The Development Draft is Where the Writing Truly Begins

This picture illustrates the process of developing your writing.

The second essential draft, following the discovery draft, is the development draft. Remember the purpose of the discovery draft was to get your ideas down on paper. You followed your writing where it led you. In this regard, you weren’t writing, as such, but rather listening and responding to the thoughts you discovered you had about your topic. The reward for your efforts is now you have words on the page.

During the development draft, you will truly begin to write. Webster’s dictionary defines writing as the “process of literary composition.” Now that you have expressed your thoughts as words on paper, you can begin to compose, or craft, your message. In the development draft, you will begin the process of revision. This is the real work of writing. 

Here are four useful concepts that will help increase the effectiveness of your writing. Each concept poses a question to ask of yourself as the writer.

Four Elements of a Development Draft


What is the one thing that you want to say?

Your writing should only say one thing—at least only one thing at a time. Each paragraph should communicate only one idea. Therefore, fully develop each idea that you put forth before moving on to the next idea.

 Grab and hold the reader’s attention. You must be able to introduce and balance the elements of tension and flow. This balance creates writing that remains dynamic, causing the reader to stay engaged with and thinking about your writing. The secret to creating tension in writing is to give the reader only what he needs to know, now. Also, give your reader the opportunity to think through what you are saying. Don’t say what the reader needs to figure out for himself, and, at the same time, choose the most specific way to say precisely what you mean to say.


What is the best way to say this one thing?

To help you focus your message, develop an unwritten narrative behind how you deliver your message. Anticipate your reader’s questions and be sure to answer them in the appropriate place. Organize your writing to reflect this dialogue that you are creating with your reader. Be intentional about discovering this underlying narrative.

Try this exercise. While reading through your piece, write in the margin of your draft where the reader might ask a question. Then, make sure that you have answered these questions in appropriate places within the draft. This Q & A sequence represents the dialogue you are having with your reader. This dialogue reveals the hidden, unwritten narrative that gives good structure to your writing.

Take the time to organize your thinking. Place related thoughts together. Move unrelated thoughts to another section, file, or remove them completely. (Using a computer to write simplifies this process, although, you can also do this with index cards.)

Here is a helpful exercise to visualize the flow of your writing. Imagine that your text is a flipbook used to show animation. When all of the individual sketches are in the right order, the flipbook will reveal a moving image. If the sketches are out of order, the flipbook will reveal a choppy picture that is difficult to follow. Make sure the development of your thinking flows smoothly through your writing.


What does the reader need to know in order to understand what you are trying to say?

Read through your manuscript and develop the thoughts that need more explanation, depth, feeling, etc. Many beginning writers miss an opportunity here. Don’t stop short of saying exactly what you mean, exactly the way you want to say it. Revise your writing as many times as it takes to get the message right.

A helpful rule to use here comes from a revered writing teacher, the late Donald Murray. Write with information, not words. Let this aphorism encourage you to communicate with your reader using “chunks of meaning” to represent your ideas and make logical connections between each “chunk”, or idea. Double check to be sure that you have fully developed each idea that you have put forth.

Readers want to learn something from your writing. They want to obtain knowledge that they can pass onto others. In the words of rhythm and blues legend Bonnie Raitt, “Let’s give them something to talk about, a little something to figure out.” Don’t waste your words. Make sure your writing is rich in meaningful content.


Are you effectively communicating your one main idea?

Everything in your piece should support the dominant theme. As your read your draft, look for instances of ambiguity. Bring clarity to these sections of your draft by developing them more completely.

The reader should receive the description of your piece in a natural order. Be consistent in your style throughout the piece.

Give the reader a clear reason for reading the writing. Save your reader the time and energy required for her to try to figure out what you are trying to say. As the writer, you need to do the work of making your meaning clear. Be careful to put your information in context. The meaning of any set of information will change with the context. In order to communicate your meaning effectively, be sure to place your information within an appropriate context.

Writing the development draft will undoubtedly produce your most pleasurable writing experiences. This is the time to develop your craftsmanship and your style. Be continually aware that it is within this draft that the real work of writing is done.

I’d love to hear from your experience in developing your own writing. Please feel free to comment.

Photo by Kaleidico on Unsplash

About David Bedell

David is a freelance editor, writer, and coach. He takes delight in helping others craft and release their life message in order to advance the kingdom of God. His love for Jesus informs all that he does.

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