Tips for finishing that procrastinated paper

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Writing is a challenge. It would be a rare thing to find someone who says writing is a joy or is easy. In a book titled On Writing Well, William Zinsser writes, “Writing is hard work. Very few sentences come out right the first time. Remember this in moments of despair. If you find writing is hard, it’s because it is hard.”

Before you sink into despair about writing your next paper, here are some tips to help you push through any doubts about your writing skills.

Put away distractions

Short and sweet, put away distractions. Put down the iPhone, turn off Netflix, put your computer in airplane mode and put your full attention on that paper. When you focus on your writing without distractions, you will find that your writing will improve and your grade on that paper will be much better than if you had binge watched House of Cards and tried to finish the paper 15 minutes before it was due.

Set a schedule

Stephen King (IT, The Shining) is known as a master storyteller and publishes large novels in record time. In an open discussion in front of a live audience, King and George R.R. Martin (Game of Thrones) discussed writing their novels among other things. At the end of the conference, Martin asked King, “How do you write books so fast?” King explained that he works by a schedule.

“I try to get six pages a day,” King said. “I work every day for three to four hours, get those six pages done and get them cleaned up.”

Like King, set a schedule for your writing. Three to four hours might be a bit extreme for writing a report but creating a schedule to write your paper in chunks throughout the week can ease the stress and load of writing your paper.

Start at the end

Sometimes finding the right beginning of a report can be frustrating. Hours are lost trying to think how to begin. Instead of trying to formulate the first two sentences, begin your paper from the end to finish. John Irving, world-renowned novelist screenwriter, does this same process whenever he works on his stories.

While discussing  his novel In One Person Irving said, “I always begin with endings, with last sentences — usually more than a single last sentence, often a last paragraph (or two).  I compose an ending and write toward it, as if the ending were a piece of music I can hear.”

Understand the importance of proofreading

It’s just as important to go back and proofread your paper as it is to write it. Once you finish your paper, give yourself a full day or night to step away from the paper and come back to it with fresh eyes. Read the paper out loud when you come back to it. You may be surprised at the mistakes you will catch.

In an interview talking about writing the first book in the Harry Potter series, author J.K. Rowling said that she rewrote the opening chapter of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone 15 times before publishing. Contrary to popular belief, even big-time writers go back and edit their own writing.