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The Art of Drafting: Master Your Writing

draft adviceHave you ever wondered how some writers are capable of producing hundreds of pages in a matter of weeks, while you are struggling for days with a measly two-page essay that isn’t even going to be published? Is it talent? Or, perhaps, some magic trick that miraculously increases their productivity a hundredfold?

While it is unlikely to be true of all writers in general, there is a trick – or, rather, a method – that is used by the majority of authors that actually manage to get something done.

The trick is incredibly simple – you just have to separate your writing process into two stages: drafting and editing, and be very, very particular about keeping them apart. Why is it so important?

Anybody who tends to try writing an essay in one go (especially perfectionists who try to make every line and word look just right) know this situation: you write an essay, you have a general idea of what it is going to be about, you have a plan of what to mention and where. You write a sentence, start another – yet something seems to be a little bit off with that first sentence, so you come back and correct it. You go on writing, then think of a way to write this first sentence even better, get back, rewrite it – and now you have to correct the entire paragraph because it doesn’t fit the new, better variant of the first sentence.

This may go on for hours – for a perfectionist it may turn the process of writing into living hell, because nothing is ever good enough.

When you separate creative process into drafting and editing, you approach things differently. At the drafting stage your task is not to write a beautiful and minutely calibrated essay, but to put your thoughts on paper arranged more or less in the way you want them to. You needn’t worry about style, transitions between sentences or, for that matter, even grammar.

You simply make sure you mention everything you wanted where you wanted. It will allow you to write quickly, without interrupting the flow of thoughts and inspiration, which is extremely important – if you stop every now and then and go back, your thought process will be disrupted, you will lose your own line of reasoning and get confused.

And only after this, after your first rough draft is finished, you may go back and start editing: add all the missing logical transitions between paragraphs, prettify the language, correct grammar mistakes, work on style. The good thing about it? You will often discover that there is no need to alter this rough draft all that much – at least, you will spend much less time editing it than you would’ve spent endlessly rewriting its parts.

The reason is simple – when you try to write the final draft from the get-go, you try to compose the whole that doesn’t exist yet out of fragments you create on the spot, without having a complete picture before your eyes. When you separate writing into two stages, you create a cohesive whole that already works together, and then make it work even better.

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