The Creative Spark! – Pit Bull with a Perm

Did writing your essays ever feel like locking eyes with a gnarly pit bull? Or worse, did you get bitch-slapped with a “minus” grade?

One prof labeled me an A-minus student. Everything I did, whether stellar or stupid, got the A-minus. Tainted a near-perfect GPA.

So, how do you nab an A in your essays? With the blood of an editor’s comb. (Yes, beware the knots.) You see, without grooming your essay, you’re left with a wigless Lady Gaga look?a first-week marine recruit. A sure-fire minus. And what are your essay’s knots? “To be” verbs. Sloppy sounds. Deadwood. Muzzle those gnarls.

William A. Akers teaches screenplay editing in his book Your Screenplay Sucks! 100 Ways to Make it Great. I apply his tips to primp your essays.

Read your work aloud: three times. If you hear something “off,” correct it, then read three time all over again. When profs read your essays, they hear your words inside their heads. So, make your words musical. The writers of G.I Jane must have read the script a million times; I assume that because the actors’ words sounded in perfect tempo with the soundtrack.

Don’t repeat anything. Don’t introduce or follow-up a quote with a mere repetition of whatever’s already inside the quote. Instead, add a twist: an analysis or commentary. For instance, you could say, “’Jones (2016) forecasted Trump’s election victory would result in a bull stock market.’ This quote suggests that stock investors foresaw high growth policies in a Trump victory.” Add insight.

Also, don’t repeat words. Try not to say, “Jesse had a half-cocked gun coupled with a cocky smile.” Okay, sometimes you can get away with it. But generally, try to substitute repeated words with synonyms.

Want to write a 110-page script? Print the prior day’s work and make edits in red pen. Only then continue writing. In other words, write a portion of your essay on day one. On day two, print out day one’s work and make your edits so youcan start writing having a clear understanding of what came before and be able to continue smoothly. Only then, continue writing. But don’t start rewriting until you’ve finished your first draft.

Write daily. When you have an essay due, schedule at least two hours a day of essay love. If writing a graduate level thesis, two hours a day will leave you on the fast track to a PhD.

After you write your script’s first draft, isolate 15-page chunks to rewrite. After you finish the first draft of your graduate thesis, tackle fifteen page chunks for rewriting, too. On a smaller scale, after you write an undergraduate essay, tackle five-page chunks (or more) to rewrite per sitting.

Make your first ten-pages count. In an essay, give the first two pages more oomph than Lady Gaga’s meat-dress-on-fire. But make these pages flawless: not a single spelling mistake or grammar error in sight. In fact, make the whole essay flawless. That’s how you get into graduate school.

Make your first sentence dazzling. Scriptwriters can judge your script based on your first sentence. Similarly, make your essay’s first sentence a looker.

Have a friend read aloud your script?so you can hear how bad it sounds. When you read aloud your script, hey, it sounds perfect. But when Moe reads aloud your script, hey, it sucks. Getting others to read your script aloud will help you fine tune weaknesses where your intended tone didn’t come through in your writing

Movie producers despise “to be” verbs. Your prof does, too. When you see an is, are, am, was, were, been, be, then cross out those nasties and substitute new verbs. In general, be-, have-, and do-verbs need replacements as often as toilet paper does.

Unknot your essay’s gnarls ? like combing a pit bull with a perm. When your words are as tight as the Philharmonic, you’ve nailed an A. So, turn your frizzy pit bulls into harp pickers?not skull biters! A paradox? I call it a creative spark!