Rule #3 and Step #3 – Write and go all the way to the end.
Using the roughly imagined and loosely organized first draft, write for 15 minutes. The same rules continue to apply—no research (save that for Draft 3 or 4) and don’t stop writing. Although some thoughts hastily sketched the first time around will naturally develop faster than others, consider each rough thought or paragraph. And don’t worry about spelling, punctuation, grammar, or making sense. All of that will resolve in writing the remaining drafts.
Why this works: Taking many light passes is far preferable to trying to wrestle one paragraph to perfection. An opportunity for brilliance you don't see in Draft 2 will suddenly occur to you in Draft 3 or 4, and you’ve wasted no time trying to force brilliance on a paragraph that wasn't ready. It will be ready the next time. Or the next.
At the end of about 21 minutes, your first draft has morphed into two or three pages of okay stuff, something you can work with. Now you can set it aside to answer emails or attend a meeting.
Embrace the interruptions—revise later.
When you sit down with it again, it's all fresh, and immediately you will see things to fix. Typically, you can hardly write fast enough to refine sentences and fragments and move it all around again for an even better order. Like last time, don't stop writing. In 30 minutes, you will knock out a second draft much better than the first. When you later write a third draft in 30 to 45 minutes, you won’t believe how much better it reads than the second. Every one of you will have this experience. We promise. If you have more time, you can try to improve it; if you don’t, it’s good already.
Edit, revise, and refine at the end.
Until you think you have a close-to-ready draft, do not consciously edit. Then use editing software like WordRake to help you make it clear and concise. WordRake sees things you are too close to see, too tired to notice, or don't know to look for in the first place. (And it's about a hundred times faster than a live editor.)
About the Author
Gary Kinder has taught over 1,000 writing programs for the American Bar Association, the Social Security Administration, PG&E, Kraft, Microsoft, and law firms like Jones Day, Sidley, and WilmerHale. His critically-acclaimed Ship of Gold in the Deep Blue Sea hit #7 on the New York Times Bestsellers List.