Writing several drafts

By Dana P Skopal, PhD

Writing can often involve producing several drafts. Writing is rarely completed without a number of drafts – be it a document for work, such as a report, or an assignment at university. As a writer you need to revise your first draft, as your first version may often be a brain-dump of information.

As writers we need to understand the four key steps of planning, drafting, editing and proof-reading. However, drafting and editing are closely linked. Drafting usually involves writing the main sections of your report /assignment, after which you often evaluate if you have made a strong recommendation or an appropriate response to the assignment question. After this evaluation, we often write a second draft, adding or deleting information. Editing allows you to make changes to ensure your meaning is clearer (and your message is coherent).  Drafting and editing can be recursive, as drafting leads to editing, which can lead to further drafting with new ideas if gaps are evident (see Chapter 16 in Brick, Herke & Wong, 2016).

In our work in large organisations and in the university, we often see people writing several drafts but their main message remains unclear. Writing to get your message across means you should know your main argument. If you don’t, then no matter how many drafts you write, your document may well be confusing for your reader.

So for some writers, drafting may come before a real plan emerges. To check your message, you should be able to explain your key points in two minutes to a colleague. Even record yourself on your mobile phone.  If you know your material, you can put an effective argument together when you are not bogged down looking at the words on the computer screen. Effective writing involves planning and thinking as well as drafting.

So when faced with producing a document or an assignment, read and know your information. Then think, plan, draft and revise your text. Planning, drafting and writing are all intertwined.

Reference: Brick, J., Herke, M. & Wong, D. (2016).  Academic Culture:  A student’s guide to studying at university.  (3rd ed).   South Yarra, Vic: Palgrave Macmillan.

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