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Tips for good beginnings for essay writing

Some useful tips for writers.

Start with the models. The easiest way to get started writing your own good beginnings is to use the models you already have. It isn’t considered cheating to model one’s writing after the writing of another. The easiest models to start with are the short ones. Some of the strategies can be accomplished in your own pieces with just a single sentence. You’ll notice, too, that some of the strategies can be combined. The models are a great resource for you. They will always give you something to think about when you’re stuck. And, as you become more familiar with them, they will be easier to use. You’ll probably find that you end up being better at some kinds of beginnings than others. That’s just fine. You may also find that you like to change your beginnings in certain ways that are different from the models. The models are a starting point.

Where you end up is up to you. Try several beginnings for each piece. I almost always advise writers to try several different beginnings for each piece that they write. This may seem like a lot of extra work. It is. But it’s really worth it. As I’ve said before, the beginning is the most important part of your piece. And you may not necessarily be in the best position to know which beginning is most effective. What I usually suggest is this: Try three different beginnings. Read them all to your class. Let your audience tell you which one they like best. Even if you already have a favorite, get this feedback from your audience. You don’t have to do what they want. But it’s always good to take the opinions of other writers into consideration.

Reread, rethink, revise. Once you have a lead that you like, look it over closely. Read it to yourself many times. Look for small ways to make it better. Change a word here or there. Improve the punctuation. Give the beginning of your piece extra care and attention so it comes out just right. And don’t forget to share it with others to get their opinions, too. Variety is the spice of life. After a while, you will find that some beginnings come quite easily to you. The temptation will be to use these types of beginnings over and over on every piece you write. Resist this temptation. In the first place, your readers will really appreciate it if you use many different kinds of beginnings. In the second, each type of beginning that you master makes you a better writer.

Start your own collection. Ultimately, you’ll want to move away from using the models I’ve presented here and start thinking about your own models. What kinds of beginnings do you like? Why do you like them? You can collect them the same way I do. When you read a beginning you like, copy it down. When you hear or read something that another writer in your class has come up with, get a copy of that, too. For each beginning you collect, give it a title that describes how it works. Then write a few words about why you think it’s good. One of the best ways to learn to write is to model your writing after the writing of other writers you enjoy.

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