3 Ways a Trash Draft Helps You Write Effectively

What are trash drafts, and how do they power-up your writing?

Want to upgrade your writing process? Try using a “trash draft.” As the name implies, these are drafts of your article that are meant for the trash bin. While it may sound like a waste, these greatly simplify your actual writing process.

To show how this works, I will include the trash draft of this article below. It has not been edited beyond Word’s autocorrect feature. It isn’t a great read, but many of the ideas in this article can be found there.

Here are three reasons why trash drafts improve your writing.

Spend Time with Your Ideas

Blogs are about sharing ideas and information. You need to become familiar with your thoughts before you can write a compelling article. Grammar, structure, and even spelling get between you and your ideas. 

Trash drafting is a way to hang out with your ideas with no rules. Just play around, and see how they work and fit together. It’s taking your ideas for a test drive.

Ideas that you are having difficulty writing about even in the trash draft format are probably undercooked. Spend more time researching them or restructure the article to write them out of the final piece.

Figure Out Your Structure

Structure is the order and organization of topics in your article. This includes everything from the subsection topics to the sequence of ideas in each sentence.

Ed Yong – Pulitzer Prize winning journalist – said, “I really feel that 99 percent of writing problems are actually structuring problems”. I agree. Poor structure leads to exposition dumps, awkward transitions, and fuzzy logic. If you are having a hard time writing, you should reevaluate your structure.

Writing a trash draft gives you clues for building structure. “Oh, now that I have finished this, I should transition to that one,” or alternatively, “Yeesh, this doesn’t make sense – I need to cover this before I cover that.” These ideas will mature and solidify in your good draft.

Find the Weaknesses in Your Article

When you complete your trash draft, you will know more about the article you are trying to write. You will also be able to identify some of the potential problems of your post. Some examples:

  • There are too many topics
  • There are too few topics
  • An idea I thought was interesting is actually lame
  • I am drifting away from the original topic
  • My topics are repetitive or dull
  • Idea A and B are not as connected as I thought
  • I don’t understand this idea as well as I need to

By understanding your issues, you can avoid these problems when you begin working on the actual article.

Trashing the Trash Draft

When you are done with your trash draft, you need to throw it out. Do not try and edit it into a readable document – this will take way more time. Editing an article is like renovating a house – if the foundation is rotten, you should demolish the whole thing rather than fix it.

For novice writers, this may all sound like a waste of time. Why write an extra draft of your article if it’s just going to waste? The hard part about writing isn’t pressing the buttons on your keyboard; it is processing your ideas into a sharable format. Writing a trash draft accelerates that work.

Read more from the author

Example Trash Draft

Trash drafts are about getting your idea on the page in an unfiltered fashion. It helps for organizing your thoughts and understanding the structure and weaknesses of your work. Many people advice you write trash drafts as a way to work through your ideas, but you need to do it quickly almost as a stream of conscious. Why? It lets you know where you need to go in the article and begin to process the problems

The big advantage d of a trash draft is it gets ideas on the page. Often when you are writing a blog it can feel like there are 17 ideas rolling around in your head at once, sorting them out is a painful process because they are all sit on top of each other what order makes sense? Are they even worth including? Do I need to add or subtract from this list? It is really hard to tell before you throw them down on the page

Do not focus on grammar and sentence structure or even punctuation. These are a distraction to hanging out with your ideas. Trash drafts are about fully inhabiting your ideas and explore how they connect. This begins the process of reorganizing your thoughts and putting together a mental mode of how the piece should work

Advantages include

Better structure

Ideas about length

Ideas about flow

Identify the weakest parts of your blog

Process the subject at a higher level

It is essential that you through out a trash draft once you are done. Don’t try and fix it and edit it into a final pice. The process of organizing and developing structure is not remotely what you should be focusing on. That is the job to the good drafts you will be writing. Trash drafts are way harder to fix and rehabilitate than it is to writine something from scratch. Just do things as quickly as possible, and then begin to process where things go next.

Order is also totally optional in the trash draft. Idea comes to you half way through that belongs at the beginning? Throw it in wherever you are. Hate writing intros (like me) ? just do that last. It is much e. don’t worr. The writing process doesn’t need to resemble the final product! This is for you and processing your ideas, which is essentially for high quality writing.

New writers don’t use trash drafts because it sounds like it take more time. This is wrong. If your trash draft takes you a long time to write than you are just nor ready to write! Try and see how far you get. If you stall out half way through the first paragraph you need to go read some more or research your topic. If you can get through the entire trash draft you can complete a good draft.

In the process of writing this atrash draft there have been like 6 great ideas that I came up with with respect to structure and organization and even the points that I would create. Focusing on grammar and flow gets in the way of interacting with your ideas! You need to get to know your ideas first and only then can you writie.

Don’t worry about length. In case it wasn’t obvious, you shouldn’t worry about the length because it is going to look entirely different in the end version

Jesse Harris, M.Sc., M.A.Sc.
Jesse Harris, M.Sc., M.A.Sc.

Jesse is a Marketing and Communications Specialist at ACD/Labs. He has graduate degrees in Chemistry and an MASc in Chemical engineering. Jesse has been writing on the internet since 2016, and is passionate about science writing and marketing.

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