Quick techniques to help improve your essays or creative writing

Need to submit or publish an important essay or piece of creative writing? Here are some quick tips to help you improve your writing. 

Writing doesn’t always come easy. Some people are more natural writers, while for others it takes more work. But whether you’re an innate or learned writer the same basic principle applies: the more you practice writing, the better you’ll get.

You also need to know some basic rules of good writing practice. So, before you attempt to buy an essay or piece of creative writing to meet a deadline, here are some quick tips to help you write.

Think about the reader

Whenever you’re writing, and whatever you’re writing, you need to write for the person reading it. This means you need to make it understandable for them, and keep their interest.

Sp when you’re planning your essay or piece of creative writing, consider what the reader already knows (you don’t want to patronise or bore them by repeating information or explaining something they’re already familiar with), and what they want or need to know about the topic you’re writing about.

If you want to write an essay or piece of creative writing that stands out, you also need to consider what ‘truths’ your reader currently accepts, and think about how you can surprise them with an alternative view, and maybe even get them to reconsider their opinion.

Write an attention-grabbing opener

You only have one chance to impress and excite your reader, and make them want to continue reading your writing, so put plenty of effort into your opener.

Make sure you engage your reader, and indicate to them that you have something new or interesting to say. If you’re writing an essay, you might state an alternative or unusual opinion about a well-known subject, leaving the reader intrigued as to why you believe this.

For example, if a literary character is universally accepted as being ‘evil’ and unsympathetic, you can start your essay by proposing they’re actually misunderstood and are secretly the hero of the story.

If you’re writing a creative piece, you might want to start with a shocking or surprising scene. Or write about a familiar story or scene from an unusual or surprising angle.

The point is to jolt your reader out of feeling ‘here we go again, another essay on…’ and let them know from the outset that you have something new to say and they need to give your writing the attention it deserves.

Split your structure into three parts

When planning a piece of creative writing, you need to split your writing into three parts:

  1. The set-up – this is where you introduce the subject or the characters, and how they relate to each other. Talk about the context and include mention of the ‘turning point’ (this is how you connect to the rest of the story).
  2. The confrontation – this is where you write more about the turning point, which is the central problem of your essay. Explain more about your character and how they deal with their problems. Describe their journey throughout the story, how they have become who they are now, their abilities and skills, and how they’re going to overcome their problem. Don’t forget to mention any supporting characters and how they help your main character.
  3. The resolution – this is where you write about the end of the story, and how the problem is solved.

Similarly, if you’re writing an essay, you’ll structure it:

  1. The opening – introduce your opinion or the point you wish to convey in your essay.
  2. The explanation – this is the bulk of your essay in which you explain your opinion and use examples as proof.
  3. The conclusion – you reiterate your opinion, and briefly highlight why you believe this is correct.

Don’t be beaten by writer’s block

Just because you have a deadline looming doesn’t mean you’ll be instantly able churn out thousands of perfectly crafted words – you’re not a machine! In fact, often when a deadline is looming you can find yourself panicked into writer’s block.

So what can you do if you need to start writing, but find yourself staring at a blank screen? The simple answer is: just write. The only way to power through writer’s block is to start writing.

Yes, what you initially write will probably be rubbish, but eventually you’ll get into the zone and actually start writing something usable. (Giving yourself something to do also helps stop procrastination.)

If you need more help with writer’s block, you may find these seven tips useful.

Edit your writing

It’s very unlikely you’ll rattle off a perfect piece of writing in your first draft. So leave plenty of time for editing once you’ve finished. On a very top level check your spelling, grammar and punctuation. But also review your writing for improvements, including:

  • Does your writing flow? Does it encourage the reader to keep reading? Is it enjoyable to read?
  • Do you have any repetition? Do you use the same word too many times? Could you be more adventurous in your language? Are you using literary devices to engage your readers and create a rich and memorable piece of literature?
  • Does your point come across clearly? Do you bring the reader with you, and convince them you have a valid argument?
  • Is your writing to the point? Do you stick to the topic at hand and avoid branching out into side issues that can confuse the reader?

Be brutal with your writing. For example, you may fall in love with a clever turn of phrase you’ve used. But if it doesn’t fit with the rest of the writing and help make your central point then don’t be afraid to lose it.

For this reason it can be good to ask a friend to read and critique your writing before publishing or submitting it. They’ll be more objective, and will more easily see any spelling mistakes that you might have overlooked.

Photo by Kinga Cichewicz