What do most students have in common with Bilbo Baggins? Besides enjoying at least six meals a day, the trait most students share with our favorite hobbit is the desperate need they sometimes have for more time. Time is what Bilbo begs for when he can’t solve Gollum’s riddle (right), the answer to the riddle being—of course—none other than time itself.
Sure, in the scene above, Bilbo is at serious risk of being eaten by Gollum, while most students just have a lot of reading and essay writing to do. Still, time is the important thing here, and it seems that neither students nor “hobbitses” (as Gollum would say) can ever get enough of it. If only there were some way to make writing an essay a faster process . . .
The bad news? I can’t get you more time. Not even Gandalf can manage that, and I’m certainly no Gandalf. But what I can actually do is teach you how to use less time to accomplish more when you’re writing an essay, which is pretty much exactly the same thing! So, if you’re feeling well fed and ready to learn, prepare yourself for an unexpected journey into the art of writing an essay as efficiently as possible.
Step 1: Make a plan.
Imagine that you’re going on a trip. Perhaps you’re even traveling to the Lonely Mountain to face a very vain dragon in hopes of reclaiming some treasure. Now, how would you rather make that journey: with a map or without one? I think we can both agree that using the map would save you quite a lot of time that would otherwise be spent wandering—right?
Just like any adventurous Took, you shouldn’t try to start writing an essay without first creating a map for yourself. Yes, it takes time to write an outline. However, this is time that you will more than make up later in the writing process and that will ultimately improve your essay-writing speed.
The key elements to have figured out before you begin writing are your thesis statement and the evidence and arguments you will be using to support that thesis statement. Once you have these things, you basically have a road map to your final destination: completion of your essay.
Step 2: Do your research.
This step should really be done in conjunction with the former step. After all, what’s the point of writing a thesis if you can’t support it with research? Your research, including direct quotations from primary sources, should be part of your outline. Finding quotations from scholarly articles and books to support your arguments before you actually start writing will make the actual process of writing much faster, as you will have fewer necessary interruptions. (No, Facebook is not a necessary interruption—nor is a second breakfast. Sorry.)
Step 3: Just write.
Okay. Your map is written, you’re out of your hobbit-hole door and into the world, and you’re ready to actually start writing an essay. You still want to know how to write faster? Well, friend, the key is to start by actually writing. Not agonizing over every clause, not questioning all life decisions made thus far, and certainly not watching Netflix. Just write. Try your best to communicate the ideas you’ve painstakingly outlined in your map, but most of all, just get those fingers typing and start writing. Write. There will be some clunky sentences, there will be some punctuation errors, and there may even be some paragraphs that don’t make the final cut. However, if you don’t start writing soon, there won’t be anything to cut, and then you’ll really want to know how to write faster.
Step 4: Tackle your essay in sections.
Of course, as good as the “just write” mentality is, it can only keep you going for so long. Writing an essay in one big chunk is like trying to travel from the Shire to the Lonely Mountain in a single day; that is to say, it is downright impossible without the aid of some kind of anachronistic aircraft, and very dangerous to even try doing. Instead of doing everything at once, think of your essay in terms of meaningful sections. Focus on completing just one section at a time, and give yourself time for short breaks between writing sessions. Dinner with dwarves, break. Meeting with Elrond, break. Goblin kidnapping, break. You get the idea!
Step 5: Take a break before editing your work.
Make sure that you give yourself some time away from your essay before returning to revise your first draft. Editing your essay with a fresh mind will make the process much quicker, as mistakes you made while writing will be much more obvious to your eye and to your well-rested brain. While it’s true that the time period needed to complete your essay will be longer, the amount of time you will actually have spent on your essay will be much, much shorter, leaving you lots of time to work on other things!
There you have it, folks: five ways to improve your essay-writing speed. You now know how to write faster—or, you know, how to complete an essay using less time overall. This more efficient method of writing an essay should give you more time to accomplish other important things, like rereading your favorite stories (cough—Tolkien!), working on your riddle-solving abilities, and perfecting your Gollum impersonation—all pursuits worthy of your extra time and devotion.
Image sources: yanjing/Pixabay.com, kewl/Pixabay.com
You stare down at your computer clock and panic as you see another minute slip by—it’s 11:31, and you now have 29 minutes to email your essay to your instructor. You’re not even close to being done.
Photo via aan00b.xfire on Flickr
You didn’t mean to procrastinate, but other things just kept getting in the way. And now you feel like you have to make a choice—either write a couple of awesome paragraphs or try to write the whole essay quickly, if a little sloppily, just so you can have a complete paper by the end.
Is the anxiety setting in yet?
Well, don’t go into full crisis mode just yet. Contrary to the saying, there are ways that you can have your cake and eat it too. I’m here to show you how to write an essay fast and well.
While I’m not promising that my methods will deliver an essay in less than 30 minutes, I will tell you that they can streamline your writing process so you don’t have to waste precious minutes on unnecessary tasks.
Why You Should Know How to Write an Essay Fast and Well
Writing skills that enable you to write quickly while still maintaining quality don’t just come in handy for the situation I described earlier. There are tons of situations which require you to know how to write an essay fast.
Maybe you didn’t procrastinate. Maybe you’re just a perfectionist—so much so that it inhibits you from feeling truly done with your essay.
Maybe it’s an in-class assignment or essay portion of a test, in which case there’s usually little to no real preparation time before you know what you’ll be writing.
You could have had computer problems, a family emergency, a mound of other schoolwork, a tornado, an alien abduction, a battle to the death with ninja pirates…
Okay, maybe not those last few, but you get my point. There are countless reasons good, quick writing skills can come in handy.
