The process of writing using multiple drafts can apply to everything from emails to technical documents to entire books. In fact, most books that get finished are written using the multi-draft process. If you were to try and write a book from beginning to end just as it would appear in print in one pass, the results would not be good. Planning is important for good writing.
A well planned piece of writing begins with an idea. The author then expands the idea into an outline of what they want to say or the story they want to tell. Either before or after the outline, a synopsis is written that summarizes the entire piece in one or two lines for a short article and in several pages for a full length book. Next, the outline and synopsis are merged and more details are added. This is often a long list of headings and points to be covered. The first draft is a quick and sloppy full length write up. The second draft is a review and rewrite of the first draft. The final draft is the last chance for repairs, additions, and editing. Let’s look at it one step at a time.
A synopsis starts with a title and an idea. The idea is written out covering the major points that the author wants to make. You will usually want a paragraph on each chapter of the book. If it’s a short piece, one paragraph is the entire synopsis.
The outline is an expansion of the synopsis into all of the points or events to be covered in the piece. Once the major points are all in place and in order, go through it again and add the minor points. Now it is ready to be turned into a first draft.
The First Draft
The most valuable step in the multi-draft writing process is the first draft. This is where you get your work up to its full size. Since there are two more drafts to follow, you don’t need to worry about spelling, grammar, too many ideas, story problems, or multiple directions. Just write it all in there without worry. I used it on this piece you’re reading now. I covered the multi-draft writing process about three times in the first draft. Each was from a different angle. I wrote it as a two line paragraph, as a two paragraph explanation and as a long explanation with an intro and five sub-sections.
When you’re writing the first draft you just keep pounding it out. Don’t worry about that alligator in the elevator. In a later draft it will be an insurance salesman. All errors can be fixed so just keep going.
The Second Draft
This is where you clean up the mess from the first draft. You have a full length document to work with so cuts aren’t as painful. Review your first draft several times in this stage. Add where it’s needed. Cut where it’s needed. Correct grammar, spelling, and sentence structure. When you read through the second draft without finding any major work to be done it has become the final draft.
The Final Draft
This is where you make your writing presentable for editors and your public. Check the spelling and grammar again. Look for repeated words and ideas. See if your work flows naturally as you read it. This is the final chance for repairs before you send it off. Attention to detail matters. Now you can be the perfectionist you were ignoring when you wrote the first draft.
Your Writing Portfolio
You won’t always be in the right frame of mind for the next stage in your current piece of writing. If you want to write a lot, it makes sense to have many works in progress. Using the multi-draft process, you will have some writing you can work on no matter what your state of mind.
If your head is full of ideas, work on some outlines and synopses. When you feel like just pounding out lots of words, work on a first draft or a second draft that needs a lot added. When you feel creative, work on first and second drafts. If you’re in a critical mindset, work on a final draft.
The multi-draft process will have you producing new writing on a regular basis in short order.
Article by Ivan Izo.