8 steps to writing your first draft

1. Outline your core topic 

Start by formulating your core topic: the key problems you seek to solve with your story, the main points you want to cover. Develop a broad framework that you can modify with further detail in later drafts as you develop your content. Identify the key problems that need solving. Write the overview of what, who, how, where, when, and why?

2. Identify your audience

Clearly identify your target audience. What you write and how much detail you provide depends upon who you are writing to. What is their background? Why are they reading your document?

3. Plan with pre-writing

Pre-writing is the thinking, note-taking, outlining, mind-mapping, brainstorming and question-asking needed to plan and develop your core topic. Pre-writing is where you focus on the big picture while writing your first draft and can include hand-writing and drawing diagrams on whiteboards or on large pieces of paper. Try recording yourself talking about your project or use voice-recognition software to get your thoughts down.

4. Make a mess and clean it up in later 

The first draft should be messy, rough and amenable to change; remould your structure as you go. Write bullet points, sentence fragments, and temporary paragraph headings. Avoid trying to writing perfect sentences (polishing). Don’t worry about being repetitive. Avoid making your writing eloquent, stylistic or succinct in the first draft: this should be worked on after you have chosen the key points you will cover.

5. Summarise: Leave out the details until later drafts

There is no point adding too much detail in the first draft as you may change your mind about what you want to say. Allow yourself to write things that you may change your mind about later. Aim to produce a first draft that reflects your main ideas without explaining them in minute detail.

6. Start writing without engaging your inner critic

Don’t worry about the reader in a first draft. Don’t worry if your first draft doesn’t make complete sense. Allow yourself to easily to chop up, delete or dramatically change what you have just written.

7. Don’t stop to do more research

Don’t worry if you are unsure about something. Avoid the desire to stop and research a sub-topic: keep writing. When you have finished your first draft you can review what you have written and identify topics that need further research.

8. Seek appropriate feedback

Ensure that you receive the feedback that is appropriate for each stage of writing. Seek feedback on your key ideas and broad content and not on commas or grammar. Ask colleagues to ignore punctuation, grammar, sentence structure or nuances in meaning that can be tackled in later drafts.

© Dr Marina Hurley 2017 www.writingclearscience.com.au

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