Posted on May 28, 2014

Developing Engaging Stories for MBA Essays – Week # 2 – Tip # 2

  Brainstorm Ideas/Stories 

Last week, I had discussed the first step in the process of developing engaging and compelling stories for MBA essays i.e. Comprehend the Essay Prompt. Once you get an understanding of what the question expects you to discuss, begin brainstorming ideas/stories to be able to address that prompt appropriately. You will have to do a lot of souls searching to identify the right stories. There are many pre-writing techniques that you may use to generate ideas:

  • Freewriting (writing non–stop for 10-15 minutes without thinking),
  • Questioning (ask as many questions as you can about the subject),
  • Making a list (collecting a list of ideas ad details that relate to the subject),
  • Mapping (writing your subject in the center of a blank sheet and jotting down ideas/ details around the subject)
  • Preparing a scratch outline (writing about the point you are making and the supporting details)

You may use any of the above pre-writing techniques that work for you to generate ideas for your story.

Begin Writing

Once you have gathered your ideas/ stories on paper, mull over them to make sure that you chose the right story to address the essay prompt. Then go on to flesh out the details, organize, and arrange them. At this stage, don’t think about word-count, grammar, spelling, and punctuation. You want to make sure that your story has all the information that the reader needs to know to understand your story. Try to include all the relevant details that would make complete sense to the reader. Do not assume the readers (in this case the Ad Com) would know what has not been relayed to them.

When I point out the lack of relevant details in my first critique/ edit, I hear the same response from almost all of my students, “I had many ideas in mind, but I did not pen them down because of the word limit.” And my standard response to all of them is “At this stage of the writing process, you don’t want the word count specifications to restrict the writer in you. Right now, the intent is to first get all the components of the story down on paper and then organize them well. We will take care of the word limits at a later stage.” In the past, this structured approach had worked for me as an English teacher, and now it is working for me as a consultant.  I use the first couple of edits to get the right content for typical themes (goals, leadership, setback, culture, accomplishments, etc.) and the last couple of edits to make the essays comply with the word count limits and proofread them for grammar, sentence structure, spelling, and punctuation errors.

Whether you are working on your essays by yourself or you have partnered with a consultant, you may try this technique. I am confident that you will find this extremely helpful.

Next week,  I will come back with tip #3 of the story development process. Stay Tuned.

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