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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Writing the Rough Draft
Writing the rough draft is a transition, one that takes you from the mental aspect of note taking, outlining and prewriting to the act of writing. Your topic is defined with a clarified and supported focus. As you incorporate all the work you have completed up to this point, keep in mind that your rough draft is just that—a rough copy of your paper that you continue to shape, edit and strengthen after it is written.
With that in mind, you can tackle your rough draft. Focus on the content and the flow of information rather than on the little details, such as detailed information and grammar –there is plenty of time to clean up and strengthen your paper between the rough draft and the final version. Your rough draft consists of writing an introduction, supporting body paragraphs and a conclusion. As you write, keep the following tips in mind:
- Maintain a logical development
- Create smooth transitions between paragraphs
- Stay in the active voice
- Vary your sentence structure by using simple, complex and compound sentences
- Avoid 1-2 sentence paragraphs
What you need to get started:
- Your notes
- Your outline
- A clear mind
- Time and room to work
While following your outline is important, putting every little detail and piece of supporting information into your paper in the rough draft is not always necessary, but do what works for you. Your notes and outline together serve as guides for what you intend to include and where you intend to include it.
Writing the introduction of your rough draft
With your outline in sight, start writing the introduction of your rough draft. The ultimate goal of a strong introduction is to get the attention and interest of your readers. In addition, your introduction should do the following:
- Include some background information on your topic
- Make the perspective and point of view clear
- Contain your thesis statement
- Provide a roadmap of how your paper is organized (broadly defined)
- Focus on the main points you make within the body of your paper
Writing the body paragraphs of your rough draft
The body paragraphs of your rough draft are the backbone of your paper; they hold the supporting information that backs up your thesis. Keep the suggestions below in mind as you write each paragraph:
- Start each paragraph with a clear topic sentence that defines what the paragraph is about
- Write smooth transitions between paragraphs using transitional words and phrases
- Avoid writing paragraphs that are too short because they show a lack of development
- Stay in the active voice to keep your paper clear and effective
- Maintain your point of view or perspective to keep the paper focused
- Avoid summarizing information you have already written about –save it for the conclusion
- Support your perspective and interpretations with data in the form of indirect and direct quotations
- Replace your keywords with synonyms periodically to avoid repetitive language
- Cite all sourced material
- Make sure the sentences of each paragraph flow to form a cohesive point
Writing the conclusion of your rough draft
The conclusion of your rough draft is where you tie everything together. Some of the information is similar to that found in the introduction, but it should not be a word-for-word copy. In the conclusion, more emphasis is placed on the results of your research or on broader implications on the subject as a whole. To write the conclusion, follow the below steps:
- Re-read your introduction while paying particular attention to the development of it and supporting body paragraphs
- Set the introduction aside
- Summarize the argument made in your introduction
- Conclude your argument(s)
Ultimately, your conclusion is your last chance to help readers truly understand what your paper is about, so it needs to show the order and importance of your main points and show how you logically conclude the paper.
Remember as you write your rough draft that it is okay to omit the more detailed information to focus on the flow and transition of each paragraph. The details obtained through your research are easily added after the first draft is complete. In fact, through the process of finalizing your paper, you are likely to edit, proofread, make corrections and change things up quite a bit.
Once the basics of your paper are in place, though, applying those finishing touches to strengthen your paper is much easier. With a rough draft completed, you should take a day or two away from the paper to provide clarity and a fresh perspective when you come back to finalizing it.