Dustin over at Lifehack wrote a nice post for students on how to improve their writing. Last night I was going through the first round of this with my students as well. The point I found most insightful was the following:
- Start in the middle.
One of the biggest problems facing writers of all kinds is figuring out how to start. Rather than staring at a blank screen until it’s burned into your retinas trying to think of something awe-inspiring and profound to open your paper with, skip the introduction and jump in at paragraph two. You can always come back and write another paragraph at the top when you’re done… but then again, you might find you don’t need to. As it turns out, the first paragraph or so are usually the weakest, as we use them to warm up to our topic rather than to do any useful work.
Students often fret entirely too much about their introduction when they’re trying to write and get a block. The last thing that most procrastinators need is an additional thing to keep them from writing. My advice to my students is very much along the same lines: write out your thesis and dive into the body of your paper. If you seem to have shown something different than what your thesis stated, change your thesis instead of the body of your paper. The paper being turned in isn’t like a novel you’re being paid to write along a certain story line… you can change your mind.
Get the first draft out, read it, and then compose your introduction. By doing so, you’re sure that your introduction actually matches the rest of the paper without trying to make the rest of the paper match your introduction. Revise, rinse, and repeat.