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Creating docs/specs as first/final versions

I recently acquired a copy of the book "How to Write Fast (While Writing Well)" by David Fryxell (1992). It's not a book I normally would have bought for myself, but someone at work was giving away some older books from his collection, and this looked interesting - I frequently write specs, proposals, articles, etc and sometimes I struggle with them.

One chapter in particular has been very interesting to me - "Writing a first draft right from the start". This is helping me to realize that it is a desirable skill to write a document that needs a relatively small amount of revising rather than, as seems to be often recommended, to repeatedly re-write the document with major revisions.

I find that the times when I can write a document from start to finish (in the "flow") which only needs a small amount of revising, it is a much better document than when I go through several major rewrites. This has always seemed to contradict most teaching that seems to recommend writing down lists of points, then an outline, then several drafts with lots of changes all before writing the final "perfect" copy.

But now this book is showing me that my natural instinct of writing a first draft as the final version is good and should be encouraged. Of course, doing this requires more than just the desire to sit down and write, and the earlier chapters in the book help with this - getting organized, doing prior research on your selected topics, keeping your topics and notes mentally gathered, etc - somewhat like doing the rough drafts in your mind rather than on paper.

If you're interested, the book listing at Amazon is:
http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0898797381
(And no, I'm not associated with the book or author in any way.)

Philip Dickerson
Sunday, February 22, 2004

>This has always seemed to contradict most teaching that seems to recommend writing down lists of points, then an outline, then several drafts with lots of changes all before writing the final "perfect" copy.

All through highschool I refused to do drafts, the best I would ever do was to scrawl down a few points to give me directions. I thought I was just plain lazy, it turns out I was doing things the smart way....

Actually I find this very interesting, I am about to write the documentation for my little program, it is a daunting task, the type of task that I want to keep putting off, If I thought I would be writing numerous drafts and revisions etc, it would be hard for me to get started, and I know for sure that I would cheat as much as possible so that I could get it over and done with.

Aussie Chick
Sunday, February 22, 2004

I find that creating a mindmap as draft version and creating a document using mindmap as reference works much better.

I have been using Mindmaps for preparing spec documents, gathering requirements, preparing for lecture sessions, etc.

Current generation of Mindmaping softwares are great. Especially, MindManager. It even exports the Mindmap as MS Word document outline.  After learning MindManager, my startup time for creating a new document has reduced quite a lot and now my documents capture many more details.

Nitin Bhide
Monday, February 23, 2004

Some of the traditional advice about outlining, etc., may date from the pre-computer days. Now that we have word processors, it's easier to start writing are edit later. Also, in my experience, diving in helps me avoid writer's block.

Julian
Monday, February 23, 2004

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