Writing

Write First, Research Later

I like to write before I research. At the minimum, I brainstorm ideas I have first and look for sources later. This is how I’ve written most of my essays in university.

Even though finding research that supports my argument takes time, knowing my stance in advance stops me from researching for too long.

I’m someone who doesn’t know what I think until I write my thoughts down on paper. Only after do I have more clarity.

I’ve found the better I know what I want to say, the less time I need to conduct research. When I’m lost, I’ll spend way too much time reading articles and not enough time writing essays.

I find the sources I want to use, find the quotes I want to include, and find I’m halfway there. Besides, half the battle lies in researching.

Writing isn’t so bad once I’m in the flow state. That lovely, blissful place where words flow from your fingers onto the computer. I quite enjoy drafting a paper during the early stages.

For me at least, editing is the other half of the battle. First drafts are messy. They require a lot of time and attention to make them better.

So when the first draft reaches the final stage, I feel a sense of satisfaction. Creating something great from nothing is an achievement in and of itself.

I guess my advice to other students is to write first, research later. Come up with ideas and figure out what you’re interested in writing about. Then find evidence to support your argument.

Of course, this isn’t the only way to approach essay writing. I’m not suggesting that write first, research later is a hard and fast rule you should follow all the time.

Still, if you feel stuck at any point, have a brainstorm session without referring to any external resources.

To quote one of my old teachers, “use the gray matter between your ears.”

School · Writing

How To Write And Win Essay Based Scholarships

I'm not an expert by any means, but I've written my share of essays for school and scholarships.

These are my tips to increase your chances of standing out and possibly winning a scholarship.

Apply for them.

You can't win if you don't apply. Was it Einstein who said, "common sense isn't always common practice" or was it another intelligent human being? Either way, the point stands.

Brainstorm ideas.

You need to write about something. So having a couple topics to explore can't hurt. Obviously, you'll want to pick the best one and run with it.

Cut the unoriginal.

Be different, interesting. After all, sometimes you're judged on creativity or originality.

Don't repeat the essay prompt.

I'm not keen on telling people what not to do, but imagine reading 999 entries that started off by restating the prompt.

Easy reading means hard editing.

Give yourself enough time to edit your essay. At the very least, put it aside for a few days, so when you come back to your work, you see the words with fresher eyes. Even several hours between writing and editing can do wonders.

Follow the rules.

Do what's asked. Provide any necessary documentation. You might be disqualified otherwise.

Grind through it.

At times, you may feel tempted to give up. Keep going. You'll better than you think.

Help yourself.

You want to avoid sabotaging your own entry in any way. Never overlook a small detail or do something that's the opposite of smart. Answer what's asked. Fill out your contact information accurately. Review your submission for grammar and spelling mistakes.

I'm realizing this post isn't all that helpful. Go figure.

Maybe one day Herminia Chow will create useful content that isn't just spewing common sense. Today is not that day.

Writing

Oh, Outlining

I don’t outline 300 page novels. So what makes you think I’m going to outline 3 page essays?

Teachers and their unbelievable expectations, eh?

I don’t outline unless I have to. So when I am outlining, it’s safe to say I’d rather be doing a million other things. Like writing.

Most of the time, I brainstorm or generate ideas without writing anything down. On the rare occasion I have to outline, I tend to dump everything in my brain onto the page. And try to make it presentable for my professor.

I guess I’m too impatient to make an outline before I start writing.

In my world, outlining isn’t writing. Similarly, editing isn’t writing.

I have nothing against outlining. I just don’t love it as much as I love writing.

Writing

My Essay Writing Process

  1. Freak out.
  2. Freak out some more.
  3. Start to brainstorm.
  4. Generate many ideas.
  5. Hate most ideas.
  6. Pick the best worst idea.
  7. Shrug once.
  8. Scrap said idea for a better one.
  9. Try to outline.
  10. Fail to outline.
  11. Attempt to write a first draft.
  12. Edit first draft before it’s written.
  13. Write enough words to meet the word count.
  14. Delete unnecessary words.
  15. Squint at word count.
  16. Write more words.
  17. Realize there are too many words.
  18. Kill my darlings.
  19. Submit the poorly written essay.
  20. Celebrate by crying.
Writing

​​​​Do’s And Don’ts of Writing An Essay

In honour of finishing my last essay for this school year, I’m publishing a post on writing essays. Don’t you love my logic?

Thanks my own decisions and the education system, I have (very minimal) experience writing essays. And despite that lovely experience, I still suck. My lack of skill isn’t about to change anytime soon. So you better question everything you read from me. I don’t hold myself accountable for any bad essays and/or bad marks as a result of your following my advice.

Do brainstorm, outline, etc.

