I've been thinking about writing again. One thing that systematically surprises me each semester (though by now it surely shouldn't) is the fact that many of my students don't do a "first draft." They sit down at the computer, vomit words on the page with no forethought, planning, outlines, or revision-- and turn it in. Of course, I force them to bring a rough draft in to share with peers, but I often wonder how much good that really does. I hear a lot of "That sounded good to me" around my classroom, despite my instruction on how to critique each others' work.
I think it's the computer age. Not saying people didn't do it before-- but when you're sitting down to a typewriter, you write out your paper first. You don't want to worry about mistakes as you go when you're typing on one of those things. But with word processors, we can just toss thoughts up and revise as we go. Sounds good in theory, but works like crap in actual practice.
And for Pete's sake read it, just once. So many of the students I tutor will say "It's probably not very good, I haven't read it yet..." What? I'm not a proofreader or a copy editor-- those people make lots more money than I do. I help with organization, content, thesis statements, etc. They always give me a look like they don't think their paper is in need of that. They're pretty much always wrong.
So, I keep forcing them to do outlines ahead of time and share their rough drafts before turning in a final. And I still cringe when a student says "I don't need an outline. I just write it as I go."
Not in my class, buddy. Not in my class.
(Keep in mind, I'm addressing academic writing. I know in fiction, we don't all use outlines. But there's at least some planning ahead of time, and if you're serious about your work there are always revisions, usually extensive ones)