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Tuesday, November 5, 2013
How Not to Waste Essay Time
I love unearthing good essay tips. As an editor, I'm constantly trying to reshape the feedback I give to students. How can I give a critique that is actually helpful? How can I articulate it when something just doesn't sound right?
Cruising the interwebs, I skidded over this gem from an educational consultant: many students waste too much time starting their engines. Yes. And yes. I feel strongly about this one because it is an easy trap. I trip over it each time I sit down to write a 300-word blog.
When I do it, it's because I don't really know what I want to write about. It's because I want to just get it done. It's because I haven't lassoed my "point" before I start typing. Students do this in admissions essays all the time.
Often times, students meander through several paragraphs of drivel before finally reaching their thematic destination in their second-to-last sentence. There's gooey center-it's just not in the right place.
I know, it's hard. You eat through your 500-word count limit by paragraph three. You don't want to trim any of that gold you've already written because it took forever to come up with it.
Dry as it sounds, I think the best antidote for the long warm-up is an outline. It doesn't have to be extensive. It's just your hook, your build-up, your little-anecdote, what-you-learned-from-it, and conclusion. Know what each of those components will be, before you start writing. Don't wait for divine inspiration.
But here's the thing. Each of those sections should have pretty equal weight. No one part is really more important than the next. You can't have a branch without a trunk. In a perfect world, you also write about the leaves. So before you start that admission essay, stop. Think. Sketch. Breathe. (Now, hurry up).
Labels: How Not to Waste Essay Time
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