DON’T WASTE WORDS: HOW TO USE A FIRST DRAFT
The objective of this article is to convey how to create a constructive first draft, the process for which is dependent upon the genre of the text. A draft of a full-length novel would be different from that of a short story from that of a medical report. In any case for the purpose of this paper, the focus will be primarily on planning an article or blog post.
Although most concur that first drafts are horrible, the best authors know that these infant ideas can prove to be practical and even indispensable departure points. Indeed, before writing anything, you should affirm that your first thoughts will be meaningful, as self-confidence is key to achieving goals.
Once you have established a healthy mindset, determine the theme of the article, and if possible, conceive of a title. Then, based upon both, write an introduction keeping the target audience in mind.
Next, write a possible closing statement to give your writing direction, and from this and the opening statement, create an outline to facilitate logical organization and breaking down the work into manageable parts. Assemble all supporting graphs, tables, charts, figures, etc. and then record your thoughts beginning with the sections that are clearest in your mind. Allow the outline to be a starting point, but if so inclined, deviate from it. If the new train of thought proves futile, your blueprint can reorient you. Should your mind just wander, simply redirect it to the task at hand, and skip lines in areas where your thoughts become blank; you can go back and fill them in later.
According to an article by Lisa Cron, focusing on the “why” of an assertion is even more important than stating the “what.” For example, instead of merely saying spirituality is different from religion (i.e., what it is), you should also communicate that it concerns itself with an individual’s philosophy and worldview rather than with strict doctrines (i.e., why it is different). Following this rule will make your initial efforts substantive.
Do not edit or use grammar editing software for the first draft as this will only retard your train of thought. At this juncture, your concentration should be on “content” as opposed to “correctness.” Cron also states, “One of the biggest mistakes writers make is to begin polishing their first draft before it’s even finished. The more you polish at this stage, the deeper you’ll fall in love with your words and the harder it will be to kill your darlings.” Consequently, save perfecting language for subsequent drafts.
Lastly, when inspiration wanes or fatigue emerges, do not forge ahead but rather take breaks and return to the article with renewed incentive.
Following these guidelines should assist in the creation of a first draft that, though not an end in and of itself, will be a significantly useful means to an end.
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