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3.2: During the Drafting Process

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  • Many writers often narrow—or expand—the topic as they write. Overly broad topics can be difficult to manage and can lead to summarization rather than descriptive explanation. Narrowing your topic will provide you with a more workable idea to focus on. Asking questions about what you want to know regarding your topic and what you want your readers to know will help focus your writing. If you choose to narrow your topic, first try to picture a larger context into which your thesis fits. Make a claim which forecasts the main point(s) of your thesis, then deliver the source which supports the argument. During this stage, scan for grammatically weak areas and unsupported claims. You may always add background information, term definitions, literature review, reasons for your assumptions, and counter-arguments to strengthen your own argument.

    “My starting point [in writing] is always a feeling of partisanship, a sense of injustice . . . I write because there is some lie that I want to expose, some fact to which I wish to draw attention, and my initial concern is to get a hearing.” —George Orwell

    Sometimes you will find that it is easier to write the introduction after you have written the body of your paper. Consider waiting to write the introduction until you have a definite sense of what direction you want your paper to take. Many times, if you write an introduction first, it can limit the information or collaboration of ideas for the bulk of the paper. If you do decide to save the introduction for later, go over what you have written and identify the main point, or points, of your paper. Next, craft an introduction with a thesis statement that forecasts what will follow. Be aware that you need to rework some of the body after you write the introduction. No matter what you choose to write first, it is important to stay on track. Emphasize several points that are related to your thesis by adding more information and going deeper into detail. It is important to gather sufficient information to support your thesis. You may be required to provide a reference or in-text citation, or you may find that you do not yet know enough about your topic, and more research is required. Research may be necessary for multiple reasons: to learn more about the topic, to provide examples for your thesis, or to use as support for your thoughts, opinions, and the overall direction of your paper.

    Let it Flow

    As you draft, do not stop to edit or look up small pieces of information; there will be time for precision later. Luke Sullivan, author of Hey Whipple, Squeeze This, suggests that you must “write hot and edit cold.” In other words, write off the top of your head and allow your thoughts to be spontaneous. You never want to leave a good idea out. However, when it comes to polishing the final product, become critical by taking out unnecessary words or ideas that stray from the main message. Do not keep text that distracts or causes misunderstandings. If you have a question, place it in brackets or make a note of it and refer back to it later. First, just get your ideas out without worrying about punctuation or spelling. Similarly, if you notice a big gap which requires more research, skip it and work on other sections. The important thing is to let your ideas keep coming and make progress on the page. No matter how irrelevant your words may appear, keep writing. If you have to stop, be sure to end in a place where it will be easy to pick up from later. Don't get distracted when your initial drafts aren’t “A” quality work. That’s the reason they are drafts. The important thing is to get your ideas down on paper. You can spend time evaluating them later on.

    “Write 1,000 words a day. That’s only about four pages, but force yourself to do it. Put your finger down your throat and throw up. That’s what writing’s all about.” —Ray Bradbury


    Figure \(\PageIndex{1}\) - Photo credit: fotoleder via BY-NC-ND

    Dealing with Writer’s Block

    Writer’s block can occur at any point during the writing process. You may find yourself sitting down to write when you suddenly realize that you can't think of a single thing to say. Don't panic! It’s a common problem with a variety of solutions.

    Here are a few...

    • Staring at a blank screen can be intimidating. Try writing out your dilemma in the form of a question: “What is it I’m trying to say?” “What are my goals?” Then brainstorm to answer these questions.
    • Take a break. Ten minutes away from your work will usually recharge your creativity.
    • Review the literature on your topic to see what other people are saying. Even opposing views can be inspiring.
    • Bounce ideas off someone else. Speaking about your writer’s block with friends, family, and fellow students may help untangle ideas or generate new ones.
    • Read aloud what you’ve already written to see if the juices start flowing again.


    How do you start your draft? While the occasional flash of inspiration can lead you to scribble out great work on the back of an envelope with a stubby pencil, paying brief attention not only to “what you write,” but “how you write,” can inspire you to write differently or even more effectively.

    If you start drafting from the conclusion, for example, it could be like having a “Guiding Star” for your paper. Or you could leave the introduction and conclusion blank until the end. With that said, you can make up your own approach to create your own way of writing. All the technological tools you have access to make it possible for you to write virtually anytime, anywhere, and however you want. Take advantage of it. Type on your computer, do research on it, record your own voice if the pen is slowing down your thinking. Many people find it helpful to brainstorm; start writing for an extended period of time without stopping and see what you can come up with. Charting can be a good way to come up with ideas and see connections you may not otherwise notice; when you chart, you write down a topic in the center of the paper. Then write other words or ideas that fit in with the topic. Draw lines that connect the related ideas. Experiment with your approach to writing.

    Meeting the Minimum Word Count

    If you are having trouble meeting the minimum page length, look over your paper again and see if you can find spots that could use additional detail. Also, look at your assignment sheet again to see if you met the assignment’s requirements. It is okay to add more detail to certain sections; for instance, is “a blue car” sufficient, or would “a 2007 Malibu Blue Mazda Miata” work better? But be careful not to make your paper too wordy. Remember that quality is more important than quantity. Just adding needless words to add to the word count keeps you from actually developing your ideas and strengthening the content of the paper.

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