—(Originally appeared in Publishers Weekly)—
This month, our own "Dear Editor", Betty Kelly Sargent, responds to a writer who wants to try his hand at essay writing.
I'm interested in writing essays but have only written fiction so far. Any tips on what to read and how to write a good essay?
"...essays at their best offer a different route into a writer’s mind than fiction or memoir: more indirect, perhaps, but also potentially thrilling, like listening in on the process of someone thinking, choosing and dismissing perceptions, alighting on one adjective rather than another through critical skill and the power of synthesis,” says Daphne Merkin in a recent issue of the New York Times Book Review.
Start by Reading Fine Examples of Essay Writing
And since you are new to essay writing, I suggest that you start off by reading a sampling of some of the best essays in print.
For example, read Goodbye to All That by Joan Didion, Arguably by Christopher Hitchens, Politics and the English Language by George Orwell, Fail Better by Zadie Smith, A Man Without a Country by Kurt Vonnegut, and Once More to the Lake by E.B White.
Try to work out what it is about these essays that make them so strong. Then:
1 - Choose your subject,
2 - Research it thoroughly,
3 - State your thesis in the opening paragraph,
4 - Keep it moving, clear, fresh, original, and lose the extraneous adverbs,
5 - Write a compelling conclusion.
Write and Repeat
That should do it. If you are not happy with your first draft, be prepared to start again. Pretty soon you should get the hang of it and before you know it, you’ll be proud of the finished results.
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