To add to yesterday’s blog post on efficient reading, today I will talk to you all about efficient writing.
I have been asked by good friends in the past “how do you write so quickly”. However, a convincing argument rarely comes together at once. It takes time to see the different building blocks on paper, to review them and then watch them mould together like white hot iron becoming solid steel.
At University, my inefficient writing technique hurt my grades in a number of other areas as well. I allowed a large number of spelling and grammar errors to go unfixed, I would have less time to review my draft which would hurt the quality of my essay structure, and I would have less time to mould my argument together.
So I will now outline how I employed drafting techniques (shown in the image above) to write more efficiently and mould together a logical argument reinforced by strong evidence.
When you get ideas write them immediately as you would in the essay:
The most frustrating part of writer’s block in the days leading up to an essay deadline was remembering how many good ideas I had during the reading and research process. I felt like it was essential to read and research extensively before I could start writing, otherwise I would just write nonsense. Many of my essays in my first 3 years at University were only just over the minimum word count as a result of this decision.
However, writing down incomplete ideas helped me to build a skeleton for my essay structure and gave me the encouragement of knowing that I had words on the page because I always found it easier to edit existing text and create new text from scratch.
Always leave time for bringing text together:
If I will have blocks of text written in notes in Word Documents for individual sources then I will leave some time in the day, or even reserve a whole day, for matching up the different subjects from different sources. Of course, that it is not enough to hand in, but that is where the moulding process comes in. By looking at them together you get a much better idea for how to edit your existing text in order to make in flow, and what you need to add in to make your argument strong.
By leaving time to bring text together you can also point yourself in the right direction when you set a target for what you want to get from reading a source.
Leave time for the thesis statement:
This can help you even more if you have read blog post 5 on carefully managed research.
Once you have begun the moulding process it is necessary to remember that the most important ingredient is a consistent theoretical thread through the whole essay. When you see all the evidence together and ideas begin to swirl in your head it is very useful to have the thesis statement close by, because that is how your sparks of creative genius will be harnessed.
Likewise, it can have a positive knock-on effect on point 2 where you are thinking about what evidence you need to target in order to strengthen your argument.
Make another review purely for spelling and grammar:
It was intensely disappointing for me in my third year to lose out on a first-class mark in my final essay due, in a large part, to something which had little to do with historical analysis. But the truth is that when you present your analysis, presentation is critical because it shows that you have put care and attention into the work that you are presenting.
I have advised in a previous blog post that having your essay reviewed by a classmate, friend, or relative make a big different because they will spot basic errors which you might not. I will reiterate that now! When I focused on the evidence it naturally meant that I neglected other things. If necessary, you could even make a deal with a classmate that you will review each other’s essays for spelling and grammar. Even if it is someone who does not know about the topic, this will make them more likely to focus on the more basic errors.
Know when to stop researching:
As I have mentioned before my main problem before was that I was not comfortable starting writing until I felt that I knew everything that I needed to – which was basically never.
There comes a time when too much cluttered evidence can be a hindrance to concentrating and building a strong cohesive argument. It is at this point that you need to balance the need for size (a lot of analysis, a lot of conflicting sources, a lot of primary sources etc.) with refinement of your points to make your consistent theoretical thread believable with the evidence that you have presented.