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.
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