The Five Essential Drafts for Writing Well

This flight of craft beers is a pun on the five essential drafts of writing.

Just kidding. This post isn’t about craft beer. It’s not even about Mrs. Wright. Not directly.

Mrs. Wright was my 7th grade English teacher. She was the meanest teacher I can remember—strict, high expectations, demanding—everything you resist as a 12−year−old kid.

I remember diagramming sentences in 7th grade. These are not fond memories. They recount my struggle to learn grammar—the parts of speech and their functions within a sentence. Geometry was a breeze compared to diagramming sentences.

That was then. You may have similar memories from junior high school. Chances are, though, whatever you remember about writing from those days will not serve you well now, as you pursue writing your book.

Finding a New Way to Write

Most of us began our serious writing instruction in junior high school. As we grew older, the papers grew longer, yet the process of writing them did not change. You probably followed this traditional academic model: write a rough draft, read through it once, make changes, write the final draft, turn it in, and receive a grade.

The five essential drafts of writing well.

One of the biggest challenges facing adult writers is this: Now that you are setting out to write your book, you will first have to unlearn the way you were taught to write in school. Yet, in this process of relearning how to write, you will be introduced to the true joys of writing. There is no greater pleasure, as a writer, than to see your message develop through the process of writing out these five essential drafts. And, few other aspects of the writing process are as crucial to understand as the relationship between these five versions of your written message.

The 5 Essential Drafts

The Discovery Draft

When you begin to write, write for fun. If writing is not fun, then why write? The secret to writing a good discovery draft is found in the name of the draft itself. Allow the writing to let you discover what you really have to say about a topic. You won’t really know what you know until you begin to write it down.

The Development Draft

Now that you have words on the page, you have something to work with. It is in this draft that the writing really begins. This is when you organize your thoughts, develop these thoughts more completely, and bring clarity and focus to your manuscript. You will probably write the development draft several times.

The Demonstration Draft

Next, seek to find out if you are saying what you want to say in a manner that accurately communicates your message. The only way to determine this is to have some else read it. This can be an anxious experience, but it must be done. Remember, you are writing a book. People are going to read your writing. Now is your chance to receive constructive feedback in an environment you can control.

When you get the demonstration draft(s) back with comments, you are going to return to the development draft. If necessary, have other readers then read the new version of the manuscript. Complete this process as many time as necessary.

The Decisive Draft

Once you know what you are going to say, how you are going to say it, have verification that you have said it well, and have completed a self-edit, it is time to have a professional editor look at your manuscript. This decisive draft is crucial to producing a quality book. Your editor is your best friend. He or she will cause your work to shine.

This draft will also be the time when you spend your first outlay of cash on your book. Don’t skimp here. A good edit (or two) is worth every penny you spend.

The Done Draft

It is important to understand that at some point you must finish. Unfortunately, your thoughts are not finite. You will continue to think of new ways to explore your subject, even after you are done writing about it. But, those thoughts are for another time—maybe your next book.

More insidious still, is the desire to continue to perfect your writing. At this point, each change can precipitate another, ad infinitum. Better to leave it alone. Let it be. It’s done. Others will decide if it stands on its own. You’ll probably be surprised. Most often the answer is yes, it can.

Moving Forward with Your Writing

Keep your place as you navigate through the process of completing these five drafts. Knowing what draft you are writing will help you ask the right questions at the right time and provide the answers you need to move forward effectively.

I will be developing the description of each of these drafts in future posts. What is your experience with writing these five drafts? I’d love to hear how this post has helped you move forward.

Photo by Bernt Rostad via photopin cc

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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