Write Your First Draft: Write Effectively

This is a crucial time to remember that writing is a process. As you write your first draft, you’ll slow yourself down, perhaps even bog yourself down, if you worry about style, grammar, punctuation, and spelling. Try to avoid composing, revising, and editing simultaneously. They’re three separate functions best done at three separate times. For the moment, concentrate only on getting your ideas down on the page.

Just as you don’t need an outline that is complete down to the last detail before you begin to draft, you don’t need to make each section of your draft perfect before moving on to the next one. Some parts will be more polished than others, and you’ll have time later to add, delete, rephrase, rearrange.
Set out with these goals in mind:

As you begin drafting, you don’t necessarily have to start with your introductory paragraph. Introducing a paper can be hard when you don’t know exactly what you’re introducing--that is, before you’ve written your first draft. Many students find it easier to plunge right into the body of the essay and leave the opening paragraph for last. Try beginning where you feel strongest. Or freewrite in response to one of your sources: for example, choose someone with whom you strongly disagree, and explain what is mistaken in that source’s view or what that source has overlooked. Once you’ve begun, you can work outward from there.

The important thing is to keep going. Try to do something on your project every day. You’ll find that you’re more productive when you’re regularly engaged with it, even if you can work in only short bits of time. If you put off writing until you have a whole afternoon, for example, to spend on it, you’ll have to take time to reacquaint yourself with where you were when you left off, and you’ll face the discomfort of the pressure to get something major accomplished.

As you draft, try making notes to yourself as guides to revision later:

When you finally do write the introductory paragraph, imagine that you’re writing for people who don’t have to read your essay. Make them want to read it. You might consider one of these opening tactics:

Whatever introductory device you choose, make sure that your opening paragraph leads coherently to your thesis statement.

Sometimes it’s a good idea to make your introduction and conclusion work together. If you open with a vivid example, for instance, you might return to that example at the end of the paper and give your work a satisfying circular structure; we’ve ended where we began. If this closing tactic isn’t appropriate for your paper, remember that your have other good options, and avoid the temptation to make the last paragraph a simple summary. Unless the paper is quite long, your readers will find the summary tedious and repetitious. Consider one of these more thought-provoking possibilities:

No matter what closing tactic you choose, you want it to be satisfying, to sound and feel like an ending.