Writing is something I love, and it comes relatively easy for me. It might have something to do with the fact that I have a very wild and rich imagination which allows me to write stories from the top of my head without much of a thought. Writing an essay ofcource is a bit different from writing a story, because creative writing does not really have any rules. If writing essays is something that gives you a headache when you just think of it or you feel like you can never get it just quite right; I warmly suggest you continue reading my tips on how to write captivating essays.
Disclaimer: These tips are fully from me, from my own experience as a writer and as someone who has helped others to write.
1. Find the best way for your writing process.
During my times of writing, I have noticed that there are two ways of starting your writing process.
Way 1. Just start writing.
This usually works for people who are full of imagination and might have a natural gift of writing. These types of people feel like once they get the writing process running the text kind of flows out of them. The important part is to sit in front of the computer and start typing your thoughts down without too much control over the process. You could say you vomit the text out and clean the mess afterwards. Once you get over the finish line of your first round, you go through your writing and edit it as you go. You make sure your grammar is correct, you think about are you repeating yourself or is the text missing something? Are you making any sense? Can you modify that puke of a text in a way that it can become into a masterpiece or should you start over? This works for people who have a lot to say on a topic but not necessarily know how to say things. It can work well to just put your thoughts out there on a document and as they are in front of you decide which way to go, what to edit and what is already well done.
Way 2. Make a plan
This usually works best for people who are super organized or who need to be more organized in their writing. These types of people need for one reason or another a plan before execution. They can gather their thoughts better when planning things ahead. How this works is you open an empty document and write down the structure you’d like to have in your text;
- How should you start?
- What title are you most likely using?
- What subheadings are you having?
- What topics do you have?
- Which order would make the most sense ?
- How are you ending it all?
These are the steps you plan for yourself. You can even mark on your plan what pages of your reference book are you using on each part. This works for people who might not have that flow on writing just by starting, rather they need to wake up that flow before starting the actual writing process. It also works for people who want to write the essay in parts, in a way that you don’t write all at once but you make yourself a schedule on when to write each part of your essay.
Both ways of doing are equally good and not one is better than the other, it’s about what you find works best for you. My suggestion is to test both of them and see if one feels more suited for you or if you can even make a mix of them? Can you guess which way I prefer doing?
2. Find out the rules.
There are as many differences between essay rules as there are countries, schools and teachers. You get the best points when you follow the once your own teacher/school has given. As simple as that.
The rules usually include:
- Can the essay include your own thoughts?
- Does the essay need to have references and what kind of references are allowed?
- How to make the references in your writing and at the the reference summary?
- How to make direct quotes or are those allowed at all?
- Are subheadings allowed/mandatory?
- What font and size is your text required to have?
- Is there rules on how your text should be aligned?
- Do you need to have page numbers, headers or footers?
- Is there a requirement for a cover page?
- How to mark your name, date, student number or other information needed?
These are just some basic examples of what those specific rules include. As mentioned above they vary very much among different schools and even teachers might have their own requirements, which is why it’s important to spend some time making sure you know what is expected from you.
When you’re using references, specially if its a book, a good way of making your writing process easier is to take notes on the book as you read. Everyone has their own way of taking notes, but how I’ve found best for myself is to write down the page numbers I feel are important, the topics, thoughts or ideas on those pages and maybe some feelings or thoughts I had about them. An example could be:
Let’s imagine I’m reading a book about feelings. While reading the book, I take notes on the parts that are important to me:
Page. 26, Feeling of being unwanted, I felt sad when reading this, it evoked strong feelings in me. Why?
Page. 55, What is happiness, I did not agree on how the author described happiness, I think it’s not about getting things you want but more about getting the things you really need.
Page. 79-84, Meaning, GO BACK TO THESE PAGES THEY ARE IMPORTANT!
4.Think that your reader knows nothing.
When you’re writing remember to have this mindset of you writing to someone who knows absolutely nothing about the topic. This person reading your essay has not read the reference material you have and they don’t know anything about this topic. This helps you to explain things better and more clearly. (Longer does not equal better). If you talk about feelings in your essay, you need to tell what references are you using, what are those references like, define what you mean by feeling, what are feelings? You can’t just jump into your topic without allowing the reader to truly understand what your topic is.
5.Think about your essay as a story.
Even though I just said in the beginning that essays and stories are different from each other, the fifth tip I’m giving to you is to think of your essay as a story. This is to make sure it has a beginning, middle and end in a way that the whole text comes together as a whole. Another reason this tip is here is because stories are what captivate people truly. You writing your essay in a way that it sounds more like a story and less like a lecture will makes your reader more engaged to your text. It’ll make them feel like they want to know “what happens next”, rather than just being told things.
6.Take some distance.
Sometimes it is a good idea to stop for a second and just forget about your writing. Save it, close it, go outside, get your mind of it. Come back, open it, read it through. Can you see it more clearly now? Can you spot improvements that should be made? Can you see something you absolutely love and want to keep? We get blind to our own writing, but we can get some kind of a reboot when we go away from the text and return to it after giving our brains something else to chew on.
7.Ask someone else to read and comment.
