How To Create Excellent General Paper Essays

For a growing number of college pupils, essay writing is a lost art. Most schools have ignored basic writing skills in their feverish need to prepare students for standardized testing, and the culture at large has begun to devalue the printed word in many of its forms, from paper books to magazines to newspapers. All of this has resulted in a populace that lacks the basic tools necessary to write effectively and with confidence.

There is hope, however. If you are studying writing or taking a class that is writing intensive, you too can create excellent, high quality papers. You simply need to learn and practice the fundamentals of writing a good essay, from start to finish. Here is a guide to writing strong essays at the college or university level.

Step 1: Read A Lot of Creative Nonfiction

You cannot write interesting nonfiction if you do not have a finely tuned appreciation for the power of good essay writing. Many students only encounter nonfiction essays when they are in the middle of writing one for class, or editing one for a peer. The essay is so much more than a rote, difficult class assignment. There are fantastic, moving, engaging essays to be found in all manner of publications, and reading a good essay can vastly improve your own writing, as well as light a spark to your motivation.

Look to magazines such as Guernica, The Rumpus, Harper’s , The New Yorker, New York Times Magazine, and others for high quality personal prose written by masterful artists and writers. Take notes in the margins or in your head. What works? What does not work for you? How can you apply the craft of these essays to your own writing? The amount that you learn from this process might really surprise you.

Step 2: Write More Than You Need

When you first set out to tackle an essay, do not focus on the word or page count. Write blindly for a set period of time. Focus on answering the key questions you intend to address in your paper. Speak broadly about the subject and do not be afraid to ramble a bit. Share what you know, explore the key ideas, and allow them to be fleshed out. You may be left with a rough draft that is far longer than you need. This gives you a ton of material to work with, which you can sculpt and edit into the proper paper. This is much easier than structuring a short essay from the beginning and editing while you write.