At this point, you should be writing your full outline for your essay. While you write your outline, you should have the following:
- The best topic out of 20 or more you brainstormed
- A strongly-formed thesis statement
- The three best topic sentences based on 12 ore more examples you brainstormed
- Six strong examples to support your thesis, culled from 12 or more brainstormed examples
This is a good time to do a little review, to ask yourself some questions about your essay and where it is going. After all, you have not typed very much yet—but very soon, you will be typing your first draft! If there are any problems, then you should find them now, not after you worked really hard writing five paragraphs!
Review Your Examples
The first thing to do is to review the examples you have chosen.
You chose three topic sentences; each one should have at least two examples from the list of 12 or more that you brainstormed. If you did the assignment right, then you chose the topic sentences with the strongest examples.
Now, you must verify that. When writing the full outline, you are choosing exactly the six specific examples you will use. Take some time to think about all six examples. Ask yourself these questions:
- Can I really write a lot of specific details in each example? This is really the most important question. Many ideas will look good in a list, but could be very hard to write fully in reality. Think carefully about each example; what will you write about? Is it specific? Are you telling the story of one event? Is it interesting? Can you be detailed about it?
- Are my examples really unified? Do they support both their topic sentence and the essay thesis? Is the support strong and direct?
- Are my body paragraphs in the right order? Is there a reason for their ordering? Do the ideas in each paragraph flow well to each other paragraph?
- Are my examples in the right order in the paragraphs? How will I connect them together? Is there a time order, or an order of importance? Will the first example follow nicely after the end of the previous paragraph? Will the first example lead smoothly to the second example? Will the second example flow well into the following paragraph?
- Are my examples clear? Some ideas, stories, and descriptions are clear to you because you know them well. Think about whether your examples will be easy for the reader to understand. If you knew nothing about the story or the situation, would you be able to understand it well? Would the reason for telling the story be clear?
Test each example using these questions. If any example does not seem to work well, then throw it out, and try to find another example from your brainstorming that will fit.
Write Your Outline, and Check It
Write your complete outline based on the review suggested above.
Once you have finished, do a review. read your outline from start to finish, and ask these questions:
- Unity: Does everything fit together well? Does anything seem out of place? Is there any point or example which is even a little off-topic?
- Structure, Development: Do you have the right body paragraph structure? Are there two examples per paragraph? Does each example have good details?
- Coherence: How does the essay flow? Do you think it will run smnoothly from one idea to the next? Is there any place where you sense a sudden "jump" in the ideas?
- Overall impression: After reading the outline, how do you feel? Does it seem convincing? Do you feel like you should have stronger examples?
It's Not Too Late: Now Is the Best Time to Change
Do you have any sense that this idea is not working very well? If you do, then consider:
- Revise: re-order your ideas; possibly throw out some weaker ideas and replace them with better ones from your brainstorming.
- Regenerate: Go back and do more brainstorming for this topic. Come up with more examples. Maybe revise your thesis statement.
- Restart: Throw away this essay idea completely. Go back and use another topic from your brainstorming, or do more topic brainstorming and start again from the beginning.
You may not want to throw away all the work you have done so far, but it might be better to do that instead of moving forward with an essay which is not very strong!
In addition, you could get more practice with the process we are learning. Not to mention, it is usually easier the second time you try!
Once you have confirmed that your whole essay—all the ideas, the ordering, then basic principles—are all good, then you should do at least one more thing to prepare for draft writing.
Sit down with a blank piece of paper. Look at the topics you are going to deal with. Then begin writing down a list of words you could use in the essay. Use a thesaurus!! If you want, you could get together with classmates, and they can suggest words also! (Basic vocabulary is not plagiarism.)
- Verbs: try to come up with a lot of descriptive verbs. If your thesis is about someone bring clumsy, then words like drop, fall, stumble, crash, collide, and smash could be good words to use.
- Nouns: nouns can be expressive! Again, with the example of clumsy, you could use accident, disaster, wreck, mess, destruction, or injury.
- Adjectives: What could make the story more descriptive? In my example, maybe careless, awkward, uncoordinated, imbalanced, unbelievable, terrible, or perhaps hilarious.
- Adverbs Maybe blindly, carelessly, unknowingly, crazily, or shockingly.
Don't just limit yourself to those categories! Think up phrases, expressings, the names of sounds, anything you can think of. Once you are finished, keep that list handy. Add new words whenever you think of them. The list could help you come up with ideas of what to write about.
This is actually a good preparation activity to get ready for a lot of things. For example, before you read an article or book, or attend a class lecture or any lecture, do this activity, and you may be better prepared to understand what the speaker is talking about. Not to mention, it is a great vocabulary exercise!