Getting Started on Essay Writing Study Guide
Getting Started on Essay Writing
Inspiration is wonderful when it happens, but the writer must develop an approach for the rest of the time. - LEONARD BERNSTEIN (1918–1990) AMERICAN COMPOSER AND CONDUCTOR
Congratulations. You've reached Lesson 7, and the grammar review is over. Now it's time to get started on the actual writing process. You won't be surprised to learn, of course, that things are not necessarily going to get simpler. Quite the contrary. Before you even set pencil to paper, or fingers to keyboard, there are several questions to answer and decisions to make.
Deciding what to write is often more difficult than doing the actual writing. This lesson will help get you past that scary first part.
Too many writers assume that deciding what to write is the first task. Actually, defining your subject and what you will say about it is definitely not the first thing to do. You have several other decisions to make first, and once you've made those choices, deciding what to write should be an easier task. Here we'll review the preliminary steps you need to take before you write.
What Is Your Assignment?
To make things simpler, this book assumes that you are going to write a school assignment, which is usually an essay or a report of some kind. But, as you know, there are many other kinds of writing. You may be about to write a short story. Or a poem. Or an e-mail to a friend. Or a letter. Or even a diary entry.
All of these are actually writing assignments, some of which you assign to yourself. The decisions you will have to make about what and how you will write an email or a letter are just as much of an assignment as the ones you get in school. For our purposes here, we'll assume that all writing assignments require more or less the same considerations, as only short stories, novels, plays, and poetry depart seriously from the kind of writing you most often do in your school assignments.
Who Is Your Audience?
Figuring out who will be reading your work is every bit as important as determining what you will say in your writing. For example, consider the following writing assignments:
- Write 500 words on the geography of Mexico.
- Write 250 words on why you deserve a scholarship to summer music camp.
- Write a 150-word thank-you note to your grandmother.
- Write a 15-word text message to your best friend.
- Write a journal entry (as long as you like) on why you are angry at your parents.
Who will be your audience (your reader or readers) for each of these assignments? Obviously, a different someone is likely to be your audience for each of these written works. If you are applying for a scholarship, you will want to address yourself to the deciding committee, and try to provide reasons to choose you that will appeal to them. On the other hand, if you're writing to your best friend, you can refer to private jokes and assume that your friend is already familiar with you and your sense of humor.
It is essential that you have a very specific idea about the identity of your audience when you finally sit down to write.
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