i just wrote two essays in a week and it was relatively painless and i am so happy and Not Stressed so here’s my process:
1. The Quotes
have you ever had an absolutely amazing claim, one you know is gonna win you all the awards with how insightful and great it is, and then run headlong into the giant brick wall of “I only have one quote to support this claim”?
Yeah, me too. That’s why you start with the quotes. No, seriously. It’s like a science lab conclusion - you gotta run the experiments, then draw the conclusion from the data. Similarly, you gotta look at the quotes, then make a claim from there,
My strat? As you read the book, write down quotes that stick out to you in a google doc. Organize it by theme or w/e, but just write them down!!! it makes you think more about the text, AS WELL as saves you that boring and tedious task of hunting down quotes and rereading the text.
2. Figure out your thesis
If you get to chose what you write the essay on, this will be easy. Just pick whatever topic you have the most evidence on. If you have topics assigned, you probably will have quotes if you were thorough, but some text rereads may be necessary. ugh.
In either case, you’re going to need to look through your quotes. Find a pattern in there or a side of the topic it leans more towards. Clear out all the other quotes, and focus on putting the ones you have in an order. If it’s something like “The feud in Romeo and Juliet caused the deaths of Mercutio and Lady Montague, and doomed the titular couple,” group the quotes by each event. If it’s something a little more like “The propaganda of the Cold War lead to fear mongering, which caused uneasy alliances, which finally engendered diplomacy,” then highlight bits of the text that relates to each side in different colors. (ex: if one part of the text shows alliances causing diplomacy, highlight the stuff about alliances in pink and the stuff about diplomacy in green.)
Seriously. Just bust out the color coding. It will make your life so much easier.
3. Add in the analysis
If you’re super extra gold-star about this, you might even include bullet pointed thoughts about the quotes as you put them in. If not, it’s not too hard to flesh out exactly what you were thinking. Just figure out the point you’re trying to make and apply it to the quote. Listen. You’ve done essays before. There isn’t any getting around this.
Oh, one trick for Lit. Essays: Analyze the word choice, it can help pad and flesh out points.
4. Write the Intro and Conclusion
This is easy, because now you have body paragraphs to add in. You have an actual essay to introduce. You have this shit in the bag.
5. Edit, then Celebrate
I would read things out loud, stopping at commas and pausing to take breathes at periods. Does it sound natural? Make sure your commas are in the right place.
Read your essay backwards, line by line. It interrupts the familiar material that your brain just spat out. You’re more likely to catch a left out word or grammar error if your brain isn’t filling in the gaps for you.
Now go do something that makes you happy. You just wrote your essay.