Despite my inclination to write novels without outlining beforehand, I don’t think it’s easy to write an entire essay from start to finish without at least a general idea of what you’re writing about. Sure you could write a draft as a way of exploring what you want to say and how you want to say it. However, writing an entire paper without an outline is like exploring a city without a map. But worse. And harder. Probably not as fun either.

Don’t assume or guess.

Don’t jump to conclusions. Don’t be that guy or girl who thinks they know something when they don’t. Don’t be someone who assumes they’re right but is far from it. Just don’t. Educate yourself. Fact check. Be smart. If you can’t be smart, at least play the part. In other words, don’t be me.

Do the necessary reading(s)/research.

You might find gaps in your research as you’re writing. You may have to reread an article you’ve already read as you work away. That’s okay. What isn’t okay is being wildly unprepared. Would you travel somewhere without doing a bit of reading or researching of the country?

Don’t cry; don’t lie.

Again, don’t be me. Besides, crying wastes your precious time. Thinking of writing an essay like going on a journey.

This blog post is my way of subliminally and not so subtly shouting at you from my desk. Clearly I want to get out of this city. Anyone want to fund me?

Blogging

What Bloggers Really Do On Their Phones

Don’t assume I’m watching silly YouTube videos (even though I might be). What? Bloggers need breaks too.

  • Brainstorm new ideas.
  • Draft blog posts.
  • Edit, edit, edit.
  • Take pictures for their reader’s viewing pleasure.
  • Edit said pictures.
  • Respond to comments left by other wonderful bloggers.
  • Browse through the Reader.
  • Leave comments. Interact with people. Give back to the always lovely WordPress community.

So while it may seem like I’m always on my phone, I have valid reasons to be.

And no I do not have friends to text or a boyfriend to talk to.

Writing

11 Causes Of Writer’s Block

  1. Lack of confidence.
  2. Lack of idea.
  3. Lack of certainty.
  4. Lack of success.
  5. Lack of failure.
  6. Lack of energy.
  7. Lack of enthusiasm.
  8. Lack of company.
  9. Lack of loneliness.
  10. Lack of will.
  11. Lack of happiness.

Some of them might puzzle you. Well well well, I am here to enlighten you.

Lack of confidence. 

You aren’t confident in your writing or in yourself. You aren’t sure you will do a good job much less a mediocre job. If this is the reason you can’t put words to paper, then I hate to tell you this, but your lack of confidence gives you all the more reason to. Write something so mind-blowingly awesome that your self-esteem will have no choice but to sky-rocket through the ceiling into the sky.

Lack of idea.

Writing when you are at a loss for an idea(s) can be harder than writing when you have a plan or an outline. If that is the case, brainstorm away.

Lack of certainty. 

Not sure where you’re going or what your characters should be doing? You can either continue writing or stop and think about what logically should happen next. Some writers will gleefully charge forward. Rush ahead. Attack the unknown head on. Others prefer to plan a destination. To draw a map. To connect the dots.

Lack of success.

Being rejected sucks. And not succeeding sucks even more. Is this your mentality: why try if I won’t succeed? But how can you possibly succeed if you do not try a million and one times? Keep going.

Lack of failure.

Never failed? Never tasted the bitterness that comes with defeat? This lack of failure can hold you back. You don’t want to fail so you stop writing. If you don’t write, you can’t fail right? You can’t bear knowing that you suck. But if you don’t allow yourself to fail or to suck, you will never get better.

Lack of energy.

You’re tired, exhausted, maybe on the edge of burnout. In that case, take a break. Have a Kit-Kat. This is not a paid advertisement. In fact, I don’t get paid at all to blog. But I muster up the energy to blog because I take breaks. I know how to balance work with play. To write consistently, you must learn to do the same.

Lack of enthusiasm.

Pick something you love. Write about something you love. The lack of enthusiasm should disappear like morning dew. Words should be flowing from the tips of your fingers to the notebook or the word processor.

Lack of company.

Rarely is a story about one individual without any other characters or people in it. Besides every book you write cannot be based on yourself and only yourself. You need to be around family, friends, enemies, dogs, aliens, vampires, dinosaurs.

Lack of loneliness.

Writing at a party or at prom is not advised. Find a place where you can be alone. With your thoughts and feelings. Without distractions.

Lack of will.

I get it. You’re lazy sometimes. What I don’t get is how you can go on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr, etc., almost every day without complaining or whining. If you have time to surf the Web and use social media, you have time to sit your derriere down and make magic.

Lack of happiness.

Writing can help or hurt you. Ultimately, you need to make the best decisions for yourself. Get professional help if you need it. Allow writing to be your therapy if need be. Whatever you do, you can’t let anything get in the way of your happiness. Why? You can’t be a happy writer if you aren’t a happy person. And a happy writer is all I ask of you.