Tips for speeding up the writing process and improving your writing overall.
One page, front and back, single spaced. Three pages, double-spaced. Twelve pages, MLA format. Straight from the teacher’s mouth, these phrases are notorious for causing a sensation of instant panic. Pressure and dread set in as your brain searches frantically for any information that may prove useful, and often times, due to the panic, you find nothing. By taking a few extra steps in the writing process, a paper (despite the length) becomes a much less daunting task.
Before even embarking on the actual writing of your paper, writing up a quick outline can save you a Lot of time. Begin finding a few sources you could use for your paper, and simplify and organize your ideas. Even if you don’t have any research for those ideas, jot them down; you can do the research later on. This creates a skeletal version of your paper, and makes sculpting the flesh of the paper itself a much more feasible task.
2. Research and Works Cited
Assuming you found a few sources you could use in step one, start to really dig into them. Look for quotes and information you could incorporate into your paper to support your ideas and jot them down on the outline in their respective areas. Doing this beforehand can save you a Lot of time during the final draft (trust me!). If you haven’t found all of the required amount of sources already, do so now. Write up your works cited and include all of the sources you have found here. If you choose not to use them, you can simply eliminate them later on. Getting all of this out of the way will make fitting the quotes into the paper far easier and quicker.
3. Rough Draft
Although it seems unnecessary, writing separate rough and final drafts can take a lot of pressure from the paper itself. A rough draft almost allows you to take a lazier route in writing the paper itself. With the use of a rough draft, writing a paper becomes much less tedious. If you simply write to get your thoughts somewhat organized and your length requirements met, you can still go back afterward to clean up the mess (or, as my AP Language teacher would say, “polish the turd”). Don’t worry about using “to be” verbs, quotations and their citations, or any of the other minute details in the rough draft. In fact, you barely even have to worry about grammar. Just get something down.
4. Final Draft
Here is where all of those little details count. Start at the beginning and hack your way through your paper; fitting in the quotes you found in step two, finalizing your thoughts coherently, cleaning up the grammar, replacing the “to be” verbs, eliminating the personal pronouns, finding synonymous substitutes for some of the words you’ve realized you’re using too many times, and separating contractions. Even if your rough draft was a little short, all of the extra detail and the quotes you added in during this step should fill the gap between what you had and the requirement. At the end of this step, you should have a paper you think is ready to turn in.
This is probably the most important step when it comes to bumping the high B you would’ve gotten to an A. Read through the paper a few more times and make sure you didn’t leave any rough sections of the rough draft in tact. Make use of the wonderful thing called Spell Check. I guarantee you will find at least a few mistakes that you would have completely disregarded otherwise.
Make sure someone else proofreads your paper as well. Ask them if your paper flows well enough, makes sense, and stays on topic throughout. Although we can often make sense of our own mental processes, someone else may view our perfectly logical transitions and references as complete, choppy nothingness. Take kindly to and consider their criticisms, as writing a paper is completely dependent on the audience to which it will appeal.
Do Not Procrastinate. I do not need to explain that any further, just don’t do it. Manage your time well, and don’t save the paper until the very last day before the due date. Again, trust me.
With these 7 steps, you should have a paper to hand in on the previously dreaded due date that you can feel confident about and you should be (for the most part) stress free throughout the process. Thanks for reading, and I hope these helped you as much as they have helped me in the past.