Don’t Panic: Quick Writing Tips for When the Essay Strikes Back

Well, the Christmas break is over for the majority of us and for teens that means back to school, back to college, or back to work if you’re one of those lucky people who has money to spend. While Christmas was great, I’m sure it isn’t just me who is so neurotic that above the holiday season loomed an overwhelming sense of dread. Somewhere, somehow, work needs to be done… and I get the feeling I should be the one doing it… So, I may have worked over the holidays, but that’s the student life for you, and now I’m back, I feel like I should put that work to use. I figured some of us may be a little rusty, just the amount of rusty that I would like to be at this point. Some of you rusty people may need to write an essay and can’t remember where to begin, and to you I say fear not, for I am just arrogant enough to tell you how to begin.

1. Beginning can be the hardest part, especially when the work promises to be both long and research-heavy. Do not panic. Just putting the title on the page is a good start. Once you’ve got those few words down, then you can get into the meat of it the next day. Don’t feel you have to do it all in one day or wait until you’re in the right state of mind.

2. Researching can be a real pain if your subject is obscure, but the might of google has you covered. A quick scouring of scholar.google.com will give you the latest research into thousands of topics, and background information is littered throughout google books, a lot of which can be read just in the few pages of previews you get for your search. Making a list of the resources that could be useful is a good use of a day, and once you have a list of links you’ll have your artillery ready. Make yourself a cup of coffee, and get me one while you’re at it.

3. Writing can be anything from the best part of the task to a brick wall. It all depends on who you are, and that’s okay. Pull up those links you gathered on your favourite browser and use them to find talking points and/or references. If you get stuck and can’t work out where to go from where you last finished, make a note of your interruption or make a line break and continue on with a different aspect, knowing you can always tie them together later. Sometimes, this can even lead to solutions to the previous writer’s block. You don’t need to pull from all the links, but if you use everything relevant, then the parts that don’t work can be cut out with a quick highlight and backspace. No one need every know that you talked about that paper that was barely related.

4. Editing is my least favourite part of this process, but it is a useful thing to do. In content-heavy subjects, such as the sciences, shorter is better. Getting rid of unnecessary explanations and elaborations will make you look like you know what you’re talking about, and by learning to cut the bits that repeat something, or aren’t needed to explain your work, can eventually lead to the short, snappy, knowledge-whips you want.

5. Feedback is the best weapon you have at your disposal. If your teachers give it to you, use it, and you will have a lot less to worry about next time a big task rolls around. If you don’t have it, think about what you did, take a look back at your work after some time has passed and think about how you would mark it as someone else’s work.

image credit: from robbieblair.com



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Cat Strickson

Cat Strickson

Cat, or Elly, or Eddy, or whatever name they're going by these days, is a British palaeontologist and fantasy author. It's a pretty awesome skill set, but it doesn't pay much right now. They enjoy science, history, vidyagames and all things SFF.

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