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How To Write A 20 Page Essay

Writing the perfect paper is a lot like a military operation. It takes discipline, foresight, research, strategy, and, if done right, ends in total victory. It follows then that the best advice for writing a paper -- be it a high school essay, a college research paper, or even an office memo at a Fortune 500 company -- would come from the tactics of a brilliant military commander.

I discovered these tactics myself as a student, reading in awe of the mastery of ancient military masters and put them to good use. I could then -- and still can, when necessary -- bust out a ten or even twenty page paper with a few days notice. I've developed a worry-free formula for your academic paper or essay (called the Spartan System) that has been so successful that it was printed out and taught as a curriculum by almost every English teacher I've had. Naturally, I was hesitant to teach my secrets to more than a few friends but after I left school and published the formula online in 2007, the formula went viral across the web. It's since been used in classrooms across the country by many satisfied strangers. I've gotten countless emails from adherents -- and these emails are always the same: your system got me an A. In my own life, I applied the tactics to my writing and knocked out a 70,000+ word book in 90 days... which I sold for a cool six-figures.

What Was My Secret?

In my reading of Greek history, I stumbled across an obscure military maneuver, one designed for troops penetrating deep in enemy lines. It seemed to be used by the greatest of generals from the Spartan Brasidas to the Athenian Xenophon (an actual student of Socrates). I thought, if this one trick can protect a ten thousand man march through country after country of hostile territory, it can probably work for a silly school paper.

Their tactic was this: to successfully march or retreat, the general brings his troops together in an outward facing square with their supplies and wounded in the middle and the strongest troops at the front and back. As they moved away from unfavorable ground, the men would defend their side, stepping out only slightly to meet their attackers and then retreating immediately back to the safety of the shape. And thus they were completely impenetrable, able to travel fluidly and slowly demoralize the attacking army. As Xenophon wrote, the idea was that having prepared hollow square in advance, so that "we should not have to plan [everything defense related] when the enemy is approaching but could immediately make use of those who have been specially detailed for the job."

My essay format works the same. Consider your introduction as the creator of the shape, and then the following paragraphs making up each side. They venture outwards when called to but never abandon the safety of the formation entirely. It is a process of constant realignment, maintaining the square at all cost. In terms of "writing" you need only to create a handful of original sentences for the entire essay: a thesis, a theme, a mini-thesis which begins each paragraph and a conclusionary sentence that says what it all means. Everything else is a variation of these four sentences in some way. Together they create the square, and the serves as the point of return -- much like Chuck Palahniuk concept of "chorus lines (see in books like Fight Club, where whenever the plot gets off track he immediately comes back to one -- "I am Jack's sense of rejection.") And so the reader always protected and the troops defend your point.

Forget your teacher's boring prompt. Forget "Commentary/Concrete Detail/Commentary/Concrete Detail" and all that nonsense. Let's do real work, real writing.

Here is the outline for a hypothetical five paragraph paper:

Introduction: (see a complete intro example here)

  1. Begin with a broad, conclusive hook. This will be the meta-theme of the paper. Example from a paper on The Great Gatsby: "When citizens exhibit a flagrant disregard of morality and law, societies quickly crumble."
  2. Thesis. This needs to specify and codify the hook in relation to the prompt/subject. Ex: "This atmosphere as shown in F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby -- with blatant corruption and illegal activity -- eventually seems to become all but incompatible with a meaningful incarnation of the American Dream."
  3. One sentence laying foundation for first body paragraph. (These are mini-theses for each point you will argue.)
  4. Sentence for second body paragraph.
  5. One sentence for third body paragraph.
  6. Restate the hook and thesis into a single transition sentence into the first paragraph. "The 1920′s as the epitome of excess and reactionism symbolized a sharp break in the American tradition; one that no one seemed to mind."

Notes/Advice: Some say the thesis should go at the bottom of the intro instead of the top, which I think is a huge mistake. The point of a paper is to make an assertion and then support it. You can't support it until you've made it.

Body #1

  1. Rewrite first body paragraph thesis.
  2. Support the mini-thesis with evidence and analysis.
  3. Restate body paragraph thesis in the context of thesis as a whole.

