Monthly Archives: March 2014

The 7 Secrets of Magnificent Narrative Writing

narrative writing

Navigating your way through the various options when it comes to essay writing can feel like you’re going through a minefield. Narrative, Descriptive, Expository, Persuasive … they can all seem like different ways of saying the same thing. In fact, some essay styles are very similar but each one has its own quirks and style rules which can help writers communicate with their audience and, once you understand them, they can even help you to craft the best piece possible.

1. Understand What a Narrative Essay Entails

Simply put, a narrative essay uses the act of story-telling in order to convey a message, teach a lesson, provide insight or educate the audience. Many times these stories are taken from a writer’s own personal experience, which can make starting the essay easier than writing other types of papers. Take full advantage of this when writing your rough draft. But a narrative paper also needs to involve the reader, so descriptions become especially important.

2. Let Your Rough Draft be Raw

The power of any personal story lies in how raw it is. When writing the rough draft, don’t hold anything back. If your story is a particularly powerful one, let yourself write the rough draft without restricting your language or descriptions. While you won’t want to leave your final draft scattered with F-bombs, including them in your rough draft will give you the creative wiggle room you need to tell your story in your own way and retain its powerful message. Cleaning up the language and tightening the writing can be done in the revision stages.

3. Make it Personal, But Keep it Professional

Although a narrative essay is built upon personal experience, the final result still needs to be polished and professional. A narrative essay isn’t an open letter, it still needs to build towards a specific conclusion, insight or position on a topic. When needed, include research data, anecdotal evidence and other forms of outside research in order to give greater weight to your main point. This also gives you the chance to leave your own story for a moment, capitalize on outside research, and then bring the readers back to your personal story in the conclusion.

4. Craft Descriptions With the Audience in Mind

Your readers won’t be coming into this paper with the same background knowledge you have on the subject. Be sure your descriptions are vivid and well written. Avoid using adverbs like very, almost, nearly or quite too often. Instead swap out phrases which use these adverbs with better descriptions. A house isn’t ‘quite old’, it’s seasoned, decrepit or ancient. Using more vivid language brings your words to life and makes the audience feel more involved.

5. Jump Into the Deep End

Beginning your essay with a bit of back story ay seem like a good idea, but getting right to the action will engage your readers from the first sentence. Begin your essay with a powerful statement or by jumping into your story just as the action is happening. You can backtrack and give the background information once you begin the body of your paper.

6. Know Where You’re Going

Using a personal story to write an essay makes you vulnerable to getting off track easily. Before you begin relating your own story, be sure you’ve hammered out the rough draft for both your introduction and conclusion ahead of time. This way you’ll always know what you want your final point to be. If you get lost on a tangent halfway through, you can refer back to your rough drafts to get back on track.

7. Know How to Cite

A narrative essay may be built upon a personal story, but citing other works can still play a major role. In many other essay types, it’s normal to cite as you go, including small references to papers, books or other resources as a part of the text. For a narrative essay, however, keep all citations until the end and include them in a Works Cited page at the end as opposed to including them within the main text. This will help your audience to follow your story easily without any disruption.

25 Inspiring Quotes about Writing

quotes about writing

Writing may be one of the most rewarding – and most frustrating – activities in the history of mankind. Few other callings result in as much crumpled paper, snapped pencils, frayed nerves and all-nighters. Writing has also given us some of the most inspirational quotes imaginable. Here, we’ve collected 25 quotes to give you the motivation and inspiration you need to finish your project, even if it takes all night.

Getting Started

Every writer has dealt with writer’s block and new writers can find the process of simply starting to be difficult. Since beginning can be difficult for even seasoned writers, much advice has been given on how to take the plunge and begin telling your story.

  • “There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.” (Ernest Hemingway)
  • “The scariest moment is always just before you start.” (Stephen King)
  • “The first draft of anything is shit.” (Ernest Hemingway)
  • “The secret of getting ahead is getting started.” (Mark Twain)
  • “Begin at the beginning,” the King said gravely, “and go on till you come to the end: then stop.” (Lewis Carroll)
  • “You don’t have to be great to get started, but you have to get started to be great.” (Les Brown)

As we can see, the best authors in the world understand that beginning to write is as simple as it is difficult – one must simply begin.

Choosing the Right Words

Another common theme in writing is the eternal struggle to find just the right words and phrases. Many times writers throw around a number of words, searching for the one that fits like a missing puzzle piece. Rough drafts were made to be reworked and this is where a writer’s vocabulary and talent really come into play. Writing a scene requires the same dexterity and skilled hand as paining a picture, creating a sculpture or any other creative endeavor.

