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How do you do your planning?

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OK, I am one of those people who are never able to plan. If I try to, I fail to stick to it in my real writing. Result= all my teachers are worried about how I go off topic and exceed the word limit. So how does every get around to planning? Is there a 'best' method for doing it?

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I used to do that all the time. I still exceed the word limit, but that'll come with practice I suppose.

So first I brainstorm. I figure out what I want my essay to be about. Once I know what I'm arguing, I try to form a thesis sentence for it. A thesis sentence is often likened to a roadmap--it shows the reader of your essay exactly where you're going. So if you took out your thesis [which could actually be two sentences], then the reader would have a pretty good idea for what the essay is about. It's kinda like the title of the essay or a statement research question. Once I have my thesis, I make my outline. For the intro, I just put my thesis. No need to figure out the hook and all that quite yet. Then I make a list of 2 to 3 points I want to hit in my first body paragraph. I include references to examples from the text here--just vague right now so that I can find good supporting quotations later. I do the same for the rest of the body paragraphs. For my world literature papers, I only had two body paragraphs because I just couldn't write three concise ones. Two longer ones were way better. Then for the conclusion, I take about two sentences to reword what I've been arguing and close with a "so what?" that tells the readers why my argument is important. It doesn't present answers, but rather, it raises more questions. I really like the conclusions and know what my "so what?" will be ahead of time, so I include it in the outline, but most people don't. They just do it when they're actually writing the conclusion. So after the outline, I write out the body paragraphs, then the intro, and then the conclusion. Then I work on adding transitions where needed and then cleaning up grammar and cutting back on verbiage if necessary. Then it's a good first draft, and my teacher can help me see if there's a huge chunk of text that needs modification or amputation or what, and from there, it's a flurry of edits til the final thing. :)

Edited by sweetnsimple786
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Which essay are you talking about? I assume the exam essays, right? If you're not very interested in planning, for the written commentary essay it is possible to get high marks and do no planning at all - the secret to that is simply to write your commentary in chronological order through the poem and just pick things out as they come up. That way you don't have to waste time thematically grouping things and consequently can use the extra 10-15 minutes you'll make in the exam for writing down everything you can think of (so your exceeding the word limit won't matter, as you'll be able to finish no problem). Doing it chronologically means you can spend just 3-4 minutes reading the poem and getting some ideas for what you want to say (and when to put in "this also comes up later" or "this is a recurrent theme", to show you can link it all together) and hey presto, it's just a case of how fast you can write :D

For the second essay (the 4 literary works one in Paper 2) you do need to do a little more planning, but again you can limit it by looking at the title you've been given and then setting out 4 columns (one for each piece of literature) really quickly on a rough sheet of paper. Think of any points from any novel/poem/whatever related to the title and write them down in the column they belong in. Go back through and think of either a contrasting, agreeing or missing example for the other literary works to match with the original point you made when you were brainstorming. So for instance you might have a strong mother figure, a weak mother figure, no mother figure and a mother figure which is neither strong nor weak in your 4 things. So you might want to dump the no mother figure novel (or whichever one has the least match up points) and go for the other three, setting them against each other. Then you can write your essay just going through your points, comparing and contrasting for each of the things you picked out anddd at the end just set aside 5 minutes to draw it all together. The essay has structure because you're tightly examining each thing and setting it against another, and provided you can do the whole "however, in X..." "on the other hand, in Y, it is the case that..." and so on, you should be fine.

If you don't enjoy planning and know what you want to write without planning, there's no real reason why you should have to. If you can get the knack of plan-approximation and have plenty to write (which it sounds like you do), you can save your planning time and use it for getting your thoughts out onto the paper. Honestly, it's about working out the best way for you. Personally I hated planning essays because I knew what points I wanted to make and it was just a case of having enough time to make them - after all, an essay is just about giving somebody an understandable list of all the things you've noticed and want to say. If you do go off track and can't trust yourself to stick closely to the points you're trying to make, perhaps something more rigid and set like sweetnsimple's idea would be good. If your exams aren't until November, you hopefully have enough time to cram in 2 or 3 practices for each method, and I think it's worth doing that. It'll be good revision anyway, and you won't have to panic in the exam room if you already know what works. Good luck with it! :D

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I make an outline for every essay I write.

First come up with my topic, thesis, and arguments. Then I think of subpoints for each argument. Then look for quotes to support each subpoint, and I never eliminate the quotes right away, I put down every single quote I find that could be useful, no matter how weak it is.

After writing all of that down, it usually comes up to be around 4-5 pages (written, back and front). I basically already have my essay written without pretty transition words and the intro/conclusion. Once I start writing the essay, I eliminate weak quotes/arguments to fit the word limit etc.

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I usually do something like this

1. Find a topic/question

2. Brainstorm. Just write everything you can think of in relation to your topic.

3. Organize. Write your points in the order you'd like them. To aviod going off topic, for every point you think of, ask yourself "How is this relevant to my topic?".

4. Write the essay.

5. Leave it for a while.

6. Reread it and edit.

I think it's crucial to spend time on the brainstorming part and outline-writing. I don't allow myself to start the writing until I have a outline with all the paragraphs planned.

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What I do first is get my thesis, and then everything kind of spreads out from there. From the thesis you can make a 'pathway' for your essay, so I find that points come fairly easily. In each paragraph I usually go; point, device, example, effect, link back to point, link point back to thesis. This makes things work usually.

Although in English I think that sometimes no planning can be better; it sounds lame, but sometimes when you are right on the ball things kind of 'flow' and you don't need to plan. But generally just to be safe have some kind of plan.

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The easiest way is just to put your thesis and your points down (with one or two examples) in a very loose way. This will give you room to write what you want. I tend to go off topic a lot too. The best advice I have is to not procrastinate and give yourself time to edit. When you edit, you should refer back to your thesis after every sentence or so, to see if it is relevant to the essay.

For commentaries, I usually pick out everything I want to say and organize it by writing all the metaphors in a paragraph, similies in another etc and not worrying to come up with a thesis and a conclusion until the end.

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I have a generic 'planning document' which is divided into different sections - I have my thesis statement up the top, and then have topic sentences for each of my paragraphs. Under the topic sentences, I write my quotes (and keep adding quotes when I find them) and briefly explain those quotes. After that, I start writing.

A technique to use to stop you from going off topic is to ask 'so what?' or 'how?' for every sentence you write until you can't any more. If you keep on asking these questions, then it's probably not as relevant to your topic as you think it is. After you finish writing, it's also good to leave it for a while, and then come back to it after a week or two because you normally pick up other stuff after you haven't been staring at it for a while.

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