When professors and other writers speak of the development of a piece of writing, they generally mean how thoroughly supported with details and other information it is. A piece of writing is well-developed when it provides sufficient and relevant background information / narration, supporting explanations, facts, examples, descriptive details, or other important material. Sufficient and relevant are evaluated in relation to the audience – unless otherwise stated, a general audience without technical background in the topic.
You may find it easier to imagine the process this way: think of your writing as a neighborhood block. Empty lots are undeveloped—people construct houses, stores, apartment buildings, and other things, developing the area into a place where people can live. Undeveloped writing is a neighborhood filled with empty lots; well-developed writing is a neighborhood filled with all the things that a community needs.
Consider the following examples:
When I was eleven years old, my parents took me on a week-long trip to a beach. We stayed in a hotel, and it was nicer than anywhere I had ever stayed before in my life, my own house included. During the days, we would go out on the beach and sit under umbrellas. I would play in the sand, get ice cream from the snack bar, and even swim in the ocean a bit. Because of where we lived, I had never even seen the ocean before then. I will always remember my first trip to the beach.
This first example has some positive things going for it—it stays on topic (it has what we call coherence) and has a clear (if simple) narrative structure that is easy for readers to follow and understand.
This paragraph, however, is undeveloped. The readers get the basic story, but the writing is bland and lifeless, even generic. The writer could have included much more information to enliven the narration for the reader, and would even have provided a reader with a larger sense of purpose and exigency (why is this story important?) for the piece, which it currently lacks.
Here is a revision of the paragraph that offers much greater level of detail and description to the passage. What are the main differences that you can see?
When I was eleven years old, my parents took me on a week-long trip to Nag’s Head, North Carolina, an east-coast beach town. We stayed in a resort hotel called the Duneside Paradise, and it was nicer than anywhere I had ever stayed before in my life, my own house included. My sister and I shared an oceanfront room (next door to our parents!) with a balcony that looked out over the beach and ocean; it was wonderful to see the sun rise over the ocean every morning. During the days, we would go out on the beach and sit under umbrellas provided by the hotel, which kept us nice and cool under the hot North Carolina sun. I would build castles or bury my sister’s legs in the sand, get perfectly drippy ice cream sandwiches from the snack bar, and even swim in the ocean a bit. The water was a bit cold (because it was June, early in the season), and the waves were high, but it was an amazing experience to ride the surf and play in the crashing waves. At the end of every day, I probably had more sand in my hair than was left on the beach! I will always remember my first trip to the beach: because of where we lived at the time—Boulder, Colorado—I had never even seen the ocean before then. Now I could not imagine not going every summer.
In what ways did the writer revise this piece? What did he add to the paragraph to provide further development and detail?