This is the part where I confess.
The part where I’m supposed to feel shameful (strangely -- I don’t) and let you know that I’ve reformed my bad bad ways (I have).
There was a short period of time in which I worked for an essay writing company.
You know the ones. Where you can buy an original essay on your homework topic.
Yikes. Yep. That was me.
Needless to say, I got damn good at churning out A grade essays.
In a matter of hours I could turn around a highly-polished, thoroughly researched 5 page essay.
I’m not here to discuss the morality of this, simply, I want to share with you my top secrets for being able to write an A+ essay in a matter of hours.
I was paid by the hour, so it benefited me to write essays as fast as humanly possible. My editors were on the lookout for top-notch papers, so I had to produce quality too.
When I first started taking orders I didn’t have a system for essay writing. My fingers would sweat on the keyboard as my anxiety built -- I would come up against deadlines, furiously pounding at the keys, knowing the work was good but that I needed to move faster to get all my orders finished in time.
So I devised a plan.
It’s two parts genius, one part organizational whiz-kid, with a little spice thrown in. Blam.
If you want to make something consistently good, quickly -- anything -- the best way to do that is to follow the same steps...the same recipe...that’s proven to work.
Here’s my recipe for writing an A+ essay quickly and consistently:
Step 0: Research & Gather Quotes & Notes
The fundamental step before you even put your grubby little hands on your keyboard is to research your topic and gather quotes and notes to use in your paper.
Even though the steps in this post are going to cut your essay writing time down dramatically the longer you spend on the research and note-taking portion of your essay, the faster the actual writing will be.
Pro-Tips: Put all of your notes and quotes in a google doc so you have access to them anywhere. Make sure you annotate your quotes so that you know more about the context and how you actually wanted to use the quote when you write your paper (this will save you time in trying to figure out why you wanted a particular quote, and so you don’t have to go back and look up the quote again to see what context it was used in).
Step 1: Find a Source Essay
I’ve talked about this a little in my free email course (Hey, if you haven’t signed up for that….you should...it’s a goldmine of info on how to get A’s in your college classes….for free!) so I won't go into too much detail about this here.
Your source text is an essay that’s not necessarily related to your topic, but which you like the style and flow and argumentation of. You can to use it to help guide your argument, so the format should make sense with whatever you’re going to write about.
Basically, the source text can serve as your muse, guiding you sentence to sentence or inspiring you to build your argument in a particular way. If you ever get stuck you can look to your source to give you the map that will get you going again.
Step 2: Use a Recipe for Your Thesis
I hate writing from scratch. Even when I know what I should be writing and exactly how I should go about it -- I find it so comforting to follow a set of prescribed steps. That way there’s no staring at a blank page. There’s none of that icky feeling of brain strain. There’s no fire behind my eyes as overwhelm starts to creep in. I just sit casually in front of my computer and start with baby steps.
Your thesis, the spinal column of your paper, is massively important to get right.
Certain information MUST be included.
So a formula for your thesis ends up being really easy & helpful to use.
My favorite formula goes like this:
Claim (statement of fact about your topic). Position (do you agree or disagree?). Stakes (why is this significant? What is the effect?).
I've got a special worksheet for you that you can use to fill in the blanks and generate a complex, compelling thesis for any topic. Grab that down below and keep reading!
Step 3: Use a Formula for Your Body Paragraphs
Same reasons you’d want to use a formula for your thesis: it’s going to save you time, energy, and stress. And body paragraph formulas ensure you’re strengthening your argument the right way.
I like to change up the body paragraph formulas so not every paragraph sounds the same. There are a lot of different ways you can make a body paragraph, and your source text can be the archaeological site that contains new formulas for you to discover. You just have to dig through each sentence and see how it’s helping create the argument, and once you’ve done that, you can see how to structure your own paragraph.
In its most basic form, a body paragraph can look like this:
Topic sentence > Significance > Quote > Analysis > Relation to Thesis > Transition to Next Topic
You can play around with the order of these elements, and include some instead of all. These are the basic sentences that can make a body paragraph strong.
Pro-tip: You can do the same thing for a mic-drop conclusion. Just end on a note that reveals the overall significance of your argument and BAM!
Step 4: The Two Fastest Ways to Edit
There are two ways you can tighten your paper quickly.
The first way is to run your paper through Hemingway App to make your paper’s sentences all nice ‘n polished.
Yup. It’s a do-it-for-you editor that lets you plug in your paper & see where you can improve.
This is an incredible first step for tightening your paper and takes no time at all.
The second way takes a little more time, but improves the level of coherence.
Read your paper aloud.
Read it to a friend, or read it to your mirror. Reading aloud helps you catch missing words, sentences that don’t flow, and ideas that aren’t clearly articulated.
Read it slow and pretend like you’re reading it to someone who knows nothing of your topic.
Are your ideas easy to understand?
Does your writing make sense?
Are your transitions in place?
Do you explain your position clearly?
Are you using quotes well?
Flow is essential to a great paper. To develop your ear for flow, read other people’s aloud and get to know the style, like a new genre of music.
Step 5: Have a Robot Write Your Citations for You
I always hated the works cited page. After all that work writing the essay, and now I had to do “busy work” and write up little citations for the sources I used? Ugh!
To reduce the time it takes to write your citations, use a citation machine.
Just don’t skip out on scanning the citation and make sure it looks correct!! Every once in awhile there will be a field missing that you have to fill in yourself.
There! You’re ready to turn in your paper!
This method for essay writing literally changed my life. It shaped my relationship with essays so that I now love receiving an essay prompt.
Imagine your professor giving you your next essay assignment and this time you can’t wait to get started.
Imagine sitting in front of your computer with your materials knowing exactly what to write and in what order.
Imagine turning in your paper without the heart-pumping thought, “damn, I knew I could have done better!”
Imagine your professor handing back your essay, with that big A in the top hand corner.
My world went from stomach churning, anxiety ridden nights spilling into the early hours of the morning as I struggled to finish a crap essay.
Yours can too!