notes: first writing projectPosted: September 14, 2008
With help from John Boyd of the Writing Center, we emphasized the importance of all writers, any writer, getting response for their writing, finding audiences for feedback. This is different, I suggested, than needing or wanting to fix something. Not the teacher marking up a paper with a red pen. With our focal point of critical reflection, we used the hear/notice/wonder response sheet to give feedback to a writer in your writing group, focusing in particular on where you noticed the essay providing the kind of depth and understanding in the personal reflection (rather than the resume listing, the nostalgia of quick reference), and where you wanted to see more of it.
Focused on ways to think about editing as defamiliarizing our essay–in order to get outside of it and see and hear it from without. One way to do this: read aloud, have someone else read it aloud: listen for areas where the reading stumbles or slows or is unclear. The main point introduced–one we are working on throughout the semester in our attempt to learn about style and how better to grasp it in our writing: need to look AT our style, not just through it. Think more self-consciously about how style is created in the mechanics and machinery of the essay: the words, the sentence structure, the punctuation; all the choices we can make and edit.
As a starting point, we focused on a basic issue (and trap) we find in sentence structure: the difference between active and passive sentences. One of the ways we looked at this: finding places where we see lots of “is” sentences which tend to bury the action; also bury behind lots of prepositions. We began to change this around. The example I gave:
“One thing about reading that I believe is that reading is meant to be fun.”
change to: Reading should be fun.
further change to (recognizing the weakness and vagueness of ‘fun’): Reading cultivates pleasure.
The critical vision–aka, the focus or ‘thesis’ of your essay. Traditionally, this comes in the beginning–you might have been taught at the end of an introductory paragraph. However, things don’t need to be that strict–nor would you want to be terribly blunt: My thesis is…. Sometimes it is effective to have a thesis at the end of an essay; or perhaps an initial statement of your focus/thesis–that you then furhter refine in a conclusion (or in the scientific model, completely change). It is important, however, to engage your reader’s focus directly in your introductory material, let them know, before getting into the “body” of your essay, the various examples and reflection, what you want them to be thinking about with you. You need to give them a thread to take with them. What you need to avoid, then, is a general statement such as: reading has many definitions. You need to go further–suggest what particular definition is on your mind and suggest how you want to explore that. This is something to do during revision: after you have a stronger sense of what you are, in fact, getting into (where your examples and reflection are taking you), then go back and refine and elaborate the thesis–and from this you can then build a more engaging introduction–a stronger way into the story you are trying to tell.