You’d be surprised how many ‘first drafts’ I receive that are not first drafts at all. They are what we in the business call brain dumps.
Not that there’s anything wrong with a brain dump. If you prefer to write in flow rather than with a structure, it’s a great way to get raw material down. After all, no writing is wasted writing, it all contributes to the process of expressing your ideas. But those ideas will need to be organised into a logical flow that will take the reader on a journey. In other words – they need to be turned into a story. And that’s going to take some time.
A great first step for reviewing a brain dump (or any bit of new writing) is to read it a few days later with highlighter in hand or highlight tool at the ready. Highlight the topic sentence of each paragraph (the topic sentence identifies the central idea of the paragraph) then read through the highlighted topic sentences. This will help you see how the ideas are flowing, where you’ve gone off track, where there’s repetition and what needs developing, without getting bogged down in the line-by-line detail (plenty of time for that later).
Don’t worry if your ideas are all over the shop at this stage, that’s standard for a first draft. It’s like when you’re telling an anecdote, you don’t always get the bits in the right order, so you backfill a bit of detail as you go along. The important thing is to identify where your ideas have gone astray so you can start corralling them into some kind of order.
Reviewing your draft like this will help you work out what you are trying to say and what order you want to say it in. It’s a first step in a long journey of writing and reviewing, writing reviewing, writing reviewing … but you know what they say about long journeys.
Good luck intrepid writer.
PS. If you’re writing a business book, you might also find this post handy – Three essential questions to ask before you start writing that business document