Overall, the strategies I’m going to show you can help you so that you’ll have more time to do other things while still remaining confident that your quality will be at its best. It saves you stress and gets you back to those ninja pirates in no time.
What’s not to like about that?
Strategies for Writing a Great Essay Fast
There are several strategies for how to write an essay fast and well, but you need to do what works best for you. I’ll give you a few pointers. Feel free to use all of them or just a few. These are guidelines, not rules to live by.
The Biggest Trick to Quickness is Preparation
A known fact among chefs is that preparation is the key to quick service. They pre-cut, pre-wrap, and pre-measure everything that they use in advance so that when they do need a certain ingredient, it’s already there, waiting to be used.
Photo via White House on Wikimedia Commons
In order to learn how to write an essay fast, take a lesson from the chefs.
Before You Read
If you’re writing an essay on something you read—say Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet—do a little pre-reading research. Perform a quick Google search on the play’s major characters and themes.
Then it’s time to break out the highlighters. Use pink for the theme of love and orange for the theme of fate. Use blue to mark important actions of Juliet and yellow for Romeo. Any color combination will work as long as you’re consistent.
If you don’t like writing in your books, you can always make annotations on color-coded notecards. But isn’t there something beautiful about nicely highlighted text?
No? Just me then… anyway.
You might ask, “why am I doing all this work?” Well, those themes and characters probably have a good chance of showing up on an essay prompt. If you’re allowed to reference your book or notes during the essay, all of the important parts will be shouting at you from the page.
If the essay is for a test or in-class assignment where you have to draw from memory, this tip can still save you time. Taking notes while reading will get you more engaged with the text, which can help you remember what happened better.
Ultimately, taking notes will allow you to find better support for your essay in less time.
Okay, so you’ve read your text, made the notes, completed all that preparation—you’re ready to go, right?
Not so fast!
Don’t forget about outlining. Creating an outline, whether complete and full of detail, or a basic skeleton of what you want to write, can help immensely in knowing how to write an essay fast and well.
Spending just five minutes before you dive into your writing can make a huge difference. You can ensure that you have enough evidence to support your points, and when you get into the writing, you won’t struggle to keep your thoughts organized. You can just let the words flow.
There are several types of essays—expository, argumentative, and analytical, just to name a few. They’ll each require slightly different outlines than the others. But there are some main components that are the same across all essay forms.
Your introduction will usually consist of at least a hook and a thesis statement.
A hook is a sentence or two that is supposed to draw the reader in and create interest in reading the rest of your essay. You can write a hook in a few ways:
- Use statistics that are relevant to your topic
- Use a quote either from the author or a critic, or a quote that addresses the prompt.
- Ask a rhetorical question. (I typically shy away from this because it can be a tough one to get right. You want the question to make the reader think, not to simply take up space on the page.)
- Tell a short but relevant joke or anecdote.
There are tons of other ideas for writing hooks, but let’s move on to the thesis statement. This is very important because it sets up the rest of the paper.
A good thesis statement should concisely tell what the essay is going to be about. You can think of it like a preview of what’s to come.
The body is the meat and potatoes of your essay, and should be well-outlined. You should put some thought into the claims you’re going to make and the supporting evidence for each of those claims.
Your claims are going to be based on your interpretation of the text, and the evidence is going to be quotes or ideas from the text that help support those claims. These two parts will be important no matter what kind of essay you’re planning to write.
On my outlines, I typically only jot down a few notes for the conclusion. This includes any thoughts I think would wrap up the essay well or any questions I would want the reader to think about.
When you’re writing your conclusion, you’ll want to give a brief summary of the main points of your essay. But be careful not to have it sound too similar to your thesis statement.
This Analytical Essay Outline Will Kickstart Your Writing.
Yeah, But What Can You Do During the Actual Writing Part?
Okay, now you have an outline that will help you put the right information in the right place in your essay. But what about when you’re into the actual writing bit?
I have a couple tips for this part, too—don’t worry.
Make the Index Your Best Friend
This tip will only be useful when you can keep your text handy and, of course, when there’s an index for that book.
The idea here is that you find the words and phrases that relate to your topic. Having a list of page numbers at your fingertips for any given topic gives you that kind of ctrl + f power, but in book form.
Write the Body First
One of the biggest during-writing tips that can help with how to write an essay fast and well is to write the body first.
There are a couple reasons for this. First, the body is all the important stuff in the essay—the analysis, arguments, claims, and evidence. If you do run out of time, you want to make sure it’s all there.
Writing the body first is also helpful because introductions and conclusions can be hard. You have to grab the reader’s attention. It’s easier to just look at your outline and get right into the middle of it than to spend more time than necessary writing a catchy opening statement.
Plus, coming up with an opening statement will be easier once you have already written the body of your essay.
Other Resources to Help You Write an Essay Fast and Well
I know my tips are pretty awesome, but if they don’t work for you, or if you want additional guidance, there are plenty of other resources available to help you write an essay fast.
Check out How to Write a Timed Essay in 45 Minutes or Less.
Also try looking at other blogs like lifehack that talk about this same issue. You can even look up sample prompts or make up your own. Then time yourself on how long it takes you to write about one of them.
If you’re writing on a computer, keep Purdue OWL open on a tab in your browser. It gives information on proper citations and writing advice all in one spot.
Always remember that writing fast and writing well don’t have to be separate. You can do both, and with these simple tips, I hope you will do both.
But enough procrastinating… get to writing!
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