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Simple Starting Strategies

Have It Done!

You can try the textbook formula:

I. State your thesis.
II. Write an outline.
III. Write the first draft.
IV. Revise and polish.

. . . but that often doesn't work!

Instead, you can try one or more of these strategies:

There are many "correct" things to write about for any subject, but you need to narrow down your choices. For example, your topic of an essay might be "dorm food". At this point, you and your potential reader are asking the same question, "So what?" Why should you write about this, and why should anyone read it?

Do you want the reader to pity you because of the intolerable food you have to eat there?

Do you want to analyze large-scale institutional cooking?

Do you want to compare Purdue's dorm food to that served at Indiana University?

How, for example, would you achieve your purpose if you wanted to describe some movie as the best you have ever seen? Would you define for yourself a specific means of doing so? Would your comments on the movie go beyond merely telling the reader that you really liked it?

Brainstorm. Gather as many good and bad ideas, suggestions, examples, sentences, false starts, etc. as you can. Perhaps some friends can join in. Jot down everything that comes to mind, including material you are sure you will throw out. Be ready to keep adding to the list at odd moments as ideas continue to come to mind.

Talk to your audience, or pretend that you are being interviewed by someone -- or by several people, if possible (to give yourself the opportunity of considering a subject from several different points of view). What questions would the other person ask? You might also try to teach the subject to a group or class.

See if you can find a fresh analogy that opens up a new set of ideas. Build your analogy by using the word like. For example, if you are writing essays about violence on television, is that violence like clowns fighting in a carnival act (that is, we know that no one is really getting hurt)?

Tell it to someone in three or four sentences.

Make a tree, outline, or whatever helps you to see a schematic representation of what you have. You may discover the need for more material.

Read it aloud or to yourself. Watch especially for the need to clarify or add more information.

You may find yourself jumping back and forth among these various strategies.

You may find that one works better than another. You may find yourself trying several strategies at once. If so, then you are probably doing something right!

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  • Alice Perry 20 years, student

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    Robin Scott 20 years, student

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  • Alice Perry 20 years, student

    Believe it or not, but I'm fully satisfied with the essay you've written for me. I have got an excellent mark and I'm now convinced in the truth of your promises. Thanks!

    Robin Scott 20 years, student

    Unbelievable. The writer followed all my instructions and created a brilliant essay, I would say. What I like most of all, no one suspects even that my essay wasn't written by me. Thanks.

  • Alice Perry 20 years, student

    Believe it or not, but I'm fully satisfied with the essay you've written for me. I have got an excellent mark and I'm now convinced in the truth of your promises. Thanks!

    Robin Scott 20 years, student

    Unbelievable. The writer followed all my instructions and created a brilliant essay, I would say. What I like most of all, no one suspects even that my essay wasn't written by me. Thanks.

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