Classes, General, How-to, Student Life

Changing your essay is a-okay

It’s that time in the semester- the period in which we’re questioning if we’ll ever feel well rested again, and we’re forgetting what decaffeinated drinks taste like. Can you tell I have 2 essays and a midterm within a week’s time? These passed couple of months have contained my first experiences with university essay writing, and I’ve learned a few things involved in my process that I thought someone could relate to, or learn from (my mistakes).

In high school I had an amazing English teacher, and she walked us through each step of the essay writing process, but this year I’ve been left stranded like Tom Hanks in Castaway. However, no man is an island, and I don’t have to discuss my thesis with a volley ball (yet). My first word of advice is to utilize your resources- talk to a classmate about your thesis and arguments, send a rough draft to your TA, even ask your professor questions around the essay topics if you get the chance. I almost completely misunderstood an essay topic I chose to write about until I asked my professor. I’ve also spent some time chatting with a classmate about the themes and ideas of a novel- which really helped me realize the aspects I was best at examining.

When writing an analysis of a text, your essay is only as strong as your quotes (in my opinion). After reading the book, I consider what it is I want to discuss, but I don’t iron out specific details and arguments until I’ve gathered quotes that generally support my idea. My quotes always change my mind about my thesis at least twice. Before writing anything, I organize them into body paragraphs and according to which point. Once I’ve begun writing, however, the order of the quotes usually changes-which is fine. Essay writing should be organic. It took me a while to realize it’s okay to shift your ideas multiple times.

a notebook page littered in writing and highlighted in many different colors

quotes, quotes, and more quotes! Though of course not all of them will make it into the essay.

This philosophy is carried into my process with rough drafts. When I first write out my body paragraphs, they’re usually terrible. I read them and feel like crying they are so bad. Another piece of advice; if you’re like me- leave time to revise. I read and reread them, correcting awkward sentences and bad grammar, adding phrases, deleting redundant sentences. I just need to get my thoughts out, and then I can make them elegant.

When I’m frustrated and need inspiration, I flip through the book again, and that usually refreshes my thoughts and helps me stay on topic. It is also important, when you’re starting to feel overwhelmed and stressed out, to take breaks! My favourite part of the process is the breaks- obviously, since I seem to get distracted by snapchat so easily.

The last thing I edit and change is the introduction paragraph and the conclusion, as they’re both a summary of the entire essay, and the essay changes drastically throughout the process.

Now I’ll go crawl back into my hole and continue editing my garbage body paragraphs, if you have any advice for me, feel free to share (please!!).