Every writer's habits and ways of thinking differ. As you begin your first draft, you will find yourself cycling through four basic activities:
You may even go back to your prewriting idea-generating phase to generate more ideas or even read for more information. You may experiment with different statements of your thesis, and you certainly may try more than one way to organize your ideas before you finish your first draft. As you weave the threads of your ideas and notes into the whole cloth of your first draft, you will be sorting through all you have gathered in search of patterns that will shape your writing.
Start with your working thesis. As your writing flows from the thesis statement with its controlling idea, the subsequent paragraphs provide the information identified in your lists and notes.
As you write, you may want to provide concrete examples and support for what you say. If you are writing an essay, the support may be from the course lectures, excerpts from a text you studied, or examples from your experience that substantiate the points you want to make. If you are writing a formal research paper, this support may be citations from other writers and experts.
A first draft, your initial attempt to organize your thoughts in prose writing, is more complete than an outline and elaborates your ideas in complete sentences and paragraphs. From your thesis statement and notes, you should write at least one draft. For now, disregard spelling, punctuation, and grammar, which are writing mechanics. In this draft, you want to focus on getting your ideas down in a way that reflects your outline and your proposed plan. Focus on the content.
As you write, you will discover ways to improve your content and even your writing plan. You may decide to move, delete, or add sections. In other words, you will find that your first draft is another stage of thinking in writing. As you refine your ideas about your writing project, keep in mind that too many changes will impede your progress; if the change seems worthwhile, however, don't hesitate to change direction.
In the example provided here, you can see how this writer began putting words on paper by starting with a controlling idea and adding additional support.
Example from a Student Response to an Essay Question
Managing technical staff in today's work environment challenges managers to provide a structured workplace, where tools workers use and the methods they follow are clearly defined and available. At the same time, technical management must also allow for individual expression and creativity. As the textbook, Managing for the Twenty-First Century, indicates, this challenge requires managers to walk a fine line within the often-competing roles of facilitator, fan, and disciplinarian.
One concrete example of this challenge can be seen among software development managers. In software development environments, the manager must make technical decisions about tools and methods in fast-changing technical areas. He or she must be an expert in many complex systems just to ensure that the environment for work will generate productivity. The manager must also be able to assess contributions to a software project and discipline those who fail to contribute. Among software development groups, this task is especially challenging for managers because of the collaborative nature of the work and the interrelatedness of each person's contribution to the total system.
Freewriting and summarizing, two useful techniques for generating ideas, can help you get your ideas down on paper.