You read over your paper after it is declared finished, and things simply aren’t sitting right for you. You read through it once. That wasn’t satisfying, so you read through it twice, and you wonder, “Why do I feel like something is missing?” Writing an essay, creative or otherwise, is difficult and requires devoted attention to detail. In my study of Creative Writing, I have learned many different troubleshooting techniques to help me make my work the best that it can be.
If I am writing creatively and I feel like something is missing from my draft, I look at the main problem driving the plot. Sometimes, the plot has holes, or inconsistencies that I built into my own work by accident. This can include many things, but the one I confront most frequently is in my worldbuilding; it has happened all too often that I have written an event taking place that does not make sense when abiding by the rules that I built for my fictional universe.
The skill I developed to identify plot holes has helped me notice inconsistent elements in my academic papers. For me, the thesis of my essay is like the plot of a creative narrative. The thesis is the backbone of the paper, and if I feel like an academic essay is lacking, the first thing I check is the thesis.
If the thesis, as it is written, does not ideologically encompass all the elements in the essay, the essay has a plot hole that needs to be mended. To remedy this issue, it might be helpful to try examining the conclusion. Since the conclusion is a summary of all the argumentative points in the paper, it is common to find the full thesis statement lurking around in the conclusion somewhere. Once you find the unabridged thesis, you can move it back up to the introduction.
When I am creative writing, I reread my story after fixing a plot hole, and sometimes I am still unsatisfied with my work. Next, I check to make sure my narrative events are occurring in the proper sequence. Sometimes, by oversight, a character is acting on information that they never officially learned. This skill for identifying temporal inconsistencies has been immensely helpful in my academic writing.
Logically, the flow of ideas in a paper should come in a particular order. In a typical argument, a claim is made and then supported by evidence. The significance of the evidence is then further explained, and this goes on through each different example. Then, if the writer chooses, they can incorporate a counterclaim and refute it in order to strengthen their argument and make sure it is free of logical fallacies. If this order is not preserved, the argument may become confusing to the reader and possibly even to the writer. Restructuring the argument can give a paper the push it needs to become the best that it can be.
The Purdue University’s Online Writing Lab website provides a detailed list of different argumentative structures which I will provide below.
Sometimes, I get to this point in the revision process, and I am still finding that my work is lacking. This can be a result of a variety of different problems. Occasionally, it is because I have dialogue or events that are left over from previous drafts that are no longer relevant. In academic writing, this has helped me identify argumentative points that do not adequately support my thesis. If an argumentative point no longer serves the overarching goals of the paper, it might be time to delete that section and replace it with something else.
In some cases, to find out what is holding my writing back, I must move from the macro level to the micro level. Sometimes, complex sentence structures are a piece’s biggest obstacle. A sentence with too many relative clauses can be confusing to read, even if it is grammatically correct. If the sentence doesn’t have too many relative clauses, the problem could be that the clauses are not coming in the most logical order. For example, take the sentence I just wrote.
A sentence with too many relative clauses can be confusing to read, even if it is grammatically correct.
A sentence with too many relative clauses, even if it is grammatically correct, can be confusing to read.
Both of these sentences are technically correct, but one is slightly more convoluted than the other. A quick fix to some sentences is to just switch around the words to simplify the flow of ideas. It can also be helpful to go through the essay and make sure you are using the correct words for the situation. Though many English words have synonyms, it is common for those replacement terms to have nuanced differences. These differences can render the synonyms inappropriate for the context in which you are using them.
Of course, if these steps are not quite proving helpful, it is always a good idea to come to the Fordham Writing Center to get a second pair of eyes on the paper. In creative writing courses, we engage in workshops where the writer shares their work with the whole class, and the class discusses what is working in the piece. Though sharing ones work can be hard, it is important to utilize the resources at one’s disposal and ask for help when it is needed.