Notes/Advice:

-Begin with your strongest piece of evidence

-Introduce quotes/points like this: Broad->Specific->Analysis/Conclusion

-Always integrate the quote, and try to incorporate analysis into the same sentence. As a general rule never use more than 5-7 of the author's words. Normally you can use even less: "It was Jay, who despite the corruption around him, looked forward to what was described as an 'orgastic future.'"

Body #2

  1. Rewrite second body paragraph thesis.
  2. Support mini-thesis.
  3. Restate body paragraph thesis in context of the paragraph above and thesis as whole.

Body #3

  1. Rewrite third body paragraph thesis.
  2. Support mini-thesis.
  3. Restate body paragraph thesis in context of the paragraph above and thesis as whole.

Conclusion

  1. Restate hook/meta-theme.
  2. Specify this with restatement of thesis once more.
  3. One sentence for each body paragraph, surmising its assertion.
  4. One sentence for each body paragraph, surmising its assertion.
  5. One sentence for each body paragraph, surmising its assertion.
  6. Rewrite hook and thesis into a conclusion sentence.
  7. Last sentence must transition to general statement about human nature. "The American Dream -- and any higher aspiration -- requires a society that both looks forward and onwards as well as holds itself to corrective standard."

****

That's it. Seriously. You can see why this frees you up as a writer; essentially, the format requires just six original sentences and the rest is nothing more but reiteration and support. It works for a paper of 300 words just as much as it does for one of 300 pages. It's self-generating, self-reinforcing and self-fulfilling. Could you ask for anything better?

Just like the tactics of the great generals, by laying out the square in advance with clear, orderly lines, you insulate yourself from the chaos of improvisation. You mark the boundaries now so later you don't have to. Each paragraph is given a singular purpose and its only duty is to fulfill it. No longer is the professor or teacher grading you in terms of the prompt, because you have redefined the dynamic on your terms. By marking the boundaries out early, excellence is achieved simply by filling them in with your sentences. You take the prompt and make it your own. You place the reader in the middle of the square, protected by all sides, and methodically move them forward, defending doubts and objections as they arise.

With the strongest thoughts at the introduction and at the conclusion, you make it so that the reader -- or the soldiers, as historian VD Hanson pointed out -- "might be led by the former and pushed by the latter." The thesis is buttressed at the top by your intro hook and at the end by your look forward. The middle is just details. The thesis is the entire paper-as it is, and always should have been. Once that is written, everything else falls quickly into place. The meta-theme, logically, is deduced from your primary theme just as your mini-themes are. All that is left to the writer is to simple decide a theme and record it to paper. And like Palahniuk, when we venture too far from it, remind the reader with a chorus line.

And if you object too much to rigid structure, consider the freedom this truly allows you (none of which is ever permitted in the horrible "Schaffer Method"). Once you've disregarded-or been able to reduce to the subconscious-the actual form of the paper, all that is left is the ideas. Isn't that what is truly important? Would you rather parrot back plot summary or take the theme not only to a new level, but an understandable one? If a professor can't respect that, what does their grade even mean? All I know is that this technique has allowed me both to remove any sort of stress from paper-writing, and even better, given me the opportunity to put to words concepts I'm grappling with.

So go now. Internalize this system and watch as it does all your work for you. See if you can beat the record: an 8 page paper in 3 hours... with a nice big A+ stamped on the front.

Follow Ryan Holiday on Twitter: www.twitter.com/ryanholiday

Today’s topic is on how to write that 1000 words really fast, or write a 2000-word or 3000-word or even 10,000 word, 30 page essay in one day. How to write 500 words or 1000 words or 2000 words or even 10,000 words in a day? Dude, it’s true – if you do it right, you can write a 10,000-word essay in a day. Yes, completely possible. It’s all in the mind. If you have an alert and super-dynamic mind, and if your thoughts travel fast, you can probably write a 1000-word essay in an hour or 75 minutes. But it will all depend on your mental alertness. Some days will be slow and on some days, you will be on a roll and will be able to work super-fast. So, the motivational level, your level of alertness will possibly determine how much work you ultimately get done.

