5-steps-to-writing-essay-doodleSo you have to write ANOTHER essay…Why are they always such a struggle? How can I make this easier for myself? Better figure it out if I’m gonna be writing an essay a month (which I am at this rate!).

The process begins with starting…As all processes do.

If you wanna take what I’m about to share with you and apply it to other processes in your life, by all means, go crazy.

If you’re not down for ‘bigger-picture’ thinking right now cos you have a bloody essay to do, just read and take in what you’re reading.

1. Brainstorm for Your Argument

You have the question/statement that you need to respond to. So that’s what you’re essay needs to be: a response or a reply to that statement.

Before you can start you need to have an idea of what you reply is (this can change later). But how do you figure that out?

By brainstorming, of course!

Brainstorm possible arguments, thesis’, topic sentences, concepts, whatever! Just get ideas down on a page. For more info on how to do this read How to Brainstorm When Your Brain is Stormy where I specifically outline how to brainstorm for an essay.

You’ll end up with more ideas than you need. How exciting!

Then, you need to choose…

Select the best content. Judge it by how many supporting arguments (text references, proof) you know you have and also by the relevance of the idea in relation to the question.

Organise your ideas into paragraphs.

1 paragraph = 1 overarching argument = main idea

An overarching argument or main idea supports your bigger argument in answering the question.

Now you have several key ideas that respond to the question.

2. Flesh it Out

Let’s say that your list of arguments/topic sentences is the bones of your essay. Bones are fundamental to the structure of a being but lack the meat, the protein.

Fleshing it out means you give it some flesh; some substance. Jot down text references or supporting material (f you haven’t already) for your specific argument for that paragraph. Any ideas you have to support your argument, write them under the topic sentence.

These dot points will become the ingredients that make up your sentences. You’ll have the concept and proof. Then all you have to add is the explanation and possibly link back to the question.

Now I don’t want you worrying about wording or spelling or grammar or sentence structure here. These are your NOTES, go wild, use abbreviations, acronyms, whatever! Just get it on the page (or screen).

Having written these notes you will have a clearer understanding of your response to the question.

3. Create Your Thesis

Now you know what you’re gonna talk about. You should be feeling pretty happy with yourself and if you’re not, stop right now and go get yourself some chocolate and say some affirmations because this girl (or boy) is on fire!

Great, now that we’ve got that all sorted it’s time to synthesise everything you’ve written into 1-2 sentences of pure genius.

Trust me, it’s in you.

And if you’re struggling, explain your essay to a 10 year old (imaginary or real, I don’t know you situation) and record yourself saying it or write it down.

This can help you with the second part of your thesis where you are simply answering the question.

The FIRST part of your thesis statement is where you flash you’re brilliant white teeth and blow your teacher’s mind. Think about how your essay or this question is relevant in society today? This harks back to when I wrote about finding the spark in your studies.

How do you connect to this topic? Chances are that reflects something about society today or broader world views.

Combine this with your clear statement answering the question and you’ve nailed your thesis.

4. Write in Sentences

This may sound simple but sometimes our greatness scares away the brilliant words. We end up with:

“Hemingway is a smart guy because he could tell that World War 1 was important in society at the time.”

Instead of:

“Hemingway’s insight into the ramifications of a post-war society reinforce his profound ability to define the destruction of humanity.”

When you strike out in this way, remember what I mentioned in step 2. You have all (or most) of the ingredients already written down. Simply re-order your ideas and supporting material to create coherent sentences.

When you struggle with coherency, speak your paragraph to that 10 year old again. Explain it in simple words and then dress it up in black tie after.

Sentences mean nothing without structure so consider the following outline for paragraphs:

You’ve all heard the different, but same, recipes for writing a paragraph. You’ve got the Essay Burger and TEEL and many many more I’m sure. But they all mean the same thing:

1. Topic sentence / argument / main point

2. Evidence / proof / support

3. Explain / expand / develop idea

4. Link back to main point / link to essay question

5. C E L E B R A T E! And possibly edit…

So, hate to break it to ya, but you’ve just started, worked on and finished a complete draft of your essay!

Drat, now how am I going to spend the wee hours of the night before?

Weeeeelllll, you could spend that editing 🙂

Or sleeping.

Or you could edit BEFORE the night before and spend the WHOLE night before sleeping! :O

I want to know how you start your assignments. What’s your ritual/secret/lucky pen? Comment below to share.