21 January 2018

How to Start an Essay

photo by Denise Krebs

Sometimes a client will approach me saying they have an idea to write about, for an essay or story, but they can’t seem to find a way to get started. Here’s a useful tool kit to dip into when you’re stuck with writer’s block and need a way in:

–Freewrite: just start writing anything and everything that comes into your head. Keep writing, don’t stop, just let your pen (or keyboard) keep moving. Then after ten or twenty minutes, or one or three pages, stop and see what you have to work with; ask what you’re really trying to say. Now is the time to take the next step: prune, rewrite, edit.

–Outline: think about what you most want to say or write about. Then under that word or phrase or statement, list some other aspects of it that are important. Write a statement or two under each subheading. Then go back and expand on each section, following the direction you have started. Use freewriting if needed to flesh out that first draft.

–Web: similar to outline, but begin in the center of a blank paper. Put a circle around your central concept and then link, outward from it, other related ideas or areas to cover. Link these together with lines, too, where they connect. Once the connections are all visible, you can select item by item to build a linear outline; reorder if necessary. Then fill out each section as above, freewriting as needed, and working in transitions to reflect the connections between ideas.

Good luck! And when you have something written, even a first draft, there is something tangible for an editor to work with.

- By Nowick Gray