Hello Everyone! So school is starting for many of you, and I just wanted to pass along some knowledge from an English major!
Writing. We all have to do it, but it doesn’t always come naturally. I once had a roommate who would sit for hours trying to finish a paragraph while on the other side of the room I would have completed an essay in an hour. Now I’m sharing my secret on how I got good essay grades without pining away consistently at books.
**Disclaimer: I’m not saying you shouldn’t read the books. It’s just, you know, sometimes life happens and I can’t read the book or I read it but still don’t understand or care. . . My reading comprehension is pretty bad when I’m forced to read within a time limit. I literally kept all my literature books from school so I can reread them during my spare time. At college I would read the assigned reading the night before and still get crappy grades on the quizzes in class. My brain just isn’t wired to remember books when I’m forced to read vs reading leisurely. Anyone else have this problem?
But enough babbling. Let’s get to it!
If you can’t read the book, I do recommend looking up a summary to the story and taking good notes in class. This will help give you an idea as to what kind of topic your essay can fall under as well as help during the writing of your essay.
Once you’re somewhat familiar with the work, you can jot away at ideas for a thesis. Remember you’re not trying to give a summary of the work; you’re trying to prove something about it or its characters.
“The prince doubted his love for her because. . .”
“The prince truly loved her because. . .”
You get the idea; just make sure it’s something that’s not stated as fact in the story. Otherwise, you’re not really proving anything because it’s already fact. Try to come up with several different statements that you think may be supported in the work.
By the way, while brainstorming it’s okay to come up with thesis statements that contradict. Remember, we’re just trying to get a good grade, so the thesis that holds the best textual evidence will be the one we stick with.
And that’s our next step: Finding evidence to support a thesis.
You’re going to want at least three quotes from the work. Depending on how long your essay is supposed to be, you may need more. What I like to do is jot everything down on a piece of scrap paper.
Now here’s the secret: You don’t need to read the book to find textual evidence.
Sorry teachers around the world! I know your secret. And to think that all through high school I read books and then went back to find evidence for the essays. Think about it. I would read the book thoroughly and in its entirety before going back to find quotes that supported my thesis.
This is why I say to take good notes in class and look up a summary. Because, honestly, if you’re going to have to go back to find quotes anyways. . . What’s the point in reading the book? I mean, unless you’re a nerd like me. Reading is the bomb, but it’s hours wasted if you have other serious commitments to attend to like homework for other classes.
All you have to do is flip through the book and find literally any quote that could support your thesis. (Make sure to mark the page number so you can quote it correctly in the essay! Get as many quotes as you can. Sometimes you have to throw some out if they’re not working for you.) Don’t spend too much time looking for this evidence. If you remember something from the story summary that might help, but you don’t know where the page number in the book is – just look it up online! You’ll be able to find the page and the evidence from the summary.
The prince didn’t truly love her because. . .
- He never asked for her name (pg#)
- He didn’t stop her from leaving when she ran (pg#)
- He didn’t remember what she looked like (pg#)
The prince truly loved her because. . .
- He kept her shoe that she left behind (pg#)
- She was the only one he danced with at the ball (pg#)
- He searched the entire kingdom for her (pg#)
Of course, you’ll have more thesis possibilities and more evidence to support your theories. Once you have an entire lineup of notes, decide which thesis statement will form the best essay with the quotes you’ve found. Sometimes I’ll start writing an essay based on one thesis and then realize it’s not working out, so don’t get discouraged if you have to resort to a plan B.
So that’s it! I’ve been able to get A’s and B’s on papers without ever reading the book (not that that’s what I’m telling you to do).
Try it out and leave a comment to let me know how it works for you, or leave one of your own tips for writing a killer essay. Can’t wait to see how it turns out!
To watch my video on this, CLICK HERE.