Essay Drafting Strategies In Writing


After you have created your outline in the planning stage, you need to begin composing the actual body of the essay, a process known as drafting. The end result of this process will be a rough draft—key word here being “rough.” Don’t worry if you think it needs improvement—even the best rough drafts need revising before they can be called a “final paper.” The most important element of drafting is simply getting all your thoughts down in the rough shape the essay will take--introduction (including a working thesis), body (including textual evidence with explanation) and conclusion.

When you are drafting, remember…
  • Choose your quotes carefully. When choosing quotes, keep your argument in mind. Make sure your quotes are used as evidence for your argument and are not simply there to take up space in the essay.
  • Typically, for every line you quote from a literary work, you should double your lines of explanation on that quote.
  • Explain the significance of the quotes you use.
            - Explain how they support your argument.
            - Point out any important literary devices within the quote, 
              particularly ones mentioned in your thesis.
  • Write your draft in chunks. Some people like to start with their introduction, some prefer to start with their body paragraphs.  Whichever your preference, make the process more manageable by breaking up the essay into chunks--take it one paragraph at a time and give yourself a small break between each one.
  • Consider hand-writing your first draft. Some people find themselves more focused when putting pen to paper and are less distracted by starting out with nothing but the primary text, a pen and a notebook in front of them rather than a computer fully equipped with the distractions of the internet.
  • Make notes to yourself on your draft while writing. If you feel yourself hitting a block, move on and fill in quotes or explanation later, but make a note on the draft so you don't forget.
  • Conference with your professors. Some people like taking their outline or a partial draft to a professor to talk it through and make sure they are on track. Just remember that your professors want to help you improve yourself as a writer.
  • In addition, talking through your draft with peers can also help you make sense of some of the arguments or explanations you may be giving.
  • If you are typing your rough draft, remember to SAVE OFTEN.  There is nothing worse than a power outage or dying laptop to cause you to lose hours of work.
  • Just remember: This is a rough draft. Don't freak out if it isn't perfect--just get through it.  If you start your essay in time, there will be plenty of time for you to revise and polish your paper.

Priceless Feedback

"Conferencing is one of the most important steps I take during my writing process.  Often during the initial drafting process, I will hit a roadblock or find myself talking in circles.  When this happens, I will set up an appointment with my professor or walk in during office hours and just sit and talk about my paper.  Getting a professor's feedback is priceless to me and often sets me back on the right track to finish up my paper." --Leanna

Writing an essay often seems to be a dreaded task among students. Whether the essay is for a scholarship, a class, or maybe even a contest, many students often find the task overwhelming. While an essay is a large project, there are many steps a student can take that will help break down the task into manageable parts. Following this process is the easiest way to draft a successful essay, whatever its purpose might be.

According to Kathy Livingston’s Guide to Writing a Basic Essay, there are seven steps to writing a successful essay:

1. Pick a topic.

You may have your topic assigned, or you may be given free reign to write on the subject of your choice. If you are given the topic, you should think about the type of paper that you want to produce. Should it be a general overview of the subject or a specific analysis? Narrow your focus if necessary.

If you have not been assigned a topic, you have a little more work to do. However, this opportunity also gives you the advantage to choose a subject that is interesting or relevant to you. First, define your purpose. Is your essay to inform or persuade?

Once you have determined the purpose, you will need to do some research on topics that you find intriguing. Think about your life. What is it that interests you? Jot these subjects down.

Finally, evaluate your options. If your goal is to educate, choose a subject that you have already studied. If your goal is to persuade, choose a subject that you are passionate about. Whatever the mission of the essay, make sure that you are interested in your topic.

2. Prepare an outline or diagram of your ideas.

In order to write a successful essay, you must organize your thoughts. By taking what’s already in your head and putting it to paper, you are able to see connections and links between ideas more clearly. This structure serves as a foundation for your paper. Use either an outline or a diagram to jot down your ideas and organize them.

To create a diagram, write your topic in the middle of your page. Draw three to five lines branching off from this topic and write down your main ideas at the ends of these lines. Draw more lines off these main ideas and include any thoughts you may have on these ideas.

If you prefer to create an outline, write your topic at the top of the page. From there, begin to list your main ideas, leaving space under each one. In this space, make sure to list other smaller ideas that relate to each main idea. Doing this will allow you to see connections and will help you to write a more organized essay.

3. Write your thesis statement.

Now that you have chosen a topic and sorted your ideas into relevant categories, you must create a thesis statement. Your thesis statement tells the reader the point of your essay. Look at your outline or diagram. What are the main ideas?

Your thesis statement will have two parts. The first part states the topic, and the second part states the point of the essay. For instance, if you were writing about Bill Clinton and his impact on the United States, an appropriate thesis statement would be, “Bill Clinton has impacted the future of our country through his two consecutive terms as United States President.”

Another example of a thesis statement is this one for the “Winning Characteristics” Scholarship essay: “During my high school career, I have exhibited several of the “Winning Characteristics,” including Communication Skills, Leadership Skills and Organization Skills, through my involvement in Student Government, National Honor Society, and a part-time job at Macy’s Department Store.”

4. Write the body.

The body of your essay argues, explains or describes your topic. Each main idea that you wrote in your diagram or outline will become a separate section within the body of your essay.

Each body paragraph will have the same basic structure. Begin by writing one of your main ideas as the introductory sentence. Next, write each of your supporting ideas in sentence format, but leave three or four lines in between each point to come back and give detailed examples to back up your position. Fill in these spaces with relative information that will help link smaller ideas together.

5. Write the introduction.

Now that you have developed your thesis and the overall body of your essay, you must write an introduction. The introduction should attract the reader’s attention and show the focus of your essay.

Begin with an attention grabber. You can use shocking information, dialogue, a story, a quote, or a simple summary of your topic. Whichever angle you choose, make sure that it ties in with your thesis statement, which will be included as the last sentence of your introduction.

6. Write the conclusion.

The conclusion brings closure of the topic and sums up your overall ideas while providing a final perspective on your topic. Your conclusion should consist of three to five strong sentences. Simply review your main points and provide reinforcement of your thesis.

7. Add the finishing touches.

After writing your conclusion, you might think that you have completed your essay. Wrong. Before you consider this a finished work, you must pay attention to all the small details.

Check the order of your paragraphs. Your strongest points should be the first and last paragraphs within the body, with the others falling in the middle. Also, make sure that your paragraph order makes sense. If your essay is describing a process, such as how to make a great chocolate cake, make sure that your paragraphs fall in the correct order.

Review the instructions for your essay, if applicable. Many teachers and scholarship forms follow different formats, and you must double check instructions to ensure that your essay is in the desired format.

Finally, review what you have written. Reread your paper and check to see if it makes sense. Make sure that sentence flow is smooth and add phrases to help connect thoughts or ideas. Check your essay for grammar and spelling mistakes.

Congratulations! You have just written a great essay.

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