So your teacher has informed you that a three page paper "On Romeo and Juliet" is due Friday. It is now Thursday night and you haven't even begun. You have no idea where to start.
Writing an "A" essay, easily and quickly, is all about asking the right questions. If your teacher has given you a fairly broad assignment, like the one above, the first rule you need understand is that summaries will no longer cut it. Teachers and professors don't want to see that you understand the plot of a story. That was your 4th grade teacher. High school and college is more about analyzing themes (big picture ideas from a story that are applicable to real life) and an author's literary merit (as in, what kind of techniques are used to accomplish the goal).
When tackling a generic essay assignment, the best place to begin is to create a theme statement. This is a one sentence statement that explains something the author is trying to convey about life, the world, humanity, or something else, through the story. Asking and answering the right questions will guide you into writing a proper theme statement, which can then become a great thesis statement (you know, that magical sentence in your introduction that defines your entire essay).
Yeah, great, I get that. But how do I start?
Now that you have your quotes, put them in your outline. For each paragraph, have your mini thesis, the quote you want to use, and then the points for each quote. One basic rule of thumb is that for each quote, you want two sentences after as well as one before it that introduces it to the reader. Don't just put in a quote straight after your topic sentence without any kind of transition to it introducing it or you will drive your professor nuts. This also goes for any scenes you may reference.
At this point, you want your outline to include that you want X quote here, and you will support it by saying Y and Z. I like to use two pieces of evidence for each paragraph. When analyzing and comparing two books in an essay, this makes it easy because each piece of evidence can come from each novel. Or you can switch off paragraphs going from one book and how it supports your thesis to another paragraph about the other book and how it does (or does not) do the same thing. Once you have finished your outline, you can begin writing your analytic essay.
So, you've finished your introduction paragraph and got started on writing the meat of your essay. For each topic sentence for each paragraph of the body, you will have evidence to support that mini thesis of yours that supports your thesis. Yes, it's like a train that never ends and you're the one directing it. Have no fear, your outline should help make things easier.
Each sentence that you write after the quote is an explanation to the reader for why you chose this quote. Does it best show us how a specific symbol was used in the text? Is it key to the development of a character? Tell us. Then go into analyzing it for us in terms of the big picture, aka your thesis.
At the close of each paragraph, summarize what you just said with the main idea that you just proved and transition to the next paragraph and the next point you will make. Repeat until you get to the conclusion. All of this may sound like learning how to write an essay analyzing two books is too complicated but, once you get into the swing of things, it will become easier.