You get blind to your own writing as I said. You are the author of the essay so what you might not see is the readers point of view on your text. For this a great way to open your eyes is to give your text for someone else to read before finalizing it. Let the other person make freely comments on your grammar, your language, your expression, your structure and overall feeling the reader gets from your text. This helps you to modify your writing to please the reader more, which at the end of the day is what we want when talking about captivative writing. We want to write in a way that our reader wants to keep reading till the end. Another reason to let other people read your unfinished writing is to notice if your text makes any sense at all. It has happened that to you, your own writing seems so clear, but when somebody else reads it they are like “wait whaaaaaaat”.
8.To think about; How can I say this differently?
When you are writing do you notice you’re repeating yourself? Can you find some words that pop up multiple times in the text? Is there something you are saying in a way that does not excite you?
These are a few things to think about when writing an essay and they all have the same question as an answer; How can I say this differently?
If you have a word you keep repeating a lot, is there another option for that word? An example of this would be the word thing. We use it much more than we realise. “This thing and that thing and their thing” In these cases it is important to think about can you replace the word thing with something else? Is there an actual word for the thing you’re talking about? An example: This thing between us is complicated -> This situation between us is complicated.
If you catch yourself repeating same phrases over and over, see if there is some other way to bring out your point. You can even do this as an exercise. Come up with a sentence and try to think about as many different ways of saying it without doing so like the first time. An example: There is a big tree on the top of the mountain.
-> All the way up the mountain, you can see a huge tree.
-> Big tree grows up and up at the top of this mountain.
-> Mountain top has a big tree.
-> Great green grows up in the giant of hills.
Do you have something you say that does not excite you. Not every single phrase has to be wonderful, creative and special, but if you have some interesting expressions in your text it makes the reader more willing to keep reading. These creative expressions are the things making your text more memorable. An example: I can see you -> I sense you with my eyes.
All about the question How can I say this differently comes down to you making your text more colourful, your language more rich and your words more variable.
9.Make it short.
Try to avoid rönsyileviä lauseita, which are overflowing sentences that feel like they are never ending. When you edit your text, see if there is some sentences that just seem a bit too long, could you cut them in half or could you rephrase it?
An example: My dear little sister goes to the store every single day as the very first thing and she feels like it is something she absolutely has to do for our mother because she is too tired in the morning even though she really needs some fresh coffee as soon as she wakes up.
Rephrasing 1: Every single morning my dear little sister goes to the store to get some fresh coffee for my mom who is very tired in the morning.
Rephrasing 2: My dear little sister goes to the store every single day as soon as she wakes up, because my sleepy mom needs fresh coffee first thing in the morning.
Cutting: My dear little sister goes to the store every single day as the very first things. She feels like she absolutely has to do so for our mother who is too tired in the morning and needs some fresh coffee as soon as she wakes up.
10.Make sure you have a punainen lanka.
In Finland we have this saying about having a punainen lanka in your writing, which means having that red thread connecting all your thoughts and references together into one. It means that when a reader is going through your essay, they can see the connections between different topics or ideas you have. They can understand why you are talking about those things in your essay. Why are these different topics here together in this one essay? What is the core thought you have behind all of it? That is the punainen lanka.
Title is the first thing your reader sees, so make sure it is catching. It should tell something about your topic and have an affect on person seeing it wanting to know more.
12.Choose your ending.
Circle closing: When the reader starts reading your essay it pushes them on a path that should feel like coming to a close at the end of your text. A good way to wrap thing up is to circle back to the very beginning at the very end. This helps the reader to realize we’ve come to the end and to remember where it all started from. Full circle leaves the reader satisfied and in an understanding of your text. This technique allows you to tie it all together and is especially good when you want to make a conclusion yourself. It can also be used when leaving the reader to think, but mostly when the author makes a conclusion on their own thought process.
Hungry for more: Another possible way is to leave your reader hungry for more. This is especially good if you have a sequel coming up and you want to make sure your reader would read the part 2 as well. You can do this buy leaving open questions at the end or mention about you diving deeper into this in the upcoming sequel. It’s like making a little teaser for what more do you have to offer for your reader.
Make your reader think: This is a way of also leaving some kind of unanswered questions at the end, but it’s done in a way that the reader feels like you want them to think about those questions and make their own conclusion on them. This challenges the reader to use their brain and find their opinions.
Ask for a response: Make a request to you reader to comment and start a conversation with you, to share their thoughts and maybe say if they’d life to learn more about the topic. This allows you to make a research on whether or not this topic would be worth diving deeper into. It also makes the reader feel like they have the power of choice on if they want to get more.
There are as many ways to write essays as there are people in this world. Here I puked out my experiences that I felt could help you the most. I would love to hear your thoughts on the writing process and if any of these tips made it easier for you. Did you find your way of starting the writing process? Were you able to make your language more rich and colourful? Did you make your reader engaged? Most importantly; Would like me to share more tips on writing? Maybe about different methods to help you to push through your writers block or how to fall in love with writing? Let me know in the comments down below and we can have a conversation.
Xoxo. Emilia Parikka