Thursday, March 28, 2013

How To Succeed at Essay Writing

It's the moment every parent dreads: when your child sits there, glum-faced, looking at a blank piece of paper in front of them. They have a rapidly-approaching deadline for their essay, and nothing, but nothing you do as a parent seems to help them get any closer to completion. What can you do to help? The answer is: quite a lot.

Producing a successful essay can be one of the most arduous parts of the schooling process, and yet, the need to write an essay is everywhere: from English literature, to economics, to physics, geography, classical studies, music, and history. To succeed, at high school and in tertiary study you must master essay writing.

Getting students over this barrier was one of the reasons I put pen to paper four years ago and produced a book called Write That Essay! At that stage, I was a senior academic at Auckland University and a university examiner. For nearly 20 years, in both course work and examinations, I had counselled everyone from 17-year-old 'newbies' to 40-year-old career changers with their essay writing. Often, the difference between a student who might achieve a B-Grade and the A-Grade student was just some well-placed advice and direction.

I then visited over 50 New Zealand High Schools and spoke with over 8000 kiwi kids about essay writing. These students reported exactly the same challenges as I had previously encountered, and more. The result has been two books and a DVD that have helped kids achieve some of the potential that sits inside all of us.

In this article I am going to deal with some things you can do as a parent to help your child succeed at essay writing. Because writing great essays is well within every child's grasp.

Tips for essay writing success:

1. It's an argument

Remember that an essay is an argument: the task in an essay is not to write a story or to recount a plot. The teacher knows all of this information. In an essay your child's job is to present a compelling argument-using specific evidence-for the point they are trying to make.

2. Write a plan: you'll be pleased that you did

Get your child to write a brief list-plan of the topics that their essay needs to cover. Even a short plan is better than no plan at all, and will start to give the writer a feeling that completing an essay on that topic is well within their grasp.

If your child is a visual learner, move away from the desk and go to a neutral space. Grab a large sheet of blank A3 paper and some coloured pens, and brainstorm a mind map or sketch plan of what the essay should contain. Using pictures, lines, circles, and arrows will all help the visual learner grasp the task at hand and help them see what they have to do.

3. Getting Started

A challenge many kids (and adults) face writing essays is getting started. The person sits there waiting for inspiration to hit them like a lightening bolt and it never happens. What can you as a parent do to help?

Encourage them with the thought that great essays are never written the first time over. Get them to view essay writing as a three-part process. The first draft is only to get out the ideas and words in rough form. In the second and third effort, they will add to their essay where there are blanks, clarify ideas, and give it a final polish. Realising that an essay isn't supposed to be perfect the first time you write it, really helps some people.

4. Having enough to say

If your child is still stuck, find out if they have read up enough on the topic. Some inertia with writing can be due to lack of knowledge. They will find writing so much easier if they spend another day or two reading more on the topic and gleaning some additional ideas.

5. Try using a neutral sentence

Suggest starting the essay with a neutral sentence: a sentence that merely states an interesting fact on the topic being written about. Here's one: 'Mozart was one of the most important Austrian composers of the eighteenth century.' First sentences in essays don't need to be stellar - you just need to start!

Now, go write that essay!

Titles available in this series:

Write That Essay! (for tertiary students)

Write That Essay! High School Edition

Write That Essay! High School Edition Box Set (includes book, DVD and worksheets)

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Creative Writing Prompts- How They Provide The Spark That Sets Your Creative Writing Ablaze

Have you ever used creative writing prompts?

Many writers have concerns about using creative writing prompts because they feel in some way it's cheating, or taking a short cut.

This is a common misconception, and it's understandable where it comes from. We want to be original with our writing, find our own unique voice and way of expressing ourselves through our words.

If we use someone else's words, how can we say we're being original?

You're not using the prompt then adding nothing else. You're making your own major contribution to the finished piece of writing.

Imagine it being like a fire.

You creative talent is the logs in the fireplace, all stacked up and waiting to be lit. If they don't get lit, there not going to burn. It's as simple as that.

What you need is that initial spark to get your creative fires crackling away.

And this is where creative writing prompts come in, and can be so effective.

They are the tiny match that provides the initial flame that sets your creative talents ablaze.

Once you've got going, it's far easier to keep the fire alive, by adding fuel in the form of your new ideas and creative talents.

If you tried to build a whole writing project from just creative prompts it wouldn't work. This would be like trying to make a bonfire out of individual matches. It would burn fiercely for a few seconds then die.

There's no real fuel of any substance there to keep the flame alive. That's what you provide and where your stack of creative talent comes in.

Creative writing prompts can help you become a better creative writer.

You've just got to be willing to try them out and see for yourself what a fantastic stimulus they can be.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

How to Write 5 Paragraph Essays - Five Steps to Essay Writing Success

If you have been trying to learn how to write 5 paragraph essays, you will find that this article gives you a quick and easy breakdown of what is needed for each paragraph. If you follow this approach your essay will be well structured and satisfy the requirements of how to write 5 paragraph essays. The article also gives you access to further essay writing tools that will refine your skills in how to write 5 paragraph essays.