  • “The difference between the right word and the almost right word is the difference between lightning and a lightning bug.” (Mark Twain)
  • “One day I will find the right words, and they will be simple.” (Jack Kerouac)
  • “Don’t tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass.” (Anton Chekhov)
  • “Words can be like X-rays if you use them properly — they’ll go through anything. You read and you’re pierced.” (Aldous Huxley)
  • “If it sounds like writing, I rewrite it. Or, if proper usage gets in the way, it may have to go. I can’t allow what we learned in English composition to disrupt the sound and rhythm of the narrative.” (Elmore Leonard)
  • “There is no great writing, only great rewriting.” (Justice Brandeis)

On Inspiration

Creative inspiration is perhaps one of the most ephemeral things in the world. Inspiration can come from anywhere and creativity is, at best, a fickle mistress. This interest in creativity and the creative process has been with man since the earliest times. The ancient Greeks had dozens of Muses dedicated to various forms of the arts and science. The Muses are goddesses representing different arts and sciences in Greek mythology. They are the daughters of Mnemosyne and Zeus.

  • Kalliope – the muse of epic poetry
  • Euterpe – the muse of music and lyric poetry
  • Erato – the muse of lyric/love poetry
  • Melpomene – the muse of tragedy
  • Thalia – the muse of comedy

Although established Muses of the past are rarely referred to now, their spirit lives on. Today, the creative process may be seen differently, but the inspiration and frustration remain the same.

  • “You never have to change anything you got up in the middle of the night to write.” (Saul Bellow)
  • “Creativity is allowing yourself to make mistakes. Art is knowing which ones to keep.” (Scott Adams)
  • “Inspiration is a guest that does not willingly visit the lazy.” (Pyotr Tchaikovsky)
  • “Creativity is knowing how to hide your sources” (Albert Einstein)
  • “Inspiration is wonderful when it happens, but the writer must develop an approach for the rest of the time.” (Leonard Bernstein)
  • “Fill your paper with the breathings of your heart.” (William Wordsworth)
  • “Your intuition knows what to write, so get out of the way.” (Ray Bradbury)
  • “I don’t know where my ideas come from, but I know where they come to. They come to my desk, and if I’m not there, they go away again.” (Philip Pullman)

On the Writing Life

It’s often said that artists are a special breed, and writers are no different. The writing life isn’t for everyone and, for those who feel the calling, taking the journey is sometimes difficult. Writers have discussed their methods, their inspirations and their styles, but here we get a glimpse into what truly drives them to follow the writer’s life.

  • “You must stay drunk on writing so reality cannot destroy you.” (Ray Bradbury)
  • “I know some people might think it odd – unworthy even – for me to have written a cookbook, but I make no apologies. The U.S. poet laureate Billy Collins thought I had demeaned myself by writing poetry for Hallmark Cards, but I am the people’s poet so I write for the people.” (Maya Angelou)
  • “We are all apprentices in a craft where no one ever becomes a master.” (Ernest Hemingway)
  • “I write for the same reason I breathe – because if I didn’t, I would die.” (Isaac Asimov)
  • “You fail only if you stop writing.” (Ray Bradbury)

How to Write Faster and More Effectively

write better faster
Learning how to write effectively typically means slowing down to take your time, do the research and choose your words carefully. Although writing clearly and effectively is the goal for any writer, learning how to write faster can also be valuable skill. Here we’ll take a look at 10 tips to help speed up your writing and make it more effective overall.

1. Write What You Know

The best way to be able to write more quickly is to write on a topic you are already familiar with. Although this isn’t always an option, seize the opportunity whenever it comes up. Even if your assignment is on something you know nothing about, conduct some initial research to see if you do have a connection to the subject somewhere. For example, if your assignment is writing about the origins of the civil rights movement, use your own experience with discrimination or the experiences of friends and family as a basis to draw parallels to the early days of the civil rights movement with current issues of today. An essay on the impact of team sports can easily be connected to the summer you spent playing ping-pong or your own elementary school T-Ball team.

2. Dictate When Possible

There are a number of software packages that allow users to dictate directly into a word processing program. These programs can take some time to master and they adapt to your pattern of speech as you use them, so don’t expect perfect results your first time out. Instead of cracking it open as you’re beginning your big essay project for the mid-term exams, use it for a few weeks on other projects or just for fun in order to find out how to make it work more effectively. Once you’ve gotten the hang of it, you can use it to crank out essays, term papers and even your thesis in no time flat.

3. Don’t Worry About Mistakes on the Rough Draft

As you begin to write the rough draft, don’t worry about proper word choices, grammatical tense agreement or whether or not to use a semi-colon. Instead, simply get the thoughts, ideas and concepts on paper. Ignore that inner critic hissing on your shoulder and keep your hands moving. Try to keep up with the narrative you have in your mind. You can go back to clean things up and tweak verbiage later – getting the ideas you have onto paper will help your paper to develop more quickly.

4. Develop an Outline System That Works For You

Traditional outlines simply don’t work for everyone, but that doesn’t mean that outlines are worthless. Find a system that achieves the same goal but which fits your own writing or creative style. Writing a few sentences and using lists for each paragraph may be the best method for you, or simply jotting down ideas you can rearrange may be more your style. Find what works for you and use it.

5. Watch Your Adverbs

Using adverbs may bulk up your essay, but it also makes your paper less effective. A person isn’t very poor, they’re impoverished. Concentration camps weren’t very bad, they were horrific. The sun isn’t very hot, it’s scorching. Find better descriptions for common adverbs of degree in order to polish your writing.

