Akunna James-Ibe on How to Write Award-winning Essays.

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Dr. Akunna James-Ibe is an Award-winning Essayist. She was the winner of the 2018 PositiveNaija Essay Competition, national winner of the 2020 African Organisation for Standardisation (ARSO) essay competition. In 2022, she won the The Awele Creative Trust Award with her short story titled “Ndubuisi” beating off stiff competition from nine other writers. A graduate from the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, Dr. Akunna is currently a practicing Medical Doctor.

Akunna James-Ibe.
Miss Akunna James-Ibe.

As an high-achiever within and outside the writing community, Akunna James-Ibe gives actionable solutions to questions that most baffles writers in the Craft of Essay Writing.

NB: This blog is collation of a question-answer session with miss Akunna James-Ibe hosted by UNDERGRADUATE ESSAYISTS. If you want to check out the latest essay Competitions, do so here.

Q1: How can one write an outstanding essay?

On writing outstanding essays:

  1. If you haven’t already, study the rudiments of essay writing. There are several books that offer valuable insights on how to approach an essay.
  2. Study outstanding essays…or in this case, since the aim is often to win an essay contest, study winning essays… especially those related to the subject matter you want to write about. In the process of studying these essays, take note of patterns of winning essays. How do the authors structure their work? How do they approach the topic? What styles do they use? How do they weave research into their works? What strikes you about their works Just take notes.
  3. Then practice by writing and editing.
  4. After writing, give your work to someone (especially an essayist) to peruse and criticize.
  5. Take note of suggestions and make necessary corrections.
  6. Keep writing.
  7. Give it time judges with your approach. Read works by Kunle Adebajo to get a grasp of what I mean.

Q2: How can one make the introduction of an essay captivating?

Isaac Newton once said, if I have seen farther it’s because I stood on the shoulders of giants. If you want to develop the skill of writing a captivating introduction, study essays with introductions you consider captivating. Stand on the shoulders of those that have gone before you.

Why do you consider the introduction captivating? Did they tell a story? Did they weave statistics in a great manner to drive home their points? Did they use literary devices? Anecdotes? Proverbs? News?

Read a lot of things like that, read works by journalists, read novels, read things intentionally and randomly. They settle into your subconscious and rise to the surface when you least expect them too. Even if they don’t rise to the surface, passively, you won’t have to dig too deep to find what you need, because you have a stash of ideas.

But don’t waste all your time trying to find a perfect sentence for your introduction.

Read things intentionally and randomly. They settle into your subconscious and rise to the surface when you least expect them to.

Akunna James-Ibe.

Q3: I’m always motivated to write at the initial state, and then the zeal begins to die, before submission period. What can I do differently?

Motivation is a tricky thing. You may need to do some introspection to find out why you fizzle out…then work on what you find out. But, here are some tips:

Have a STRONG WHY? A why that answers all the other whys. Why are you participating in the contest? If your why is not strong enough, you may fizzle out. Find out why your why is not strong enough? Is it that you’re not passionate about the topic? It doesn’t trigger you? If it doesn’t, look for the next competition that spurs you.

Have a community of people committed to acing contests. In my alma mater, we have the University of Nigeria Essayists Group. We’re always congratulating people on that group every 2nd market day. Because of that, people that wouldn’t ordinarily have been motivated are pushed to write. We also have a constitution that guides how often we are expected to write in a day.

You may also get an accountability partner. Somebody who will pursue you in your dreams until you write that essay.

Q4: How can one infuse other people works into an essay and how often should we do this without watering down originality?

It is advisable that before you research, you brainstorm and write down your ideas. It helps with maintaining originality.

I suggest you read On Words and Awards by Kunle Adebajo. Kunle’s works are a paradigm of how you can infuse other people’s works into yours without watering down on originality.

Before you research, you brainstorm and write down your ideas. It helps with maintaining originality.

Akunna James-Ibe.

Q5: Is it advisable to always paraphrase? If not what are the best tricks to avoid too much paraphrasing?

Paraphrasing means quoting somebody but not with their exact words. If you don’t want to paraphrase too much or you want to avoid plagiarism, reference properly. You can search online for how to reference. There are different manuals, depending on the style you want to employ.

Q6: How can one address the theme of an essay?

  1. Find the dictionary or contextual meanings of those keywords (you can get an idea of what a contest organizer intends a word to mean by doing a background check on the contest).
  2. Note the meanings of the keyword.
  3. In your own words, write out what you have deconstructed. That is, paraphrase the theme.
  4. Contemplate on how best you can answer the question now that you have simplified the theme.
  5. Draft a temporary outline.
  6. Brainstorm on how to address each point in your outline.
  7. As you do so, things will become clearer…

Q7: What are your recommendations for writing an essay that will stand out among entries for a theme?

Well, different strokes for different blokes (I know it’s folks, but blokes rhymes better). Usually, contest organizers have what they are looking for, and you may not always know. Sometimes you can write a really good essay and it still doesn’t make the cut. But these are the basics:

One, keep to the rules of the contest. Make sure your work is well structured and neat: Headings, Paragraphs, spacing, font type and size, and other adjuncts. Food is first eaten with the eyes. As much as you can manage, make your work aesthetically pleasing.

Two, don’t stray from the topic. Address the topic. Get your facts straight, from reliable and well referenced sources. Your style is a big plus, especially if it’s not a strictly academic writing contest. Wow your judges with your approach. Read works by Kunle Adebajo to get a grasp of what I mean.

One, keep to the rules of the contest. Make sure your work is well structured and neat. Food is first eaten with the eyes.

AKUNNA JAMES-IBE.

Q8: How can one get better at essay writing?

I believe I’ve answered this in other answers, but just to emphasize: You can only get better at essay writing by reading and actually writing. There’s no other way.

Read books on how to write essays.

Read books on grammar.

Read books on style.

Read essays.

Read other things too. Ideas like to skulk about in the most unusual places, like it did in Alexander Fleming’s Petri dish.

WRAP-UP.

As a bonus, here are some books Mrs. Akunna Jame-Ibe recommended on how to write an award-winning essay:

  • Better at essay writing
  • How to write good essays
  • Elements of Style by William Strunk
  • The writer’s diet by Helen Sword
  • Vertical writing
  • On words and awards by Kunle Adebajo.

Ideas like to skulk about in the most unusual places, like it did in Alexander Fleming’s Petri dish.

AKUNNA JAMES-IBE.
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4 Comments

Ochia Chidinma October 3, 2023 Reply

Thank you for this insightful write up .

Abdulbasit Toriola October 7, 2023 Reply

Hi Chidinma, thanks for reading through as well.

Okpala Ogechukwukanma October 19, 2023 Reply

Thank you so much
Wish me well in my essay competition ❤️

Abdulbasit Toriola October 21, 2023 Reply

Good luck with your essay competition, Ogechukwukanma.

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