1. How to Write 5 Paragraph Essays - The Introduction

In learning how to write 5 paragraph essays, bear in mind that the first paragraph should clearly explain what the subject of the essay is. The introduction also needs to introduce what your main points will be.

There should have at least three of these main points - one for each of the 2nd, 3rd and 4th paragraphs, which together will form the central 'core' of your essay.

The introduction also needs to generate sufficient interest to entice the reader into the main body of the essay.

When learning how to write 5 paragraph essays, remember to avoid long drawn-out paragraphs. This makes for tedious reading, and quickly loses the reader's attention.

2. The 2nd Paragraph - Developing Your Main Idea

When working out how to write a 5 paragraph essay, remember that the second paragraph has to include information and a discussion about the most important aspect of the essay. If the essay is a commentary on a piece of written work, then you should explain how you have interpreted the main idea in that written work.

The reader's interest in the subject must be further enhanced by discussing several interesting aspects related to the main idea. For example, if your essay topic is about the history of your city, your main idea could be that the first settlement of that area was due to a nearby goldmine. Related ideas could be that the city thrived because the gold resources were extensive and easily mined

Once you have dealt with the main idea of your 5 paragraph essay, it is time to write about the next most important aspect of your essay topic.

3. The 3rd Paragraph - Developing Your Second Idea

This paragraph should draw the reader through from paragraph 2 into the second most important aspect of the subject.

In the example given above, the second most important idea could be that the city's location was also due to the transport opportunities that the nearby river offered. You can discuss how this relates to the main idea, perhaps because of the ease through which the gold could be transported away from that area.

The general aim of the 3rd paragraph is to enrich and expand upon the main point discussed in paragraph 2.

4. The 4th Paragraph - Developing Your Third Idea

This paragraph will cover the relatively minor aspects of the essay topic, including why they are less important than what you have written about in paragraphs 2 and 3.

However, these points of your 5 paragraph essay should still be interesting and of value to the reader and should also support the ideas presented in the preceding paraqraphs.

5. How to Write a 5 Paragraph Essay - The Conclusion

An essential part of learning how to write 5 paragraph essays is to understand the vital importance of the final paragraph. This is where you must briefly reiterate and summarise the main points raised in the preceding paragraphs.

Make sure that your final paragraph leaves the reader in no doubt as to what your research conclusions are. For example, say you are comparing the opinions of several different authors and you have concluded that one author's opinion is more valid than the others. Your final paragraph should clearly state who that author is and why their opinion is 'best' in your eyes. By bringing together in a succinct way the information contained in the body of the essay, you will ensure that the interest of the reader is maintained until the last paragraph.

In this article you have seen the five steps necessary to creating a great 5 paragraph essay. Take the process of learning how to write 5 paragraph essays one step at a time and you will be guaranteed of success!

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Creative Writing Prompts & Creative Writing Exercises - Essential Tools In Your Writer's Toolkit

However experienced a writer you are, you need certain techniques and methods you can use to write at your best.

And however spontaneously and freely you write, you're able to do this because of certain "rules" and systems you have in place. Even if you don't realise it.

Theses rules can be as simple and general as: "A sentence is made up of a collection of words in a logical sequence, a paragraph is a number of sentences and a chapter of a novel is a number of paragraphs following on from one another."

Or, your rules can be as precise as: "My haikus must be 3 lines long, made up of 5, 7 then 5 syllables and must contain one simple image."

Each set of rules you have enable you to write within a certain template, without having to go back to relearning language from the basics of your alphabet upwards.

Despite any preconceptions you might have about these kind of guidelines being limiting, they actually help you be more creative with your writing. And you simply wouldn't be able to write without them.

Think of them as tools in your writer's toolbox. If you have no tools, you can't make anything, but with a simple toolkit you can craft wonderful works of writing that would be impossible otherwise.

Among the best tools you can use for your writing are creative writing prompts or exercises.

A writing prompt is just a few words or an idea that gives you that initial spark of inspiration for your creative writing to set off from. Writing exercises can be wide and varied, but essentially they all give you taste of writing in new ways and trying different techniques you may not have come across before.

For any writer looking to continue to develop their writing, and unleash their full writing potential, writing prompts and exercises are both valuable tools to have in your writer's toolkit.

The bonus with prompts and exercises is that the more you use them, and the wider the variety you use, the more easy it becomes to write creatively and freely.

You also start to develop your own versions of exercises and prompts you've found effective, tweaking them to make them even more useful and powerful for you.

You also become more natural and instinctive in your writing. You might think that having too many tools, you'd be overwhelmed with which to use each time you want to write. But this doesn't happen, as the more you practice, the more you instinctively just use the technique that works for that piece of writing.

