People hate to write
Most people hate writing. Even professional writers suffer from “writers’ block”, a combination of symptoms that lead to them doing anything else except actually write. Students with assignments do not have the luxury of years to prepare their masterpieces – they work with tight deadlines. The good news is that if you follow the advice in the earlier post “researching an essay” then you are already past the first barrier, you have begun to write!
Let me explain: As part of the research process, indeed as the goal of that process you have a title and a summary paragraph. I described the summary paragraph like this:
The first sentence should define the areas or issue. The last should present a conclusion. In between the sentences should each address one thing, and together they should present the arguments and sorts of evidence that lead to the conclusion.
If you have actually done this, instead of skipping over it as an unnecessary extra as many of us (sadly) do, you have a framework that you will now expand into your essay.
From summary to essay
You are basically going to turn each sentence into a paragraph or two of your essay. So, how many sentences do you have. (Remember they need to be short and focused, if they are long and complex edit them!) If each sentence was a paragraph (of the average length of paragraph you write) how close would you be to the word target? If this estimate is over you may need to begin thinking of what to cut, or trying to write shorter paragraphs – often shorter simpler sentences will help you do this ;) If the estimate is under you may need to make each sentence of the summary (or some of them) into two paragraphs. Ideally at this stage you are aiming for an essay that will be 10-20% over the word target.
These paragraphs should be easy to write – you have already done the research. They will be focused – each expands on one simple sentence. They will lead your reader sensibly through the arguments and evidence to your conclusion. Congratulations. You are one of the few students to write a coherent essay!
Already you are on track for better marks – you would be horrified how many incoherent essays teachers have to mark – if you doubt this befriend some (ex)teachers on Facebook ;)
The final steps
You have two tasks left:
Edit, then edit again. Cut the waffle. In speech we need time to think so we use words and phrases that mean nothing or which add little to the meaning to give us time to think. Cut them out! We think descriptive words, especially superlatives, make our writing and ideas stronger, usually they don’t – cut them. A slimmed down, taut and powerful essay will come out of this painful process!
Write a conclusion. What it will look like depends on the subject and type of essay. BUT it should say nothing new. It should merely repeat in compressed form what you have already said. It serves to remind your reader what you said, and draws attention to how cleverly and in what a focused way you arrived there.