How To Fix An Unfocused Draft

Sunday, March 5, 2017

Last week I had my first workshop of my final semester. I handed in half of a long nonfiction essay that I was working on. When it came to my actual workshop, I knew something was off about the piece, but I hadn’t decided what that was yet. However, I learning quickly through the 13 people critiquing my draft that my essay was unfocused.  I panicked at first, but I came to the conclusion that writing an unfocused draft is okay.

Why Writing an Unfocused Draft is Okay

I started out with one idea I have been planning to write for a while. I began writing on that concept, but the further I got into the draft, I ended up on a completely different side tangent about the same subject. Here are some things I realized about writing an unfocused draft.

1. It helps you figure out what you’re actually interested in writing

I thought I was interested in writing about one part of my subject, but the more I wrote, the more curious I was about something else. What you as a writer find interesting is what the real story is. For example, if you decided to write on your mother’s life and how that influenced your love of music, but the further you wrote you realize that your mother’s life makes you feel unsuccessful, then your true story is figuring out why you feel unsuccessful.

2. It gives you more material to work with

All well-written material is great to work with present or future. What may not fit into the essay or story can always be recycled and reworked into another essay later on. You may find a scene you really enjoy works better in a different essay. The more unfocused material you have, the more potential essay starters you have created.

3. You learn what the reader is interested in

In a similar fashion as number one, by turning in a draft with multiple directions, you can figure out in a workshop what a readership is interested in.  It may be the same thing you’re interested in, but by figuring out what a reader is fascinated by can help you create a more engaging essay.

How Do I Plan On Fixing My Unfocused Draft

I plan on fixing my unfocused draft by pursuing a tangent that I ended the later part of my draft with. It was also that same portion that readers in my workshop had more interest with. This may mean starting over from scratch, but now I have a clear subject and outline to work with while before I was just writing until I got somewhere about a topic.

I’ve already created a brand new document and began re-writing. The most important thing about fixing a draft is to not be afraid to start over. Everyone always starts with a shitty first draft. Mine just happened to make it all the way to workshop.

Need Help Fixing Your Own Draft?

If you need help fixing your own draft, check out this worksheet in my resource library.

Have you ever written an unfocused first draft? How did you fix it or deal with it? Let me know in the comments below!

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