6. Set a Timer

According to several studies, people work best with focused concentration for about 25 minutes at a time. Gab a kitchen timer, wind it to the 25 minute mark and GO. Write your heart out and don’t stop typing for the full 25 minutes. If you get stumped or hit a wall, move on to another section of the paper or write ‘What I really want to say is…’ and then finish that sentence. Even if you end up scraping half of what you’ve written, this type of focused creativity will not only get you farther into your essay, it can even result in some surprising gems of inspiration.

7. Focus on Writing Alone

When you write, do it alone. Don’t try writing while your friends are over, or while you’re watching a movie with someone. Make the time to sit alone and focus on your writing. Keeping clear of distractions will help you to focus more effectively and, in the end, getting it done will give you more free time.

8. Conduct Timed Research

Research can be the downfall of many students when it’s time to sit down and write. They may start with the best intentions but when conducting research online, it’s easy to click from one page to the next and suddenly find yourself playing a Super Mario emulator. Set a timer for your research, separate from writing time, and stick to it. If you find yourself still gravitating towards pages of distraction, set up a list of blocked websites through parental control software or time management tools such as LeechBlock or Cold Turkey.

9. Set Small Goals

Chopping your writing assignment up into smaller pieces can help boost productivity and speeds along the writing process. Dying for another cup of coffee? Finish this paragraph first. Want to get up and stretch your legs? Just pound out the rest of this outline so you know where to start when the break is over. Thinking of your assignment as a series of smaller milestones will help make it easier – and quicker – to finish.

10. Rewrite As You Edit

Combine your rewriting and editing step into one and clean up your spelling and grammar as you revise your writing. The best way to do this is to read your essay out loud, as if you were simply trying to educate or persuade a friend. Combining this final revision step can easily shave time off your total writing time and reading the essay out loud also ensures everything flows seamlessly.

How to Write an Argumentative Essay

Argumentative Essay

Argumentative essays may seem like they’re made to be nothing more than combative – and not a great way to win over the heart and mind of your teacher. However, writing a good argumentative essay has less to do with being combative and more to do with playing to your audience. In fact, with a bit of planning and little grunt work you can easily turn an argumentative essay assignment into your opportunity to become your teacher’s favorite student.

Know Your Audience

If you’ve been lucky enough to get to choose your topic for the essay, choose one you know your teacher feels passionately about. Check out their Facebook profile for starters. Even if they have it set to be pretty restricted from Public view, you should still be able to get a few bit of information. Maybe they show their favorite books, bands or TV shows. Look for patterns in the things they enjoy, the books or movies they mention in class and times when they talk openly abut their own perspective. In other words, simply pay attention to your teacher. Check out the bumper stickers on their car as this is one way many people often express themselves more honestly, even if they tend to be more guarded on their social media pages or within the classroom.

Once you have a topic in mind, don’t automatically assume you’ll need to be on the same side as your teacher. After all, an educator will be able to spot pandering a mile away, so don’t go overboard or the whole thing could backfire on you. Instead, adopt the position your research leads to. An argumentative essay requires writers to do a lot of detailed research in order to fully explain a problem, consider possible solutions, alternatives or positions and then make a definitive statement about it. Your teacher may appreciate the fact that you are in agreement, but unless you’ve done the work to back it up, he or she will see it as brown-nosing which could easily affect your grade.

Do the Work

A well written argumentative essay should have these key characteristics:

A definitive thesis in the first paragraph. Your thesis should explain why the topic is important, how it can affect the larger world and why readers should be interested enough to develop their own opinion. The introduction and thesis of your essay should be outlined or roughly written before you begin the body of your essay, but it is fine to go back and tweak or revise both the thesis and the introduction as you get further into your research and your essay develops more fully.

Well written transitions between paragraphs. Every essay has three basic sections – the introduction, the body and the conclusion. Transitioning between these sections gives you a chance to show off your true writing skills. Transitioning between these sections is often difficult for students but if you can tweak these areas, they can offer the perfect way to showcase your writing skills. Ultimately, teachers want their students to be able to communicate effectively and showcasing these kinds of skills scores big points when it comes to grading.

Evidence, support and a lack of bias. A well written argumentative essay draws conclusions based on evidence, not emotion. Keep your writing calm, cool and collected so that the evidence can speak pretty much for itself. Sticking to this also takes a lot of the pressure off your shoulders as you can simply use studies, anecdotes, research and historical articles in order to build your case. Some research will speak well enough for itself, so be careful not to over-state a point.

A conclusion that offers something new. The conclusion of your essay shouldn’t simply be a rehashing of your introduction. When reviewing your conclusion, compare it to your original thesis. While the spirit should be the same, your conclusion should be a reflection of both the core issue and the evidence reviewed throughout the essay.

Writing an argumentative essay doesn’t have to mean drawing battle lines in your class – or with your instructor. Choosing a topic you know your teacher cares about can give you a leg up in terms of scoring a few extra points, but you’ll still need to do the work to back it up. Ultimately, becoming a teacher’s favorite student is about addressing them on a personal level and showing that you’re able to tackle difficult subjects, complicated research and historical records with a keen eye for observation and a fresh perspective.