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5.8: Drafting

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    After you do some good prewriting and write up an outline, it’s time to start writing the paper; the first writing stage is called drafting. In this stage, get your ideas down as quickly as possible and don’t focus too much on grammar, punctuation or spelling. This is the ideas stage. Focusing too much on “correctness” can bog your ideas down and give you writer’s block. At this stage, you start getting ideas down on paper, extending some ideas, limiting others that aren't panning out. Many writers say that they didn't know what they thought until they saw what they thought. You might discover what you think as you write on a topic and your argument might change and evolve as you write.


    It takes the pressure off to think of your initial writing as “drafting” which is more low stakes. It doesn’t have to be perfect because no one is reading it at this stage but you, so drafting allows you to explore your topic using your creativity and analysis. Writing the first draft also gives you the opportunity to see how well your arguments support your tentative thesis and how the differing perspectives or opposing viewpoints will affect your position.


    • Post your tentative thesis and paper assignment prominently above your work space, so you can refer to them as you write.
    • Review your outline and the notes you have made on the text/topic you are writing on.
    • In a draft, you want a clear beginning, middle and end even if they aren’t set in stone.
    • In drafting, some use a linear approach starting with the introduction and writing sequentially to the conclusion. Others prefer a more recursive approach where they work on one section for a time, move on to another part of the essay, and then return to the earlier section. Use the approach that works best for you.
    • Once you feel you have covered what you want to cover, read through again to make sure that the organization and development are logical. One strategy for doing this is to note in the margin in a few words the point of each paragraph. Take those brief phrases and look at them to see whether they follow logically or require reorganizing. Is anything necessary omitted? Make any appropriate changes to your organization and development.
    • As you look over your draft, try reading it out loud. It will help you “hear” what flows and what does not.

    When you complete your draft, here are some questions to ask yourself:

    • Is your argument (thesis) clear?
    • Do your main arguments give the reasons for "why your thesis is so"?
    • Have you supported these with credible and relevant evidence and your own analysis?
    • Have you adequately addressed alternative perspectives?
    • Is there additional reading or research you need in order to strengthen your thesis and arguments?
    Example: Sample Draft for Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass

    By Rachel Bell

    Essay #4

    “Who controls the past controls the future. Who controls the present controls the past.” This applies well to the past when blacks were enslaved. In “Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave,” Douglass reveals how this long and brutal control of human beings was partly accomplished through control over literacy. The control and limitations over reading and writing during slavery sought to make slaves like Douglass ignorant, powerless, and therefore more easily controlled.

    Douglass lived in Baltimore for 7 years as a house slave and initially was taught by Mrs. Hugh but later was forbidden by his masters Mr. and Mrs. Hugh to read or write. Mrs. Hugh became furious if she caught Douglass reading because she wanted to control him. Many slave states passed laws making it illegal to teach slaves to read and write as seen in this typical law in North Carolina:

    AN ACT TO PREVENT ALL PERSONS FROM TEACHING SLAVES TO READ OR WRITE, THE USE OF FIGURES EXCEPTED. Whereas the teaching of slaves to read and write, has a tendency to excite dis-satisfaction in their minds, and to produce insurrection and rebellion, to the manifest injury of the citizens of this State: Therefore, be it enacted by the General Assembly of the State of North Carolina, and it is hereby enacted by the authority of the same, that any free person, who shall hereafter teach, or attempt to teach, any slave within the State to read or write, the use of figures excepted, or shall give or sell to such slave or slaves any books or pamphlets, shall be liable to indictment in any court of record in this State having jurisdiction thereof. ("Slaves Are Prohibited to Read and Write by Law")

    The law then goes on to list the punishments and for a white person it was a fine and possible imprisonment and for a free person of color they could be fined, imprisoned or whipped ("Slaves Are Prohibited to Read and Write by Law"). They couldn’t just control people through force but had to control their minds too.

    Douglass discovered that freeing his mind led to anguished torment. “As I read and contemplated the subject, behold! that very discontentment which Master Hugh had predicted would follow my learning to read had already come, to torment and sting my soul to unutterable anguish. I would at times feel that learning to read had been a curse rather than a blessing. It had given me a view of my wretched condition, without the remedy. It opened my eyes to the horrible pit, but to no ladder upon which to get out. In moments of agony, I envied my fellow-slaves for their stupidity” (84). So is ignorance bliss? No, never. To be ignorant allows others to control us. Douglass realized this and after becoming educated, he joined the abolitionist movement and spent the remainder of his life fighting for the equality and rights of blacks as well as women.

    Muktar Mai in her memoir In the Name of Honor published in 2006, tells her story of growing up in a small village in Pakistan where girls were not allowed to be educated. Mai was sentenced to be publically gang raped by six men in a stable with 100 of her fellow villagers outside. Mai was then expected to follow custom and commit suicide, but instead she went to the police and testified against her attackers. Because she could not read or write, the officers wrote down her account but altered what she said to absolve her attackers of guilt, so when her case went to court, she lost. In spite of this, Mai still fights. She remains an outspoken advocate for women’s rights, she is still pressing a retrial of her attackers, she continues to run the organization she started Mukhtar Mai Women's Welfare Organization (MMWWO), and even with many attempts to close it, she still runs a school she established in her village to educate girls.

    We shouldn’t let others control us. We should fight for our rights and everyone should be allowed an equal education. No one should be denied learning to read and write. If people can’t read and write then they cannot compete equally in society and they will be taken advantage of by others.

    Works Cited (Draft)

    Douglass, Frederick. Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave.
    Mai, Muktar. In the Name of Honor.

    3 sources are listed—some sources in the paper are missing from the Works Cited and none of the citations is properly formatted yet.

    This page titled 5.8: Drafting is shared under a CC BY-NC-SA 4.0 license and was authored, remixed, and/or curated by Skyline English Department.

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