So you have a last minute assignment with a quick turnaround, you need to dash off a quick blog post, or you waited until the day before a paper is due before getting started. You’ve heard that great advice to start early, write more than you need, edit it, and print or upload it before the due date. Yet, for one reason or another, that just didn’t happen the way it was supposed to.
Don’t panic. If you only need to produce a page or two of material, writing a great paper quickly is easy and, with practice, a decent essay can be completed in a few hours. The hardest part is getting started.
Step one is choosing the topic. If the subject is assigned, think about what you want to say. What are your honest feelings, either positive or negative, and how you would honestly express them. Create a one-sentence description for your essay. This will be the first sentence of your essay and, surprise! It will also be the last sentence.
If nothing comes to mind, try a bit of bibliomancy; this is a technique sometimes used for divination, like psychics use tarot cards. Find a book on the topic you’re writing about; hopefully a book you’ve read. Close your eyes and turn the book around three times clockwise. With your eyes still closed, thumb through the pages until you sense which one might be “speaking” to you.
Now open your eyes and scan the two open pages. Hopefully, something will jump out at you and spark your creative flames. No, this isn’t “magic”; it’s your subconscious memory and intuition at work.
Now that you know what you’re going to write about, take a look at the assignment instructions. How long should it be? In pages or words? (hint: most word processing programs have a word counter) What about font style and size? Will the paragraphs be single or double-spaced? Get your page settings ready before starting to write. Now write a sentence that sums up what your paper will be about.
Step two is reading the essay content requirements slowly and carefully. Do you know enough to write about the topic, or will you need to do some research first? If you need to drop by the library, crack open a textbook or do some “gray research” on the web, it’s a good idea to jot down the publication or website name and the page numbers as you go along. For online research, note the date of access. Include this information in your bibliography or reference credits.
Put your personality into the paper and make it yours. Recording and listening to a short podcast of your feelings about a topic is a great way to build confidence in your knowledge and abilities. Now write your paper the same way you said it out loud. Remember your audience; someone will be reading it later and, if you have fun with your writing, hopefully your reader will find your efforts enjoyable and entertaining.
Keep track of the words or pages along the way, and don’t stop writing until you’ve reached that minimum word or page count. When you have enough material, go ahead and write a couple more paragraphs to summarize and prepare your future reader for the end of the paper. Be sure to save your work!
Step three, take a rest, have a drink of water, run around the block or do anything else except writing for 10 to 30 minutes.
Last step: check the grammar and spelling, and reword anything that seems clunky or out of place. Now, copy that first sentence you wrote, and paste it onto the end. Read the whole thing through. Be sure it makes sense from beginning to end, and edit as required. Check the word/page count again. You’re almost finished!
Look at your identical beginning and ending sentence. Does it sound best as an intro or a summary? Now modify one of those sentences slightly, print, publish or upload your writing, and give yourself some applause! Your last minute assignment, blog post or paper is under control and ready to deliver.