Once you have a discovery draft, you now have content with which to work— that is, you have words on the page. It is important to understand that during the discovery draft process you were getting your ideas down on paper. You were following the trail down which the writing was leading you. You weren’t writing, as such, but rather listening and responding to the thoughts that you discovered you had about your topic.
It is during the development draft that you actually begin to write. Webster’s dictionary defines writing as the “process of literary composition.” Now that you have your thoughts down on paper, you can begin to compose, or craft, your message. Here are four useful concepts to help you to develop a more effective approach to writing this draft.
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. Fully develop the idea that you are putting forth. Grab and hold the reader’s attention. Give the reader a clear reason for reading the writing. Focus saves the reader the time and energy required to figure out what the writer is trying to say.
As a writer, 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 and thinking. Focus will afford you the ability to restrain yourself from saying what the reader needs to figure out for himself. The secret to creating tension in writing is to give the reader only what he needs to know, now. Give the reader the opportunity to think—to try to figure out what is coming next.
What is the best way to say this one thing?
Develop the unwritten narrative behind your story. To do this, think to yourself, “What does the reader need to know at this point?” Anticipate the reader’s questions. Organize your writing to reflect the dialog you are having with the reader. Be intentional about discovering the underlying narrative.
Try this. Write in the margin of your draft where the reader might ask a question. Make sure that you answer this question in an appropriate place within the draft. This Q & A sequence represents the dialog that you are having with your reader. This dialog reveals the unwritten narrative.
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 could 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.
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. It is here that many beginning writers miss an opportunity. Don’t stop short of saying exactly what you mean, exactly the way you want to say it.
Write with information, not words. This means communicate chunks of meaning to your reader and make logical connections between each chunk. Readers want to learn something from your writing. They want to obtain knowledge that they can pass onto others. In the words of Bonnie Raitt, “Let’s give them something to talk about, a little something to figure out.
Are you effectively communicating one 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. If you are presenting your material in an unorthodox fashion, make sure you have instructed the reader on how to best receive your writing. Be consistent in your style throughout the piece.
Put your information in context. Meaning will change with the context. In order to communicate meaning effectively, information must be placed within the appropriate context.
I’d love to hear from your experience in developing your own writing. Please feel free to comment.