I will tell you how long it takes to write 500 words – as a general rule, it should take 50 minutes. However, you can do better and once you focus and kick butt, you can probably get the job done in 30 minutes. Usually the time taken to write an essay or a page or two would depend on many objective and subjective factors. Okay, I know I am doing the “objective and subjective” thingy, but really if you think about it, everything you talk about has objective and subjective sides. So yeah, the objective factors would be the topic of the essay and difficulty level, resources available on the topic and the computer or internet you are using, other factors such as environmental noise and other distractions. The subjective factors would be related to your motivational level, your knowledge levels, how you react to your distractions, your typing speed, how fast you can learn and other factors related to your subjective strengths and weaknesses.

To give you a very blunt response on whether you can write 1000 words or 4 pages in one day, of course you can, the answer would finally boil down to your personal ability. The time taken to write an essay or a few pages would vary from one individual and another, and it would depend on a range of factors as I already indicated. The ability to write fast would also depend on factors other than your personal or intellectual ability. It could depend on whether you are on crack, coke (not the drink) or steroids – just kidding. But yeah, those are the physical factors, like your diet, bodily or physical abilities, your speed, your sleep patterns, physiology and general health – a lot of things actually and everything adds up to whether you are able to produce a terrific essay in minutes. Alertness could depend on your physiological ability and brain functioning could be affected by medications you are taking. So, there are many factors you should consider while writing that essay. If you feel that certain medications are making you drowsy, or your sleep patterns are not that optimum, don’t take those medicines and sleep properly, before you write that essay, so that nothing slows down your speed. Certain foods can slow you down, especially rice and potatoes. Coffee is good. Tea works too.

Coffee or Tea – Pep up to write / Image Source: Sterlingandstone.net

Tips and Tricks

The main point of writing this blogpost is to tell you how fast you can go while writing a 1000 words, 3000 words or 10,000 words essay – can you write a 30 page essay in a day? There is no clear rule as I said – everything depends on how fast “you” can go, but of course you came on this site to learn the tricks of writing a fast essay and I will give you those tricks sure, and show you how to cheat your brains and before your brain knows it – you’ll be able to complete that essay.

So, how is it that you ditch the brain and do your thing? Again, just kidding. You don’t. You use your brain in a way that you wouldn’t normally use, so it’s like a game, you take the brain for a hitchhike and the brain rides along with you and goes where you take it and moves as fast as you make it move. It’s not like the brain is literally moving but the thinking is fast and slow as you want it to be, and the thinking would determine how fast (or slow) you write.

Thinking and Writing – Fast / Image Source: Youtube.com

The tricks are:

  1. read up fast. Yes, read up about the topic really fast.
  2. Create an outline real fast. Look up the citation style and use your speed to come up with a skeletal essay structure quickly. For a 1000-word essay, an outline or structure or the reading up should not take more than 15 minutes.
  3. Reading up – done, Outline – done, so now write the essay – write what you know. Just remember the topic you’re writing about and recollect what you read, and write as fast as you can – this should not take more than 30 minutes if you have enough speed.
  4. Edit the essay, check up on spelling, grammar, do the final reading and editing and check for relevance and missing points. This should not take more than 15 minutes for a 1000-word paper.
  5. Bingo – you’re done.

So, how long did it take to write your super-tough 1000-word essay? Yes, just one hour. How cool is that? The trick is to think you’re on this wild and really fast ride, and to imagine you’re on real steroids (don’t however take the steroids – you know that’s not quite cool, right?). But just imagine. Essay writing is like this really cool game of riding a super fast train or boat or rocket, and thinking too fast and pulling your brains along with you for the crazy, wild ride. It is important to change your mindset to get your work done. It is also important to remove the mental block to get your work done. Essay writing is not boring, essay writing is not tough. Essay writing is a game. Essay writing is a wild ride. It’s all about perspective, you agree? So, you are ready to play the game and go on a wild ride, right?

The real trick is to think fast and write fast. Yes, you must be very dynamic while doing your writing – read several sources at once, multitask and write fast. Timing yourself and testing your writing powers to see how fast you can write is a pretty good thing. You think size matters? I’m telling you, speed REALLY matters. In this case, the size of your essay will depend on the word count specified by your teacher – boring, right? To be within limitations and all that. These days professors have however discovered smarter ways to get students interested, and keep things open in terms of word count and topics. You will sometimes get various options on what you want to write, methodology or approach you take, and even the word count. However, in many cases, you are bound to follow certain rules, your options will be limited and you may not have a level of flexibility that would determine what you should write, how you should write and so on…

Constantly improving your speed is a good exercise and will require you to time your work as you go. How many words did you write on Sunday and in what period of time? Was this an improvement from the number of words you wrote last week? These are the questions you must ask yourself. A little disciplined writing exercise everyday will improve your speed. It’s a brain exercise, almost like your physical exercise, only a bit more intellectually satisfying.

