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Pre-writing Activities and Drafting Your Essay


This handout covers major topics relating to writing about fiction. This covers prewriting, close reading, thesis development, drafting, and common pitfalls to avoid.

Contributors:Purdue OWL Staff
Last Edited: 2013-10-08 04:02:54

Pre-writing Activities

1. Freewrite

Without referring to the text or your notes, write for five to ten minutes on all the images (or the device you have chosen to examine) you can recall. This will provide an initial list which will make up your body of evidence.

2. Review

Look back through the text and your notes to further identify evidence, keeping focused on the particular device you want to discuss.

3. Research

Optional: Ask your instructor about outside sources before you use them.

Once you've identified enough textual evidence to support your thesis, you may want to see what other writers have had to say about your topic. This kind of appeal to other authorities helps you back up and interpret your reading of the work.

4. Evaluate

You will probably generate more evidence than you can use. One way to decide which evidence to take and which to leave is to limit your choices to the best, most illustrative examples you can find. Focus on how the devices are used to develop major characters, major scenes, and major turning points in the work.

Drafting your essay

You've read and annotated the work, developed a thesis, and identified your evidence. Now you're ready to work your evidence into your draft. Here are some effective techniques.

1. Quoting

What is a quote?

Quoting involves taking a word, phrase, or passage directly from the story, novel, or critical essay and working it grammatically into your discussion. Here's an example:

In his novel, The Secret Agent, Conrad describes Verloc as "undemonstrative and burly in a fat-pig style.... " (69). The pig image suggests that Verloc is not a lean, zealous anarchist, but is actually a corrupt, complacent middle class man who is interested in preserving his comfortable status.

Notice three things about the example above:

When should I quote?

How should I quote?

2. Paraphrasing

What is paraphrasing?

Conrad describes Verloc as a big man who isn't very expressive and who looks like a pig.

When should I paraphrase?

3. Summarizing

What is summarizing?

Conrad uses pig imagery to describe Verloc's character.

When should I summarize?

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