Remember, we’re building a puzzle. What pieces go into the box for the reader to put together?
Or maybe you’ve planted a garden. What do you harvest to make your signature salad?
Maybe this is a map. You’ve walked every possible trail, now which one do you highlight, so the reader has the best time on their hike?
The first draft can be a beginning-middle-end approach. It can have all of the details and the research. Maybe the second draft is an end-beginning-middle kind of thing. That’s what second drafts are for.
You may write the first draft a dozen times, taking a new approach with new themes each time.
You may find yourself writing endlessly about the Distiller’s sweatshirt your ex-girlfriend left at your place, and all of the dust it gathered as it sat in the corner of your room.
Write long enough on a topic, a story, a theme, and you’ll find yourself with hundreds of pieces. I’m sorry to tell you - there are no instructions on how to put it together.
Don't give your readers instructions, either. They should be able to put it together. What they build will never be the same as what you designed for them. It will be distorted.
That's the point. That's what makes this all worthwhile.
Find a draft or two and send it out to someone you trust, the person who is holding you accountable for your writing; how does it hit them? They’ll let you know where they stopped because an essential piece was missing.
Either send them the missing piece or start building an entirely new puzzle. Both are just as easy.