7.4 Writing the Draft

Preview

This section of Ch. 7 will cover the following topics:

  • turning the thesis and outline into a
  • using topic sentences to generate content
  • choosing a title

The first two steps in the writing process–prewriting and organizing–are crucial. If the writer just sits down and starts writing a draft, it is likely to be disorganized and unfocused. The purpose of prewriting and organizing is to get you started, provide a clear direction, generate lots of details to use, and figure out the best organizational pattern to make your point before putting in a ton of time on drafting. With that start, writing the draft is much easier and the resulting document clearer and more interesting.

Step 3: Drafting

Drafting is the stage of the writing process when you develop the first complete version of the document. A draft essay will include the following:

  • an introduction that stimulates the audience’s interest, tells what the essay is about, and motivates readers to keep reading
  • a thesis that presents the main point of the essay
  • a topic sentence in each body paragraph that states the main idea of the paragraph and connects that idea to the thesis statement
  • support (facts, examples, explanations) in each body paragraph that develops or explains the topic sentence
  • a conclusion that reinforces the thesis and leaves the audience with a feeling of completion

This basic format is valid for most essays you will write in college, including long ones.

Although many students assume an essay is written from beginning to end in one sitting, most well-written essays are built one section at a time, not necessarily in order, and over several sessions.

The Body

Write the body of your essay first, before the introduction.

This may seem odd. Why write the middle before the beginning? Because the body of your essay IS the essay. Think of the introduction and conclusion as an appetizer and dessert for the main course. The body of your essay is the meat, potatoes and vegetables. Besides, how can you write an introduction if you don’t yet know what you are going to introduce?  Write the body first.

The body of your essay is where you explain, expand upon, detail, and support your thesis. Each point in your outline can be turned into a topic sentence, which then becomes a paragraph by adding details that clarify and demonstrate your point.

Work on the body of your essay in several separate sessions. You’ll be surprised the kind of changes you want to make to something you wrote yesterday when you look at it again today.

Keep working on the body until it says what you want said.

Exercise 1

Read Jennifer Steimer’s essay “Remembering My Beginnings at Mt. Hood Community College” in the Student Essays section of Ch. 8.

  • Ignore the first and last paragraphs; just look at the three body paragraphs.
  • Identify the topic sentences in each body paragraph and write them in your notebook, leaving several blank lines between them.
  • Underneath the topic sentences, list several her supporting details. After each, identify whether it is a fact, statistic, reason, quote, or example.

The Introduction

The introductory paragraph has a very specific job: it attracts the reader’s interest, presents the thesis, and supplies any necessary background information. In a long paper, it might also preview major points.

There are lots of ways to write a good introduction. Read through the body of your essay one more time and think about what you could say to invite your reader in. How could you make the reader curious?  Remember these different options for introductions that we looked at in Ch. 6.3:

  • Begin with a broad, general statement of the topic, narrowing to the thesis.
  • Start with an idea or a situation the opposite of the one you will develop.
  • Convince the readers that the subject applies to them or is something they should know about.
  • Use an incident or brief story–something that happened to you or that you heard about.
  • Ask questions so the reader thinks about the answers or so you can answer the questions.
  • Use a quotation to add someone else’s voice to your own.

Work on your introduction until it is clear, focused, and engaging. As with the body draft, it is a good idea to schedule at least two sessions to write your introduction. Coming back to reconsider what you’ve said gives you a new perspective.

Exercise 2

Read Pablo Medina‘s essay “The Best Place to Study,” in the Student Essays section of Ch. 8.  Pay special attention to his introduction.

Then, in your notebook, write a new introductory paragraph for his essay, using one of the techniques listed above. See if you can write something as engaging as Pablo’s introduction (or even better!).

The Conclusion

Once you have put together your body paragraphs and attached your introduction at the beginning, it is time to write a conclusion. It is vital to put as much effort into the conclusion as you did for the rest of the essay. A conclusion that is unorganized or repetitive can undercut even the best essay.

A conclusion’s job is to wrap the essay up in an attractive package so the reader is left with a good final impression. A strong concluding paragraph brings the paper to a graceful end. We discussed several approaches in Ch. 6.3: philosophize, synthesize, predict.

Do not do any of the following:

  • use the phrase “In conclusion”
  • repeat your thesis
  • introduce a new idea
  • make sentimental, emotional appeals
  • directly address the reader

Exercise 3

Look at the concluding paragraph in Pablo Medina’s essay “The Best Place to Study.”

In your notebook, write a new concluding paragraph for his essay. See if you can write something as engaging as Pablo’s conclusion (or even better!).

The Title

Titles are a brief and interesting summary of what the document is about. Titles are generally more than one word but no more than several words.

Like the headline in a newspaper or magazine, an essay’s title gives the audience a first peek at the content. If readers like the title, they are likely to keep reading. One caution: don’t be too clever. A clear title is better than something creative but obscure.

Exercise 4

Go to the “Professional Essays” section of Ch. 8 and read just the essay titles. In your notebook, answer these questions:

  • Which title is the most interesting to you?  Why?
  • Which is the least interesting or most confusing?  Why?
  • Then, pick one essay that you’ve read all the way through (if you haven’t done so yet, do it now). Come up with three alternative titles for that essay.  Write them in your notebook.

What you have now is a first draft. This is a complete piece of writing, but it is not the final version. A first draft gives you a working version that you can improve. The best writing goes through multiple drafts before it is complete.

The final two steps of the writing process–revising and editing–are crucial to the quality of the final document (and the grade you receive). During the final two steps, you will have the opportunity to make changes to your first draft.

Takeaways

  • The key structural parts of an essay are a thesis in an engaging introductory paragraph, body paragraphs with supporting details, and a concluding paragraph that ends the essay gracefully.
  • Your outline guides the development of the body paragraphs. Each main idea becomes the topic sentence of a new paragraph that is then developed with supporting details.
  • Write the introduction after the body paragraphs, and write the conclusion last.
  • Titles should be clear and concise.

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1, 2, 3 Write! by Gay Monteverde is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.