My friend James keeps asking me how to write an essay. I’ve been a freelance writer for years, published in print on four continents and featured on numerous websites. He wants a writing template. I keep telling him there is no secret formula. All you have to do is write. I think my exact words were, “Just write, mother fucker!” But he keeps pestering me. So here we go: how to write a 400 word essay in 30 minutes. (I’m talking about personal essays with no research required.)
How to write an essay
What do you want to write about? You need a topic first. If you’re new to writing for fun start with something you know or a personal story. Not sure what to write about? Brainstorm. Make a list and then just pick something. My topic here is how to write an essay. I’ve written about everything from swimming with pigs to how to falling apart after my divorce.
Introduce your topic. This is your first paragraph. You want to catch the readers attention. Pose a question or fun fact. This is where you share what you’re going to write about and make it known you’re qualified to give this info. I started off telling you about my friend badgering me for a writing template, then let you know I’m a published author.
Break it down. What are your main points? If it’s a how-to article, break it down into steps. If you’re discussing the five most underrated queens from RuPaul’s Drag Race, start with a bullet point for each. People like subheadings, numbered lists and bullet points. It’s easier to read and holds their attention longer. Once I have my points nailed down, I go back and write my thoughts on each one.
Close it up. The closing is usually the easiest part for me. You reiterate your main points in a few sentences. Then you tie it back to your opening paragraph.
Reread and edit. Don’t overthink it. Give it a quick read, looking for errors and making sure your thoughts were presented clearly.
Write a title. I usually do my title last. If you’re writing for the Internet, you want a title that gets people’s attention, but also makes your topic clear. I find titles come to me easier once the piece is finished.
And that’s how to write an essay. This one took 25 minutes from start to finish and clocks in around 450 words. If this format doesn’t work for you, mix it up and try it a different way. The parts are interchangeable. Sometimes I start with the title and go from there. It really doesn’t matter.
I stand by, “Just write, mother fucker.”