There are several steps to turn a first (or second, or third!) draft of a piece of writing into the final version. There is no way to get to that wonderful final draft without all the steps in between.
Professors often ask for draft essays in order to guide you as your writing develops. As you progress from 1st to 2nd draft, or from 2nd (3rd or 4th) to final draft, seeking input from others can help you get a fresh perspective on your work.
Find a Trusted Reader
A survival tip for college is to develop relationships with people whose opinions you trust. You’ll want to be able to draw on these people to give valuable, helpful, supportive feedback on your writing.
As you first get started with college classes, you’ll likely participate in peer reviews for essay assignments. Show your appreciation to your classmates who offer you helpful feedback. Note which of your classmates whose writing you admire. Try to continue working with these people as much as possible.
Also take advantage of your school’s Writing Center, if possible. Most tutoring centers will welcome talking with you at any stage of your essay-writing process. Note: tutors won’t just “fix” a paper draft. They will talk with you about what areas you are concerned with, and offer strategies to help focus YOU as YOU revise your paper.
Finally, your professor will likely be happy to talk over a draft with you, as well. Some classes will require you to turn in a rough draft for a grade and instructor comments, but most won’t. Nonetheless, your professors expect you to write multiple drafts, and will welcome a visit during office hours to talk about how to make your paper as strong as it can possibly be.
Respond to your reader’s comments
Whether you received comments from your professor, your friends, or a peer review, your edits are a way to respond to their questions and comments. Was your reader confused by what you thought was a really good point? Edit your paragraph so that your idea becomes clearer. Use specific pieces of evidence, such an important quote or statistic, to strengthen the paragraph. You can even try responding to the comments aloud–and then write them down in your draft in appropriately “academic” language.
Redraft your essay
Really going from draft to final version requires rethinking the flow of logic in your writing. For instance, you might realize that a sentence buried on the 3rd page of your paper would be an excellent “hook.” To use it well, you will need to redraft, moving it to the opening and altering the rest of the material on page 3 as well.
Redrafting means looking again at how each piece of your argument fits together in the whole.
- Shift paragraphs around–don’t worry about losing your train of thought.
- Delete unnecessary information–or if you think it fits better elsewhere, re-place it.
- Outlining your paper as it stands in the current draft can be very helpful for figuring out how you are presenting your ideas and can make it much easier to see where you need to reorder your information, add more support, or delete unnecessary material.
- If you are a visual person, try a craftsy approach. Print your essay out (single-sided) and cut it into paragraph-long pieces. Shuffle the pieces around so that you’ve mixed up their original order entirely. Then individually read and place the pieces/paragraph in the order that the ideas connect. As you tape or pin the parts together, you might find that the paragraphs are coming together in different ways than in your original draft.