A typical expectation for an essay draft is that it will take a few days to develop. The longer the final product, the longer that time of initial development (usually).
From that perspective, it’s no wonder many students are hesitant to revise later! When you invest a lot of time crafting something, you grow quite attached to it. You don’t want to have that feeling of having to “start over” again with serious revision, later.
- are completed in one concentrated time period (~ 45 minutes)
- are written “fast and furious” with no time to sweat the small stuff
- contain notes where a writer might need to research or develop further later
- conform to the general structure of the final product
By adding in a timed component to the first, fast draft of an essay, you get several advantages. There’s literally no time for perfection, so concerns about “doing it right” stop being a roadblock to writing anything at all. Flash drafts generate a lot of raw material that can be refined and built upon later. And these drafts boost your confidence as you realize how much you already know about the subject.
Flash drafts are effective for any writer. Proof of this comes from the following essay by Stacey Shubitz, a teacher of writing for both grade school and college students.
“Flash Drafting Leads to Large-Scale Revision”
I’ve been at the June Writing Institute this week. Kelly Boland Hohne has been my section leader for “Raise the Level of Literature-Based and Research-Based Argument Essays.” In the past week, I’ve written two flash drafts, one literary essay and one research-based essay. I have found the process scary and liberating all at once. Here’s why.
Flash-drafting unnerved me because I’m used to taking my time with writing. I tinker with words. I play with punctuation. I type, I cut, I paste, I cut some more, I copy, etc. I do this because I want to make make sure my thoughts are as succinct as they can possibly be. This week, I learned that flash-drafting doesn’t afford a writer with making it perfect. That’s what revision is for!
My flash drafts and my initial revisions of my flash drafts were anything but perfect. Kelly encouraged us to use . . . a Glow and Grow. . . . That is, after we flash-drafted, we looked at what we did well as writers and marked it “glow.” Then, wherever we needed to improve our writing, we marked it “grow.”
Want to take a look at my flash drafts? Here are some links to the original ones, as well as my initial revisions.
- Flash-draft of my literature-based essay on Elizabeth, Queen of the Seas by Lynne Cox and Brian Floca
- Revising the claim and information to support my claim. (Towards the bottom of this note.)
- Revised draft of literature-based essay.
- Glow & grow for my essay.
- Notes for my information-based essay.
- Flash-draft of my research-based argument essay about team sports putting too much pressure on children. (You’ll note I didn’t reference from my notes when I was flash-drafting! That’s because I was writing so quickly I didn’t turn back.)
- Revised draft of my research-based argument essay. (This still needs more facts in it to be research-based. That’s what I’ll be working on next.)
Seeing as I didn’t spend tons of time on my flash-drafts, I’m excited to revise because I know I need to. My flash-drafts weren’t my best work. (Heck, they were all written while I was riding on mass transit balancing my iPad on my lap!) Now that I’ve gone through the flash-drafting process twice this week, I understand how it can lead to more excitement about making large-scale revisions in response to what one learns next in writing workshop (or in my case, from my session leader, Kelly).