Essay Guide

Our comprehensive guide to the stages of the essay development process. Back to Student Resources

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Process, process, process

The raw & the cooked

If you invite a friend round for a meal, you don’t just serve up the raw ingredients. You prepare the ingredients, cook them and then put something attractive and tasty on the table. It’s the same with essay writing: you should never hand in a first draft. Throughout this guide, I’ve emphasised that essay writing, like all writing, is a process. This means that any piece of finished writing will have passed through a number of different versions as the writer tried to make it as good as she could.

Drafting & editing – what they mean

‘Drafting’ means ‘making a preliminary or tentative version, sketch or outline of something’. ‘Editing’ means ‘making suitable for publishing or public presentation’ and has senses of selecting, amending and revising. The two activities are closely related. Publishers employ editors to work with authors on first drafts of new books.

What the professionals say

Here are some of the things that writers have said through the ages about drafting, editing and revising.

“Of every four words I write, I strike out three” – Nicolas Boileau, 1665

“I constantly rewrite” – Thornton Wilder, 1961

“I do a lot of rewriting. I find that the more versions you see […] the more you get it right in the end” – William Trevor, 1989