If you haven't tried creative writing prompts or exercises before, you're missing out on a great way to enhance your creative writing.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Top Three Ways an Essay Writing Coach Can Help Students Write Better Essays

If you are a university, college or high school student, you have probably benefited at some point in your life from having a coach - either as a member of a sports team, or as a participant in an individual sport.

No one questions the value of coaching in the world of sports, whether it is at the peewee level, or in the professional ranks. Athletic skills are developed and refined through coaching.

But what about writing skills? How are writing skills developed and refined?

If you are a student at the university, college or high school level, you may be asking yourself the same question.

How do you develop essay writing skills?

Just as with athletic skills, having an Essay Writing Coach can accelerate your development.

Here are three key ways in which an Essay Writing Coach can help you write good essays:

1) 1) Choosing an Essay Topic

Choosing an interesting, original and manageable essay topic is one of the most crucial steps in writing a successful essay. Choosing a topic that is either too broad to be covered within the parameters of your essay, or too narrow, resulting in the need to "pad" your content to achieve the required length, will doom your essay project before you have even begun. Your essay topic should not only be of interest to a reader (and your teacher or instructor) but also sufficiently focused to allow you to cover the topic adequately. An Essay Writing Coach can help you refine your essay topic so that it can be managed effectively.

2) Structuring Your Essay

One of the reasons that teachers and instructors continue to assign essays is to challenge students to think their way through a sustained presentation or argument in a logical way. Learning how to "structure" an essay is one of the most important skills that you can acquire, and also one of the most difficult. If you get your structure right, your essay will almost write itself, whereas if you get it wrong, you are almost certain to struggle. Before you begin to "write" your essay, your Essay Writing Coach can help you create a structure for your essay, which is very much like having a road map before you embark upon a journey. Knowing your destination before you begin is one of the best ways to ensure that you will arrive there.

3) Voice

Many students who don't have trouble expressing themselves aloud, freeze when it comes to writing an essay, and, as a result, their writing appears tentative and unnatural. The ability to write in a natural, confident "voice" is one of the most important skills that you can develop as a student, and one which will pay huge dividends throughout your academic career and beyond. A good Essay Writing Coach can help you develop a comfortable, consistent and natural writing style or "voice", which can be applied to any topic or subject matter. Just as in life, a confident writing style can go a long way towards achieving success.

Having an Essay Writing Coach can help you develop and refine your writing skills, which will be of enormous value, regardless of your chosen career path.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

How To Deal With Essay Writing Rejections

IF YOU want to become an essay writing expert, you must learn how to accept rejections.
Who says that seeing your teacher grade your essay with "D" is totally a bad thing? It may sound silly, but if you always get negative comments about the essays you write, you are on your way to becoming an essay writing whiz!
But there are ways to switch this negativity into positive things.

Take a break from your essay writing routines first. If the human body gets exhausted after doing strenuous physical activities, the human mind is not exempted. Writing essays is an arduous task, so it's important to take a break once in a while to "recharge batteries:" Take a walk in the woods, fill your lungs with fresh air, binge with your favorite food, talk to your family or friends, and so on.

Ask yourself some questions. Your teacher is just grading all outputs of the essay writing tasks that he or she assigns to you. So do not blame him or her if your recently-submitted essay didn't pass his or her standards. Ask yourself, "Did I really do my assignment well?," "What went wrong with my work?," etc.

Improve on the worst. If your essays are always getting rejected or your writing style doesn't make the grade, think of the worst thing that would happen: You'll get lower grades in school. Try to improve on the worst by listing possible solutions-such as "I will read a lot," "I will strive harder," "I will seek the help of an essay writing service," etc.-and then pick out the best possible solution.

Try to laugh at your essay writing mistakes. Remember that nobody's perfect, so admit the hurtful truth that you write crap, but that's only for the meantime. Laughing at your mistakes means that you can bravely recognize one of your weaknesses. But you can also be up for the challenge of doing things better. Humor is a wonderful weapon that any writer can use to his or her benefit.

"Next essay please!" The only way to flee from rejection is to do other things which are of value to you. This may have something to do with improving yourself, such as reading more books, picking up on the styles of other great writers or writing about things that you like.

"Trade" your essays. The essay writing preference of your professor is different from the taste of let's say an editor of a daily or glossy. Your essay might be horrible in the eyes of your teacher, but it might be a handsome piece of writing to others. Cliché as it may seem, but there's an opportunity for every difficulty.

Move on! Past is past. If your professor thumped the essays you recently wrote, do not dare to ask him or her why your essay didn't pass his or her standards. "Knowing the truth" behind your recently rejected work will not help.

Above all, believe in the truism that brilliant ideas surface from rejections: Instead of crying over torn-out or thrown-out essay that you previously submitted in school, take rebuffs as a wake-up call, a driving force that will get you going!