Twelve Steps to Developing an Effective First Draft of your Manuscript
You should now have detailed notes you can use to write your draft paper. If you don??thave one already, it may help to prepare an outline for each section which includes anumber of major headings, sub-headings and paragraphs covering different points.
At this point you will need to convert your notes and outline into narrative form.Some people recommend that you begin with the Introduction and continue in orderthrough each section of the paper to help ensure flow. Others suggest that you beginwith the easiest sections, which are usually the Methods and Results, followed by theDiscussion, Conclusion, Introduction, References and Title, leaving the Abstract untilthe end. The main thing is to begin writing and begin filling up the blank screen or pieceof paper.1. Consolidate all the information. Ensure you have everything you need to writeefficiently, i.e., all data, references, drafts of tables and figures, etc.2. Target a journal. Determine the journal to which you plan to submit yourmanuscript and write your manuscript according to the focus of the targeted journal.The focus may be clearly stated within the journal or may be determined by examiningseveral recent issues of the targeted journal.3. Start writing. When writing the first draft, the goal is to put something down onpaper, so it does not matter if sentences are incomplete and the grammar incorrect,provided that the main points and ideas have been captured. Write when your energy ishigh, not when you are tired. Try to find a time and place where you can think and writewithout distractions.4. Write quickly. Don't worry about words, spelling or punctuation at all at this stage,just ideas. Keep going. Leave gaps if necessary. Try to write quickly, to keep the flowgoing. Use abbreviations and leave space for words that do not come to mindimmediately.5. Write in your own voice. Expressing yourself in your own way will help you to saywhat you mean more precisely. It will be easier for your reader if they can ??hear?? yourvoice.
6. Write without editing. Don't try to get it right the first time. Resist the temptation toedit as you go. Otherwise, you will tend to get stuck and waste time. If you try to writeand edit at the same time, you will do neither well.7. Keep to the plan of your outline. Use the headings from your outline to focus whatyou want to say. If you find yourself wandering from the point, stop and move on to thenext topic in the outline.8. Write the paper in parts. Don't attempt to write the whole manuscript at once,instead, treat each section as a mini essay. Look at your notes, think about the goal ofthat particular section and what you want to accomplish and say.9. Put the first draft aside. Put
aside your first draft for at least one day. The idea ofwaiting a day or more is to allow you to "be" another person. It is difficult to proofreadand edit your own work; a day or more between creation and critique helps.10. Revise it. Revise it and be prepared to do this several times until you feel it is notpossible to improve it further. The objective is to look at your work not as its author, butas a respectful but stern critic. Does each sentence make sense? In your longersentences, can you keep track of the subject at hand? Do your longer paragraphsfollow a single idea, or can they be broken into smaller paragraphs? These are some ofthe questions you should ask yourself.11. Revise for clarity and brevity. Revise sentences and paragraphs with specialattention to clearness. For maximum readability, most sentences should be about 15-20 words. For a scientific article, paragraphs of about 150 words in length areconsidered optimal. Avoid using unnecessary words.12. Be consistent. Often a manuscript has more than one author and therefore thewriting may be shared. However, the style needs to be consistent throughout. The firstauthor must go through the entire manuscript and make any necessary editorialchanges before submitting the manuscript to the journal.