By Katie Azevedo, M.Ed.
Let’s be clear: although this blog post will teach you how to write an essay in a week, I’m not suggesting that you ever rush your writing. Good writing takes time, planning, careful thought, and revision. Although a week is enough to write most high school and college term papers, some advanced research papers require more time. Knowing the difference is important.
How to Write an Essay in a Week or Less
Below I list the general steps to write an essay in a week, from start to finish. Depending on your grade level, the topic of your essay, and the teacher’s requirements, you may need to adjust things here and there, but following the sequence below will get you to the finish line.
If you’re in trouble (I see you procrastinators), you can adjust the framework’s schedule to complete a trial in four days.
Day One: Plan and Describe
For this step, it’s important to gather all the materials you think you’ll need for the writing process. Get your articles, manuals, novels, or whatever you’ll need to search and reference as you write.
1. Write and clarify your thesis.
Each essay has a thesis. A thesis is what you are arguing. Here are three possible thesis scenarios:
- Your professor gives you a thesis
- Your professor gives you a prompt that can be transformed (reworded) into a thesis
- You must create your own thesis
Scenario 3 (you have to write your own thesis) requires more work because you have to come up with your own argument. Here are my top tips for writing a thesis.
Remember, a good thesis will have two parts. What you argue, and then how or why.
2. Describe the trial.
I suggest you describe the essay on the first day, right after writing your thesis. In some cases, you will create the second half of your thesis statement (the how or why) as you work on your plan and think more about the subject.
How to describe an essay:
- In a Google Doc, write your thesis at the top of the page. Leave this thesis statement here for the entire time you write the essay. It is your North Star. When you lose focus, go back to the thesis statement.
- Determine the structure of your essay. (You may need to follow your teacher’s requirements.) Do you need to write five paragraphs? Four pages? Is it a compare and contrast essay? See the chart below for various suggestions for structuring different types of essays.)
- Outline each paragraph of your essay according to the structure you chose in step 2 above. Bulleted main headings should be the topic sentence, and supporting details with evidence should be bulleted below.
Second day: write
You will spend day 2 writing your essay. Do not modify at this stage! Assembly is done on a separate day. You can start with your introductory paragraph, or you can start with one of your body paragraphs. I suggest building momentum by starting at the point you feel most comfortable writing about. Again, this could be the middle of your essay.
It is important to take breaks when writing. A good work/rest ratio is 45 minutes to work and 15 minutes to take a break. If you’re building momentum and don’t want to stop after 45 minutes, keep going, but limit it to 90 minutes.
After 90 minutes, take a longer break. You can also spread your writing sessions throughout the day: schedule a writing session in the morning or afternoon, and another in the evening.
Day 3: write
Day 3 feels like day 2. Keep writing. As before, avoid editing your work as you write it. The better your outline is (Day 1), the faster the writing process will be.
writing tip: If you incorporate quotes into your essay, be sure to incorporate them and analyze them well.
- Properly embedded quotes are not isolated sentences; rather, they are part of a longer sentence.
- Your citation analysis should be about three to seven sentences long. Dig deep and explain a) what the quote means, and b) why it’s important to the point you’re raising.
Days four to five: Write or edit
How you spend Days 4 and 5 depends on how complex your essay is and how short your deadline is.
If you plan to write your essay in a week, you can use day 4 to continue writing and day 5 to edit it (more on that below). If you plan to write your essay in less than a week, you should spend most of Day 4 editing.
Day five-six: Finish writing; Edit
Depending on your deadline and the complexity of your essay, you will begin the editing process on day 4, 5, or 6.
- here is my comprehensive tutorial with step-by-step instructions for editing your essays.
- Here is my free Essay Writing Checklist (free pdf download) to help you know what to edit.
Remember that editing your essay should be done on a different day than writing your essay. You need to separate the two processes over time so your brain has time to “clear the cache” and get back to your writing with fresh eyes.
Day Six: Edit and Submit
Your trial is due on day 7. It must be completed the day before, day 6. At this point, you are just making sure you have used the correct format (MLA, APA, etc..), your works cited page is correct and you have checked your heading.
If your professor allows it, you can submit your essay on Day 6, before the deadline.
Seventh day: Do
Submit the essay. Make sure your submission is complete (downloaded pdf, printed and submitted essay, etc.) before you consider yourself “done”.
Final Notes on Essay Planning and Writing
The tips in this article teach you how to write an essay in a week or less. But, it’s important to create your timeline by working backwards from the day you were assigned the essay. If your professor gives you an essay on Monday and it’s due Friday, reverse engineer your days so you can finish the essay Thursday evening. Reverse engineering your time lets you see exactly which days you need to perform which steps. In some cases, you may need to create your thesis, write your outline, and start the writing process on day 1.