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Writing the First Draft

Is it better to write my first draft on paper or compose directly at the computer?

It doesn't matter. The "best" way to write that beginning draft is the one that works for you.

If you type quickly and don't need the feel of a pen in hand to get your ideas flowing, try composing at the computer. It can save time because once you've completed the draft, you only have to retype the parts you want to change.

If you don't type well, you may be better off writing the draft first by hand. Otherwise, you might find yourself focusing on how you are writing--the typing--and not on what you want to say.

When should I write my first draft?

As early as possible: the more time that passes between the first draft and your editing, the more likely you are to see problems that need to be changed. Time helps you get distance from your writing so that you can see it with fresh eyes. Don't rush the process too much, though. Before you start writing that first draft, you should be sure that you

  • understand the directions thoroughly;
  • have spent enough time researching, brainstorming, talking, etc. to gather sufficient information to write about;
  • have put your ideas into some sort of logical order; and
  • know what your thesis (the main point all those ideas lead to) is going to be.
How do I get past my writer's block?

If you have trouble getting started, try one or more of the following:

  • Clarify (with your teacher, your classmates, the written directions) the assignment.

  • Talk things out first. Tell a friend --or a tape recorder--what you have to write and what you want to say. Then just start writing down those ideas.

  • Skip the beginning. Start writing at some place other than the first sentence. Once you get the ideas flowing, you can always come back and work on the introduction.

  • Write something, anything. Do some freewriting, or try writing a memo explaining the assignment and what your argument is going to be. Once you've got something in writing, it's a lot easier to keep going.

  • Ignore your inner perfectionist. Remind yourself that a first draft is, by definition, just a beginning. If it helps, you can bracket or highlight parts that you know you'll want to fix up later, but for now just get things down in whatever format you can. For the hard-core perfectionist, try turning off your monitor and just typing. This forces you to move forward rather than going back and worrying about vocabulary or spelling or punctuation.

The main thing to do is figure out what is causing the block, and then work from there.

Click here for suggestions on how to figure out WHAT'S CAUSING YOUR WRITER'S BLOCK.