Ground Zero Drafting

Creative Commons licensed image posted at Flickr by Daniela Goulart

Creative Commons licensed image posted at Flickr by Daniela Goulart

This activity assumes you are at the initial stage of composing and do not yet have a draft in hand. This activity will help you put some words down on the proverbial paper!


1. Open a word processing document (e.g., Word or Google Docs).

2. If you have a thesis statement or research question, type it at the top of the document.

3. For 10-15 minutes, write everything that comes to mind in response to your thesis statement or research question. You may want to start a timer.

4. Treat this initial drafting process as you would a freewrite.

  • Don’t worry about grammar, vocabulary, spelling, and mechanics.
  • Don’t worry about formatting or style.
  • Don’t worry about organization or coherence.
  • Do write continuously about your topic. Try not to stop. Just keep writing.
  • Do allow yourself to explore ideas you may not have previously envisioned exploring.
  • Do stop at the 15-minute mark to read and reflect on what you have written. Continue to Ground Zero Drafting – Part Two for tips on reflection and moving forward with your draft.

5. Read and reflect on what you composed during the freewrite. If possible, print your draft before following the reflection process below. If you cannot print, simply use the editing tools available in your word processing program.

6. Underline sentences that seem to convey “main ideas.” These are ideas that could potentially be elaborated on in paragraphs of their own.

7. Use different colors to highlight ideas that connect with one another.

8. Look for moments of “discovery.” These are instances in your draft where you wrote about an idea that you did not expect to write about but that actually relates well to your thesis statement or research question.

9. Strikethrough (cross out) irrelevant ideas.

10. Use the information you have discovered from this process as a starting point for Draft #2.

11. Share-out: Take a screenshot of your writing after you have underlined, highlighted, discovered, and crossed out ideas in the original draft.