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Writing your first draft

Marianne Freiberger
Rachel Thomas

Once you have a good idea of the story you want to tell and your audience, you can set out on a draft. Here are some tips to help you on your way...

It doesn't have to be good

Your first draft is a time to get all your ideas down, it does not have to be perfect. Our first drafts never are! Trying to edit while you write can make writing much harder. Have faith that you will edit your work later (we've got tips to help you here) so you don't have to worry about it being good now. Just get all your ideas down so you can see what you have to work with.

This is part of our practical writing guide - find out more here!

A good place to start

A good place to start might be the five Ws:

  • Who?
  • What?
  • Where?
  • When?
  • Why?

Answering the first few of these questions might inspire the introduction to your article. For us, often the rest of the article might be expanding on the "Why?" Or explaining the "How?"

What is the main point you want readers to take away?

Imagine your reader at the proverbial "water cooler" the next day (the twitter of the olden-days) saying "I read this great article about…" How do you want that sentence to end? This may be a good basis for your conclusion.

How will you get from your intro to your conclusion?

Sometimes it helps to imagine your narrative as a set of stepping stones across a river, getting the reader from beginning to conclusion. What are the stepping stones your reader will need to get across? What questions might arise for them along the way and are you answering them?

Things to try:

  • Set your timer for 10 minutes. Try writing the intro, or the conclusion.
  • Set your timer for another 10 minutes: Map out how to get from beginning to end, or retrace back from the end to get to the intro.
  • Repeat your timer as many times as you need to map out your story!


  • Think about your reader, answer their questions.
  • Be excited – if you enjoy telling your story they will enjoy reading it!

Congratulations on your first draft!

Back to the writing guide

This content was produced as part of our collaboration with the Isaac Newton Institute for Mathematical Sciences (INI) and the Newton Gateway to Mathematics. The INI is an international research centre in Cambridge which attracts leading mathematicians from all over the world. The Newton Gateway is the impact initiative of the INI, which engages with users of mathematics. You can find all the content from the collaboration here.

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