Jo Ann Beard, "The Fourth State of Matter" originally appeared in The New Yorker, A question for nonfiction writing students: When writing a true story based on actual events, how does the narrator create dramatic tension when most readers can be expected to know what happens in the end?
Read the essay here subscription required. Ask yourself: Where can I condense this? Finally, as every writer knows, writing is a muscle, and the more you keep exercising, the better shape you'll be in. But where I see most people tripping up is in describing everything and showing next to nothing.
Do I repeat myself anywhere? If something reads somewhat disingenuous, or you're only telling half the truth — know that readers and editors can smell it a mile away.
This essay is a great example of a writer communicating a very specific experience in universal terms that the reader can empathize with. If you can tell your story honestly and with vulnerability, it is a real gift to give your reader. The essay then ends back in those woods — chronologically, we're in the same moment we started, but are left with my aha moment, and a clear sense of how my perspective changed.
Then I recommend starting your essay at that scene, and going from there.