One of the keys to writing a descriptive essay is to create a picture in your reading audience’s mind by engaging all five of their senses – smell, sight, touch, taste and sound. If you can do this, then your essay is a success, if not, then you have a lot of work to do. The first steps in writing a descriptive essay will lay the groundwork for the entire piece.
Step 1: Choose a topic
A descriptive essay will usually focus on a single event, a person, a location or an item. When you write your essay, it is your job to convey your idea about that topic through your description of that topic and the way that you lay things out for your reader. You need to show your reader (not tell them) what you are trying to describe by illustrating a picture in their mind’s eye very carefully.
Your essay needs to be structured in a manner that helps your topic to make sense. If you are describing an event, you will need to write your paragraphs in chronological order. If you are writing about a person or a place you need to order the paragraphs so that you start off in a general manner and then write more specific details later. Your introductory paragraph sets the tone for the rest of the essay, so it needs to set out all of the main ideas that you are going to cover in your essay.
Step 2: Create a statement
The next step is to create a thesis statement. This is a single idea that will be prominent throughout your essay. It not only sets out the purpose of the essay, but regulates the way that the information is conveyed in the writing of that essay. This is an introductory paragraph that sets out your topic framework.
Step 3: Get the senses right
Next, create five labelled columns on a sheet of paper, each one having a different of the five senses. This labelled list will help you to sort out your thoughts as you describe your topic – the taste, sight, touch, smell and sound of your topic can be sketched out among the columns. List out in the columns any sensation or feeling that you associate with the topic that you are writing about. You need to provide full sensory details that help to support the thesis. You can utilize literary tools such as metaphors, similes, personification and descriptive adjectives.
Once you have the columns laid out you can start to fill them with details that help to support your thesis. These should be the most interesting items that you have noted in your columns and will the details that you flesh out into the paragraphs of the body of your essay. Topics are set out in each separate paragraph and a topic sentence begins that paragraph and need to relate to your introductory paragraph and your thesis.
Step 4: Create an outline
The next step is to create an outline listing the details of the discussion of each paragraph. Students in high school are generally asked to write a five paragraph essay while college students are given more freedom with the length of their piece. The standard five paragraph essay has a particular structure including the introductory paragraph with the inclusion of a thesis statement, followed by three body paragraphs which prove that statement.
Step 5: Write the conclusion
Finally, the conclusion paragraph makes a summary of the entirety of your essay. This conclusion also needs to reaffirm your thesis (if necessary). Your conclusion needs to be well written because it is the final thing to be read by your reader and will remain on their mind the longest after they have read the remainder of your essay.
Step 6: Review your essay
It is important to take a break from your writing once you have completed the work. By stepping away from the work for a short time you can clear your mind and take a short rest. You can then take a look at the essay with fresh eyes and view it in much the same way that a person reading it will when they first see the piece.
After you have taken a short break or a walk (or whatever the case may be), read the entire essay again thinking about your reader. You should ask yourself if you were the reader, would the essay make sense to you? Is it easy to read so that anyone can understand what the topic of the essay is? Do any of the paragraphs need to be rewritten because they are confusing and need to be better written to be descriptive?
Your choice of words and language need to convey what you are trying to describe when you talk about a particular topic. The details that you have provided should give your reader enough information that they can form a complete picture. Any details in the essay should help a reader to understand the meaning of the topic from the writer’s point of view.
Read your entire essay over again, out loud this time. Sometimes reading something out loud can help to identify any issues that should be worked out. Read the essay again to a friend or family member and have them give you any criticisms that they might have. Have someone else ready your essay and then ask them if anything needs to be clarified or if they received a clear picture from the details given in the essay.
Step 7: Finish it up
Finally, read your essay again very carefully and check for any grammar, punctuation or spelling errors that are obvious within the essay. If you find any clichés, be sure to delete them, they certainly do not belong in your essay. If there are any parts that are not completely descriptive or don’t make as much sense as you would like them to, rewrite them once again and then follow the proof reading and reading aloud process again to ensure that the final product is exactly as expected. You can never be too thorough when it comes to reading the essay over again and checking for any areas that need to be reworked.
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A first draft is a rough sketch of your future piece of writing. Sometimes your first draft may become the final one due to it being rather satisfactory, but in most cases, it requires further work. A first draft is a way to elaborate on the main points of your essay stated in your outline, giving them a sample form. It may seem paradoxical, but while being one of the most important stages of the writing process, most first drafts don’t require a tremendous attention to detail.
Steps for Writing a First Draft of an Essay
- Take a closer look at your assignment and the topic if it was given to you by your instructor. Revise your outline as well. This is needed for your clearer understanding of the tasks you must accomplish within the draft, and to make sure you meet the requirements of the assignment.
- Sketch out the introduction of your essay. At this point, don’t get stalled on form; introductory part should inform readers about what the topic is, and state your point of view according to this topic. The introduction should also be interesting to read to capture readers’ attention, but this task has more to do with thoughtful and scrupulous writing, and thus should be left for later.
- Based on your outline, start transferring your ideas to paper. The main task here is to give them the initial form and set a general direction for their further development, and not to write a full paper.
- Chalk out the summarizing paragraph of your essay. It should not contain any new ideas, but briefly reintroduce those from the main body, and restate your thesis statement.
- Read through the draft to see if you have included the information you wanted to, but without making any further corrections, since this is a task for the second and final drafts.
Key Points to Consider
- While an outline is needed to decide on what to write, the first draft is more about answering a question: “How to write?” In the first draft, you shape your ideas out, and not simply name and list them, as you did in an outline.
- When you start writing your thoughts down, it may happen that one idea or concept sparks new connections, memories, or associations. Be attentive to such sidetracks; choose those of them that might be useful for your writing, and don’t delve in those that are undesirable in terms of the purpose of your paper (academic, showing opinion). A successful piece of writing is focused on its topic, and doesn’t include everything you have to say on a subject.
- Making notes for yourself in the margins or even in the middle of the text is a useful practice. This can save you time and keep you focused on the essence of your essay without being distracted by secondary details. For example, such notes could look like this: “As documented, the Vietnam War cost the United States about … (search for the exact sum of money and interpret it in terms of modern exchange rates) U. S. dollars.”
- When you finish crafting your first draft, it is useful to put it aside and completely quit thinking about writing for a certain period of time. Time away will allow you to have a fresh look at your draft when you decide to revise it.
Do and Don’t
Common Mistakes When Writing a First Draft of an Essay
– Editing and revising a draft in process of writing. If you stop after each sentence to think it over, you will most likely lose your flow; besides, many people have an internal editor or critic who can’t stand it if the material is written imperfectly. Therefore, first you should deal with the whole draft, and only after that proofread and edit it.
– Paying too much attention to secondary arguments, factual material, and other minor peculiarities. The main goal of the first draft is to sketch out your main ideas; you can fill it with details later. If you think you will forget about an important fact or remark, make brief notes in margins.
– Ignoring the role of a first draft in the essay writing process. Though it may seem you are wasting time working on a draft, you are working on the essay itself. You need to understand how your outline works in full written form.
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