Here are some simple tips to keep in mind as you develop your writing skills and get ready for college application essay writing.
- Use short sentences. Short sentences resonate. They shimmer. They throb. They echo. They reveal. Too many short sentences can make a piece of writing monotonous, but you can rely on shorter sentences to add punch to your message if you don’t overdo it.
- Tell the truth, but lie if necessary. Your personal essays should reflect things that really happened to you; if they don’t, then you are writing fiction. At the same time, don’t hesitate to make subtle adjustments to what really happened, especially if those subtle adjustments will pay big dividends in terms of tension and reader interest. A little exaggeration isn’t just O.K; it’s expected.
- Forget about writing what you know. Most of us don’t know much. Write what you care about. Write what you are passionate about. Write what you love writing. If it’s an essay task, find a way to stay on topic and on target while still writing a piece you care about. Tell your own truth and the essay will be more powerful.
- Steven King said it in his “On Writing” and others have said it before: “Do not come lightly to the page.” In other words, take your writing seriously. If you’re writing to just get it done, if you’d rather be watching television, if the assignment or project doesn’t appeal to you…don’t bother. What you’ll produce when you don’t love the project probably won’t be worth reading. Try to find an avenue that makes the topic interesting to you, and then write from that perspective.
- Write every day. Practice makes perfect as the old sawhorse goes, and that’s nowhere truer than in the writing world. You’ll have to write dozens of essays before you can write one that will really make a High School teacher or college admissions committee happy. Accept this, and get on with the writing. Have you put in 10,000 hours? Have you done 1,000,000,000 words all written with your eye on the prize? Probably not, especially if you’re still in High School. But the authors you love most have probably put that amount of time and effort into their craft, or more. Forget talent. Put in the time and your writing will improve steadily.
Don’t look at your essay writing challenges in High School as a chore, like doing the dishes. Approach them as a labor of love. Approach them as though you may become a professional writer in the future.
Comment below and let us know the biggest problems you face as a writer. Our teacher-bloggers will address the most serious dilemmas in an upcoming post.