Slaying the writing monster

Here’s some tips and tricks on how to keep afloat and excel in writing.

Fall – the weather is finally tempering itself, turning to its early Autumn crisp and clear air; clouds shading the hot sun more often than not. It’s my favorite season, and for students, it means that school is beginning to fit into the swing of things – though whether that is cause to cheer or bemoan our place in the world is up to one’s discretion! Regardless, that also means that dreaded first paper or essay is fast approaching – maybe some of you have even already gotten yours! While that may be exciting for me, I know this isn’t the general feeling behind a written piece. Here’s some tips and tricks on how to keep afloat and excel in all kinds of writing – academic, professional, blog posts, you name it! 

First, let’s talk about the writing process itself. 

  1. Start early! I know the taste of procrastination is so, so undeniably sweet before it sours – but it’s even better to be done way before the deadline and not having to worry about it. This doesn’t have to be a lot, either; just an outline is better than nothing, and it’s usually something you can do before you know exactly how you want the essay to turn out.
  2. Start with an outline! If you’ve gotten a feel for your thesis and your points, organize the order in which they appear. Get the flow of it before you write the whole thing, it’ll save you a bunch of time later – a good outline can make it so that writing your first draft is just expanding a pre-made skeleton.
  3. Make sure your research fully supports the thesis and topics you want it to! I’m not promoting confirmation bias here, but it’s important that you don’t accidentally contradict yourself just because of material not read quite closely enough, and it’s never fun to have to construe material that doesn’t quite fit. 
  4. Get your quotes and things you know you may need or use in your essay saved in a document with the rest of your citations before you start writing so you don’t have to scramble for them later! This makes it so much easier just to sit down and write when it’s time to make a full draft. You’ll thank yourself later!
  5. Finally, it’s time to draft, but with all of this preparation, it’s as painless as putting puzzle pieces together. It still requires some mental work, but it should all come into place to create an awesome piece that’s ready for both your own edits as well as peer review. 

And speaking of editing, funnily enough – I have some advice for that too!

  1. Read your work out loud! Saying something aloud helps you pick up words you stumble over, be it from typos or otherwise. Reading aloud allows you to feel out the flow of a piece and see if the wording feels awkward anywhere, a nuance that silent reading sometimes doesn’t pick up.
  2. If you’re struggling to find anything new to edit with your piece after its finished simply due to how many times you’ve read it, that’s okay! Try reading the sentences in reverse order. Sometimes mixing up the context of a sentence will help your eye catch things it passed over before. For the same reason, you can also try changing the font of your document for a similar effect. 
  3. Coming back to it the next day with a fresh mind can also be monumentally helpful! Give your mind a break if you need to – this is why starting early can be a huge advantage.
  4. If it’s a serious piece that you may want to publish later –  and this is especially true for story manuscripts and the like – one of the most thorough things you can do to edit it is to print it out and give it the old-fashioned red pen treatment. After you’re done with that, open a new document and type it all up again! This can be tedious, but it removes the limitation of thinking you can only edit a sentence or phrase: it allows you the chance to rewrite it however you like, making the next draft exponentially better than the last.

Hopefully, this serves to make the monster of professional writing seem not as daunting in your mind. With this advice as your sword and shield, any piece will be no match for you and your pen! Happy writing, and good luck!

If you would like help sparking topics for your next piece, organizing your thoughts, editing, or even ghost writing, the Spark Team is available to assist.  Contact us today and we will help to slay the monster together.