How to Start Writing an Essay

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"Writing is hell," William Styron said. Indeed, to many writers their occupation is "like having homework every night for the rest of your life," as Lawrence Kasdan famously summed it up. Luckily, getting started writing mostly involves anything but the act of actually sitting up -- or lying down if that's your style -- and laboriously stabbing away at your keyboard. The precursor to the written word is thought, as writing is essentially clarified, unified and sharpened thought recorded onto a page.

1 Write about

Discover the topic you will write about. If no topic is assigned, look into subjects of interest by considering elements such as plot, theme and significance. Keep a journal or make annotations to your sources as you discover what your essay will cover.

2 Decide on a method

Decide on a method, such as narration, description, compare, contrast, explanation, analysis, classification, cause and effect, definition or argument.

3 Guide

Guide the direction of your essay with a central focus by devising a thesis and a thesis statement. Ask yourself questions about your subject that you feel went unanswered or were too vague. Your thesis should answer your question in this regard. Ensure your thesis statement is at least one sentence long. For instance, "The legalization of drugs, sold at cost, will reduce crime and drug addiction drastically within a short time."

4 Outline your essay

Outline your essay, dividing it into main points and sub-points. For example:

5 I

I. Main point A. Supporting point B. Supporting point

6 Begin writing the first draft

Begin writing the first draft starting with the body content, revision of the body and then introductory and conclusion paragraphs.

  • 1 "The Bedford Reader"; X.J. Kennedy,; 2006

Johnny Kilhefner is a writer with a focus on technology, design and marketing. Writing for more than five years, he has contributed to Writer's Weekly, PopMatters, Bridged Design and APMP, among many other outlets.