EssaySnark often gets dumps of, ahem, “stuff” from our clients. First drafts are typically nightmares. Random blathering dribble that somone is calling an “essay.” We’ve heard that some other consultants actually encourage this as a “process” — do a bunch of writing on whatever and then figure out later how to wrestle it down into an actual essay.
Perhaps this is purely stylistic, or just a personal thing, but we don’t find it to be the most effective approach.
Instead, we recommend starting with OUTLINES.* Yes, we make our clients go back to fifth grade and write OUTLINES. (Oh no! we can hear you scream. Not outlines!!)
For whatever reason, the mere mention of OUTLINES causes many to shrink back in horror. OUTLINES must be some form of torture.
We find that the struggle that goes into creating good OUTLINES is vastly preferable to the struggle that goes into trying to smack down an unwieldy blob of a mess of an “essay”. The kitchen sink approach rarely works.
What happens is, you write and write and write about all this glorious “stuff” that is (in your mind at least) definitely important and absolutely relevant (even when an objective third-party observer can’t make heads nor tails of it). And you get attached. And you think it’s ALL so CRITICAL. And you want someone else to tell you what’s important.
We’ve covered this before — it goes in that category of “can you think?”
Because what the bschools really can’t teach a lot of is CRITICAL THINKING. And ANALYTICAL SKILLS. They can teach tools like how to do a pivot table in Excel and run the fancy magic 8 ball projection thingy or whatever. And how to do a Black-Scholes model. Etc etc etc etc. But again, these are tools. You need to actually come equipped to bschool to already know how to do that thinking part.
Why are OUTLINES so effective? Because they force you to think. Right up front. Before you start writing.
Believe it or not, it is MUCH easier to fill in the details and add the color and texture required to make a compelling argument really shine — after you know what that argument is supposed to be!
When you just start with writing and writing and writing, you don’t know where you’re going. And to quote the master:
“You’ve got to be very careful if you don’t know where you’re going, because you might not get there.”Yogi Berra
*We are all-caps’ing OUTLINES in this post because we think they deserve it. Let’s elevate the poor little buggers a bit and give them some respect. All Hail OUTLINES! To OUTLINES we trust! Long live OUTLINES! (okay that’s weird, we’re done now. too many essays today.)