Writing Your First Draft Study Guide
Writing Your First Draft
Vigorous writing is concise. A sentence should contain no unnecessary words, a paragraph no unnecessary sentences, for the same reason that a drawing should have no unnecessary lines and a machine no unnecessary parts. - WILLIAM STRUNK, JR. (1869–1946) AMERICAN EDITOR AND WRITER
Finally, it's time to start writing your essay. This lesson will provide instructions on how to make sure you are getting off to a good start with your first paragraph.
Good for you for being conscientious enough to get to this point in the book. By now, you've reviewed English grammar, and you've learned about freewriting, brainstorming, outlining, and developing a strong thesis statement. At last, you're ready for lessons on how to begin the actual writing of your first paragraph, which of course is only the beginning of the first draft of your writing project. So let's begin.
Beginning Your First Draft
Every writing project begins with a first draft. To draft means to write first and subsequent versions of what will become your finished writing project. (As you'll remember, to simplify and minimize confusion in this book we refer almost always to what you are writing as an essay, but it might easily be a report, a review, an in-class test, or even a research paper.) No matter which format you are writing in, drafting followed by revising should be your practice. It is a rare writer who can produce a polished finished piece of writing in the first draft.
The purpose of the first draft, of which the first paragraph is the beginning, is to get your ideas down on paper so that you can go back and revise, expand, and polish them up into a finished essay. Think of the rough draft as a framework or a simplified structure built out of the ideas you developed during your planning and outlining work.
The Role of the Paragraph
As you are aware, all writing projects include a series of paragraphs—the building blocks of all written work. (If you listen carefully to yourself and others, you'll realize that you actually speak in paragraphs as well. The shifts from one paragraph to another in spoken language are usually indicated with pauses, or questions, or responses from your listener.) Paragraphs are not just arbitrary breaks in your writing; they are created to perform several very specific functions:
- to provide support for the thesis statement of the essay
- to provide additional ideas that contribute to the thesis statement
- to indicate shifts in subject matter, time, or the speaker (if there is dialogue)
- to provide rest for the reader's eyes, a chance to breathe
Be sure to vary the length of your paragraphs. A series of very short paragraphs will feel choppy or disconnected; in fact they may indicate that a thesis is not well developed. Extremely long paragraphs make reading through them difficult—they seem to take the reader's breath away. Used carefully, one-sentence paragraphs can make a dramatic impact, but be careful not to overdo this strategy.
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