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Structure and writing

19 Jan

CV1_TNY_01_14_13Mattotti.inddJohn McPhee writes an interesting essay in the New Yorker (Jan. 14, 2013) about how he creates and uses structure to build long-form non-fiction writing.

College essays are short form, of course, but the idea of structure in telling a good story is worth thinking about when you write anything.  McPhee even knows where his story is going to end before he starts writing.  That may not be every writer’s dream way of working, but think about a passage like this from McPhee, and how it might apply as much to a college essay as it does to one of his 16, 000-word articles: Continue reading

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Deadlines Schmedlines

27 Dec

Deadlines loom, and while nobody recommends that you write an essay at the last minute, it doesn’t mean you won’t be.  We could serve up one more overcooked lecture about how you need to hunker (always down never up) and focus your mind, not to mention manage time much more efficiently than you are in the habit of doing. Continue reading

Can’t think of a good topic?

14 Oct

NYU tried an experiment in 2009, when applicants to the Robert F. Wagner Graduate School of Public Service were allowed the option of reacting to this photograph — or any one of a number of others  — as an essay question.

As an applicant, you might not want to touch this image with a 10-foot dandelion. But if you’re stuck on a subject to write about for your common app essay, try staring at this picture  for a few minutes. What do you see? What does it remind you of? Riff on those memories.  Make some stream-of-consciousness notes. Continue reading

Tips from the Pros

5 Oct

Romney – Obama / Round I

Exchanges from the first presidential debate that can help open you up to the idea of riffing on a question, to take it in a direction you need to go.

Continue reading