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Dear Editor: What Is the Secret to Great Essay Writing?

—(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. Dear Editor: 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? —Harold… [Read More]

Dear Editor: the Secret to Great Essay Writing by Betty Kelly Sargent for BookWorks.com

—(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.

Dear Editor: the Secret to Great Essay Writing by Betty Kelly Sargent for BookWorks.com

Dear Editor:

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?

—Harold B.

 

"...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.

I agree.

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.

Dear Editor: the Secret to Great Essay Writing by Betty Kelly Sargent for BookWorks.com

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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2 thoughts on “Dear Editor: What Is the Secret to Great Essay Writing?”

  1. I hadn’t thought too much about writing literary essays, but that seems a good way to get people acquainted with the author who writes them. Are there a variety of good markets for them? How about markets for essays about classics?

  2. Hi Faith,

    Yes, publishing essays is a great way to build your readership, develop your craft and produce a body of work (portfolio) that establishes your cred as a writer thereby opening doors to other publishing opportunities. There are literary journals and magazines for every genre/audience. If you follow us on FB you’ll see that we frequently post submission opportunities in all markets, even paid ones. We recently shared a couple great free pdf resources here on the site activity feed (under Author Network tab). Here is the link to our FB page: https://www.facebook.com/bookworksllc/.

    Thank you for your comment….Betty & the BW Team

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