing process. Though it may seem you are wasting time working on a draft, you are working on the essay itself. You need to understand how your outline works in full written form.
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Let's talk about rough drafts. Now I know that sometimes it's hard because you do your outline, you prep your thesis statement, you've done all this thinking that goes into it, and then your teacher probably just says right.
There are some things I tell my students to keep in mind, when they sit down to actually draft. The first is, don't worry about length, at least not too much. Of course, you don't want to write a 20 page rough draft, if your page limit is three pages. So keep that in mind a little bit. But if your page limit is three pages and your rough draft is four, let it go. You can go back to it and you can pair things back later.
The other thing I have remind my students is, remember your outline. You won't believe how many students do their outline, they plan everything out and then they sit down at their computer and say, "I don't know what to write here." And then I have to remind them, "Get out that outline." That is all the thinking that goes into your essay. So writing it shouldn't be the hard work.
If you get stuck, move on and come back later, and this is really important. When it comes to drafting, I definitely advise sitting down more than the night before papers do, because sometimes you will get stuck on your hook for your introduction, or maybe how to analyze a particular quote. And sometimes the best thing to do, is to just skip over it, keep going with something else and then come back to it with some fresh eye. So give yourself sometime.
That brings me to getting a different set of eyes on your papers. So, in the drafting process, and hopefully you'll have multiple draft, it's always good to get multiple different people to look at it. Not just your teacher, not just you, but asking a friend, asking a parent, asking a different teacher who didn't assign it, to look at it. It's going to give you an idea of what it is that you're communicating. Often times we get so in our papers that we think we're being clear. When somebody else reads it and it's not very clear at all. So it's always nice to get that feedback.
My other advise is take breaks and that's another reason why I say give yourself some time in the drafting process. It's amazing what it'll do for you to take maybe a day away from a paper, and then sit down, go back to it and look at it with fresh eyes. And then finally, welcome the feedback from everybody but remember, you're the writer. So, welcome feedback, ask people to look at it, but don't get angry if they say things that you don't agree with. Ultimately, you make the final choices when it comes to your writing. So don't get too frustrated. Really open your ears to what they are saying.
So hopefully all of these things will help you in that drafting process and get you to that final draft a little bit easier.