Do You Skip From Start to Final Draft?

Improve your nonfiction writing with advice from the fiction writers' playbook.

Fiction writers are constantly advised to just get the words on the page. They’re reminded that writing and rewriting is part of the creative process. But nonfiction writers don’t get the same encouragement  to work their way toward a polished final draft.

Most advice for the nonfiction camp to improve their writing focuses on grammar and construction. As if having good English skills is all we need.

And that’s how a lot of nonfiction writers operate. We sit down and try to  crank out smooth, concise content in a single whap.

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Why Nonfiction Writers Skip Drafting

Single-draft writing is driven, in part, by freelance writing clients who request that content come quick, complete and error free.

I come across freelance writing jobs all the time where the client wants 1,500 or 2000-word articles that require research or interviews. And they want them with a two to three-day turnaround on a regular basis.

Asking a freelance writer to crank out content quickly and consistently is essentially begging for a one-draft, quick-stitch submission.

Another reason writers tend to skip the rough-to-final draft process is because of all the advice telling us we should produce daily. Whether it’s for our blogs or for sites like Medium, nonfiction writers are bombarded with the idea that we need to operate like content mills.

Does Fast-Paced Writing Work?

Some writers do well with fast-paced, high-volume work– for a while.

The quality isn’t as good as it would be if they had more time. But it’s good enough to get paid and keep clients coming back. Or for bloggers, it’s enough to get credit for delivering to their followers.

Some writers never do well with quick-turnaround pieces. If you’re one of them, and you’re questioning your skills or potential, don’t.

The first-is-final draft process isn’t something to admire or aspire to.

When you constantly crank out content under the pressure of deadlines or to meet a daily publishing schedule, the quality of your writing will decline. Your skill-growth will either be stunted or non-existent, and you’re likely to end up burned out.

The top nonfiction writers in the game don’t sit down and hammer out flawless content day after day, while self-editing, with no assistance for research, fact-checking, etc.

Like fiction writers, they lay down rubbish sometimes. They write incoherent and incomplete thoughts. They create plans and outlines.

Seasoned nonfiction writers have a habit of writing a first, (sometimes) second and final draft too. They know the laws of creative work the same way regardless if the content is fictitious or not.

Stop Starting With Your Final Draft

If you normally write one draft and submit it to your clients or publish it to your platform, and you think your writing is good, try a less hurried approach.

Get your ideas down first. Allow room to weave the pieces together and time to think about the information you’re taking in and what you’re trying to spit out. Focus on coherence, cadence and flow.

How to Make Room for Drafting

But how do you find more time to create that polished final draft?  You start earlier.

A lot of us have to write fast because we procrastinate.

Plan out your blog posts and freelance writing submissions (when you can) in advance. And give yourself at least one or two full days between your initial and final draft.

I’m betting the farm that you’ll see improvement in your writing.

Related: Tips from On Writing Well