FAQ
(frequently asked questions)
What if I can't get started?
Hmmmmm... you can't get started... have you worked out the essay question, done your brainstorming, freewriting, planning, and are now sitting down to do the draft and have gone blank?

If the answer is yes: Look at your plan, go to the first paragraph, write your topic sentence and try to go from there. Try not to think of your essay as a gigantic amorphous thing - think of all the little pieces. Small pieces are easy to handle! Tackle them one at a time. Use the structure notes (see Structure and planning) to help you understand what each piece will do. You have all your ideas already. You have your answer to the essay question. Now relax and let it come out bit by bit...

If the answer is no: Tut, tut, tut! Go do those things!!!! Now!!!! That's what they're there for!!!

What if I'm not sure what to put in the introduction?
First: What aren't you sure about? If you're not sure what should go in an introduction, go to Structure and planning and look at the description of Basic Expository Essay structure. If the problem is that you simply don't know how you want to start, or you can't think of a clever opening or the tone you want to set - skip it and move onto the paragraphs. It's easy to fall into the trap of writing an introduction then strangling the rest of the essay by trying to stick to what you have said in that introduction. You're much more likely to write an interesting, lively essay if you start writing from your plan then really run with the ideas. THEN go back after you've finished, read what you wrote, and write an introduction that truly introduces the real content of your essay. Keep in mind that you have to make that content answer the question. By writing the introduction first you're clearly stating to yourself as well as to your reader what you're trying to do. Use the method that works for you, and remember you can always fix it in the second draft - there's no need for stress yet!

What if I can't stop my introduction and it takes over the whole essay???
Introductions can do that. Sometimes they get very long.... remember that they are there to open up the essay. They are GENERAL. You don't need examples, you don't need details - you just need to sweep the readers up into what you're going to do. So, once you've told them, get on with the next paragraph!

What do I do if I get stuck?
Pause, then try reading from the beginning of the paragraph to regain your flow and then try to keep going. Whatever you do, don't think "I'm stuck! I'm stuck!!!" That will NOT help you! We want to keep you flowing and creative! Try to relax. Now, if you can't get your flow back on that paragraph, leave some space, then skip onto the next one. Go back after you've finished and try that sticky paragraph again. If it still doesn't work - don't worry yet! Leave it until the second draft. (See Editing and rewriting.)

What if it's really messy?
Who cares? It's the first draft! Don't spend any time on corrections - that's just a distraction. Flow! Write! Use crayon if you want!!! In the first draft the point is expressing the ideas NOT the presentation.