This section of Ch. 6 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 a 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, 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 is 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. An essay draft 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
- 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.
Start with the Body
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.
Always 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.
Using the thesis and outline you created in Ch. 6.2, begin writing your first draft by writing three body paragraphs. This step is going to take some time. Plan on at least a couple of hours and two sessions is best.
(Note: From here on, you should be working on your computer, not in your notebook. This draft is typed.)
At some point before you finish, review the instructions on topic sentences, supporting ideas and transitions in Ch. 5.1.; on audience and tone in Ch. 5.2; and on body paragraphs in Ch. 5.3. Be sure that information is evident in your body paragraphs.
Do not go on to the next step until you have the body of your essay written and you are happy with it.
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 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. 5.3:
- 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.
Before you write your introduction, take another look at the introduction Pablo Medina wrote for his essay (in Ch. 7). Notice which technique he uses and how he transitions from his hook to his thesis.
Now, write your introduction.
- Decide which technique from the list above would work best to introduce your essay.
- Write the paragraph, starting with a hook and ending with your thesis.
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.
Do not go on to the next step until you like what you have so far: the introduction and the body.
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. 5.3: philosophize, synthesize, predict. Please review that information.
Write a concluding paragraph for your essay.
Work on your conclusion until it is clear, focused, and engaging. It is a good idea to schedule two sessions to write your conclusion. Coming back to reconsider what you’ve said gives you a new perspective.
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.
Caution: Don’t be too clever. A clear title is better than something creative but weird or confusing.
Come up with a title for your essay.
First, go to the Professional Essays in Ch. 7 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 a title for your essay and add it to your draft.
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 to 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 your grade). During the final two steps, you will have the opportunity to make changes to this first draft.
Do not go on to Ch. 6.4 until you really feel you have a solid draft. In fact, even if your draft is great, put it away overnight before you try to revise.
- 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.
- When drafting, write the body paragraphs first, then the introduction. Write the conclusion last.
- Titles should be clear and concise.
the preliminary or early version of a document