Write the Discovery Draft to Know What You Know
When you begin a writing project, write for fun. If writing is not fun, then why write? What I think makes writing the most fun is that through writing I discover what I truly know about a subject. That is to say, the process of writing reveals the depth of my knowledge. Often, I am pleasantly surprised by what I find.
The secret to writing a good Discovery Draft is found in the name of the draft itself. Writing this draft lets 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.
During your writing time, allow yourself to have a conversation with your writing. Ask questions. Listen to your answers. Discover all that you can through the insights you gain by having this active conversation.
So, brainstorm some ideas. Pick an idea to write about. Start writing!
Five Tips to Writing a Discovery Draft
Here are some tips to help you write quickly and smoothly.
1) Write a fast as you can.
As you write, you will begin to discover how to say what you want to say. In fact, you will discover thoughts that you didn’t even know you knew. At this point, though, don’t take the time to think too hard about how to say something.
In this draft, you are writing as the artist, not the critic. Editing as you write will slow you down and distract your thinking. Right now, all you want to do is get words on the page.
2) Skip around.
Allow your thoughts to develop on their own. Don’t force your thinking to go in any one direction. If you get a new idea, start writing about that idea—even in the middle of an earlier one. You will be able to organize your writing in the next draft.
3) Follow your thoughts.
There exists a distinct separation between having thoughts in our heads and writing words on the page. Getting from one to the other is a bit of a mystery. Indeed, this is where the magic of writing takes place. Our thoughts actually want to express themselves freely on their own.
Recognize that the trail you create with your words is leading you in the direction your thoughts require. Do not put expectations on your writing at this stage. If you give yourself this freedom, you will be pleasantly surprised at the outcome. Let the process of discovery expand your ability to express what you have to say.
4) Listen to where the writing is taking you.
Be aware of the journey you are on as you write. Having an active conversation with your writing will help you to better enjoy this experience. Bring suggestions to your writing. See how these ideas might be incorporated into the current project.
But, don’t confine your writing at this stage. Your writing itself will determine if these ideas have a place in this project, or if they are better left for another one.
5) Don’t edit as you write. (This is worth repeating.)
There is a time for everything under heaven. However, now is not the time to edit. Give yourself permission to make mistakes during this draft. Editing will find its rightful place in future drafts.
You might even want to try closing your eyes as you write. This will allow you to focus on your thoughts and not be distracted by the words written on the screen, or on the page.
Make a List
Here’s a suggestion. Start your writing session by brainstorming on the topic of your choice. For example, these ideas could be generated from an aspect of a current project, the beginning of a new project, or a free write.
Write down every idea that comes to your mind as you think about the topic. In addition, take the time to explore seemingly unrelated thoughts. Don’t restrict this process.
Now, write out your list in paragraph format. Pay attention to how each idea wants to connect with the other. Seeing these connections form will also reinforce that you are preparing to write. By all means, be intentional about your writing.
Next, when you are done, read over your writing. Ask yourself these thoughtful questions. You are looking for answers that inspire you to write more.
- What surprises me?
- Which ideas don’t seem to fit on the list?
- Has anything I’ve written caused me to think differently?
- Where do I see a conflict?
Finally, begin writing from a response to one of these questions. This material will now be fresh for you. Furthermore, writing about it will energize you. You’ll start writing with a new perspective.
Most importantly, you now have something to say that only you can write. And in doing so, you will develop your writing voice—your unique style of writing.
I’ve included an example of this activity on the Lessons page on the site. Read through it and then try it on your own. Let me know how this helped you get started in a new direction or get unstuck in your current project.
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