Cooking for Writers: A Recipe for a Great Paper

Writing for a writer becomes a habitual process where the flow comes and just gets rolling. Pages and pages full of words course from our brains and through our hands in no time at all. It’s like giving a knife to a cook. The meal doesn’t take long at all to be ready.

Staying with the cooking analogy, someone who doesn’t know how to cook stands dumbfounded looking at ingredients and wondering what to do with them all. The same happens with someone who isn’t very familiar with the writing process. Thoughts are streaming through your brain, but you can’t get them out on the page. You can’t get them started.

Writing shouldn’t be as difficult as most people think. If you can talk to your friends, you can write. You’ve learned enough to start what you want to say, say what you want to say and sometimes you even get a chance to wrap up what you want to say. All you have to learn now is how to get it down on paper.

Just Begin

What stops most people from writing is getting started. How to begin is the question. Don’t look for some dramatic way to begin your document whether it’s an essay for college or an article for a magazine. Just begin.

What is the point of your paper? Start with a sentence that pinpoints the answer to that question and then go for it. Write the first paragraph with supporting sentences. Write your paper with supporting paragraphs and then, wrap it up in a nice little conclusion. Now, you can go back to the beginning and go for a more impressive, dramatic introduction if you want.

Trying to add the flowers before the dirt never worked. Think of Billy Crystal in Throw Momma From The Train. He has writer’s block because he can’t get past the first sentence. Sometimes you can’t start on the first sentence. It’s easier to start at the point you’re trying to make and then go back later to add an eye-catching first sentence.

Mean What You Say

All of a sudden, you are on a roll. You’re thinking thoughts faster than you can type them. Keep going and don’t stop. Don’t correct your paper while you’re writing it. Trust me! If you are writing this fast, you have plenty to correct.

Once you have finished writing, go back and look it over. You’ll catch most of your spelling mistakes in a hurry. Just look for all the red. Now, go back and look for homonyms which technically are spelling errors. Using the wrong word in a sentence is hard to catch, so take your time and look your paper over thoroughly. If it belongs to you, then the word to use is “your.” If you mean “you are,” then use “you’re.” These are common mistakes. Now, put your paper up for a few days.

Take a Break

You become very connected to your work. It’s like a child to you. Everyone else can point out your child’s flaws, but you can’t see them. Your paper has flaws. You just can’t see them.

Put the paper up for a few days. If you have a deadline, always make sure you have time to put your paper on the shelf and walk away from it for a few days. After a few days or weeks, you’ll become less connected to your own work and you’ll be able to see your errors. The time you need to spend away from your work is directly related to the size of the work itself. A five page paper is fine after a few days. A three hundred page book needs about a month.

Look for your grammar mistakes. Punctuation can easily change the meaning of a sentence. In the swipe of a comma, you can say the exact opposite of what you mean. For example, a woman without her man is nothing. A woman; without her, man is nothing.

The most important thing about looking over your paper is saying what you meant to say. When you are writing fast, words are getting thrown into your paper all over the place. But when you look over your paper, take a look at what exactly each sentence is saying. Does it say what you meant? Is there a more exact word you can use?

There is so much more to proofreading a paper. And you should learn the steps if you are going to be doing it on your own. I remember a day in college when I had just finished a paper and didn’t want to take the time to properly proofread it. I wanted to turn it in now and it cost me a letter grade. When the professor returned my paper, every mistake was simple and one I could have caught myself.

Take the time. Be patient and do it right! Before long, you’ll be able to do it blindfolded with the efficiency of a professional writer.