If you are a student and reading this, you probably need to keep exercising with your brain and writing skills before you reach a point when you can really write fast. If you are a writing pro, you probably already have a few tricks up your sleeve, but if you need some more tricks, do the wild ride, speed-testing thing too. You shouldn’t be able to count your fingers or your blessings when you are writing too fast. So, depend only on yourself and that confidence will make you go fast.

Size? Speed matters. / Image Source: learn.org

Advanced strategies

The real challenge is however, to write a thesis in a day – yes, here’s where the thrill gets a bit crazier. Your professors will probably faint or never get back to class if you tell them that you wrote your 10000 word thesis in one day. It’s blasphemous, wild, taboo, totally forbidden territory, it’s criminal…….right? I mean, writing 10000 words in one day? Boast about it to your FB friends, and you’ll be the toast of your social network. Are you the lost genius of Atlantis? Are you Einstein’s reincarnation? Are you from another planet we never heard about?

But you know, it’s easy. Do the math. If 1000 words takes about an hour….your 10,000-word thesis should not take more than 10 hours, technically. But of course, a thesis is serious business and you should give it more attention and study, there’s methodology involved. So, let’s give it a day. If you are able to work 16 hours in a day, you should be able to complete your 10,000-word thesis in one day or within the 16 hours you work. If you are a pro, you can probably complete a thesis in less than a day, like in 12-15 hours. Again, it’s all about how much “you” can do. It’s all about your ability, your speed and your dynamism. Got stamina? Prove it!

Write…..FAAAAST / Image Source: viewbiz.net

A 10,000 word essay or thesis takes a lot of reading frankly, so do your reading first. Collect your reading material at least a few days before you begin to write. A little preparation always helps. Resources will be easily available on the web or in the library. Just google for sources or use a database. Read up all the issues relevant to your topic and go back and read the relevant sources several times, before sitting in front of the computer to write. Once you know the issues thoroughly, create the outline of the thesis and writing becomes fast and easy. If you need to collect data for your thesis, you must do this before you start writing your thesis. So, even if you can write your thesis in a day, you must do some background work before you begin writing. That’s what even writing pros do at times, although pros try to pull off a daily feat in most cases.

Some writers can be really prolific, they can write thousands of words in a day, and some can even pull off a whole book in one day. That’s when you call them genius. But genius requires more than just speed. It does need a level of knowledge. If you know a lot about your topic, you’ll find it rather easy to write something on the topic. But if you are not familiar with the topic, you’ll probably take hours, just to read and understand what’s given to you. Very little knowledge actually becomes a challenge, so regular reading habit is a good thing. The more you read, the more you learn and the more you learn, the more you remember and with the knowledge gained, you can write faster.

This is true for any topic. This is why the writing pros can write so fast. These guys write 1000s of words in a day and they can do it because of their vast repository of knowledge. Writing papers makes you knowledgeable. So, whether you are writing your own papers or that of others, you are increasing your knowledge. When you know too much, it shouldn’t take too much time to write 1000 words or 2000 words, 10000 words on any topic, quickly and easily and – in one day.

Go forth

In this blog, I tried not to focus on stages or steps of writing, but the process. This is because when you have to write fast, you must focus on only one thing – writing fast. Yes, after you have the initial structure ready, you need not worry about anything else. Just keep writing as fast as you can until you have come up with a reasonable rough draft. Once, the rough draft is done, you have crossed a major hurdle, and fixing a draft and polishing things up a bit is just a breeze.

So, if you’re smart you must have already figured out what the stages of fast writing are. Read, Structure and Write. That’s it. Of course, go edit, edit and re-edit, read, re-read and polish up your work to come up with a brilliant essay. Good luck with turning yourself from a regular, nervous, essay-avoidant student, to a super cool essay-writing ninja. Remember what you’ve just read in this blogpost.