Archive for the ‘Lecture notes for my students’ Category

Here is a summary of the writing process from my lecture notes this semester:

1.      Write about what you know from your own life experience. Choose topics that interest you. If you are interested in your subject, the reader will be also.

2.      Include five senses in writing: smells, sounds, tactile touch (how things feel), sights and tastes in your essays. It pulls the reader into the writing.

3.      Show don’t tell. Give specifics and details to back up what you say.

4.      Title is half of it. If your title is flat, no one will read it.

5.      History of period, semi-colon, comma. (See pp. 514, 518, 520, 525, 531 and 538 in A Writer’s Resource for reference.)

6.      Avoid sentence fragments, run-ons and verb tense changes. (See chapters 51 and 52 in A Writer’s Resource for reference.)

7.      Narrative storyline: Beginning, rising acting, conflict, climax, falling action and resolution. Narrative has a plot, characters, conflict and resolution. The point of the narrative is to show how the characters evolve through the conflict.

8.      Joseph Campbell, history of myth. Myth is the origin of the narrative storyline.

9.      The book by Richard Hugo, The Triggering Town, discusses writing off the subject. If you are writing about subject A, but your mind drifts to subject B, begin writing about subject B. It could add to subject A.

10.     Essay styles can be combined. An essay can have descriptive, narrative, persuasive and comparison/contrast elements. In the reflective essay, for example, you can compare what you’ve learned about writing to what you’ve learned about the artistic process in another genre such as painting or music.

11.     Automatic writing exercises teach stream-of-consciousness writing, to write whatever comes to mind first without stopping to edit.

12.     In persuasive/argumentative essay, use logos, pathos and ethos (logic, emotion and ethics) to make an appeal. See p. 559 in Patterns for a Purpose.

13.     The Toulmin model can be used in persuasive/argumentative essay.
        The Toulmin Model:
        Claim: the position or claim being argued for; the conclusion of the argument.
        Grounds: reasons or supporting evidence that bolster the claim.
        Warrant: the principle, provision or chain of reasoning that connects the grounds/reason to the claim. 
        Backing: support, justification, reasons to back up the warrant.
        Rebuttal/Reservation: exceptions to the claim; description and rebuttal of counter-examples and counter-arguments.
        Qualification: specification of limits to claim, warrant and backing.  The degree of conditionality asserted. 
        Supporting details. It’s in the details. That’s usually where an essay falls apart. I used an example from singing. A voice is thinner and edgier without breath support. A voice with core in an essay is supported with details.

14.     Dominant impression. This involves choosing the details you want to include in your essay, finding your angle. A descriptive essay has one, clear dominant impression. If you are describing a snowfall, it’s important to decide and to let your reader know if it is threatening or lovely. In order to have one dominant impression it cannot be both. The dominant impression is made clear by the selection of details and reinforces the thesis statement. See. p. 106 in Patterns for a Purpose.

15.     Hook: Learn how to hook the reader in the lead, in the opening paragraphs so that they will want to follow the train of thought to the end.

16.     Voice: An essay can have an objective voice which gives a factual, impartial, unemotional account, or it can have an expressive voice which is subjective and personal.

17.     Understated voice: If you want to shout something in an essay, say it with a quiet, understated tone. Overemphasizing statements or shouting  loses a reader. Refrain from using caps, explanation points, bold and underlined words to emphasize a point. A voice of authority, a voice that is sure of itself, doesn’t need to shout.

18.     Clustering: Choose a word central to your assignment and write down all the words you associate with that word. See diagram at http://writing2.richmond.edu/writing/wweb/cluster.html.

19.     Drafting and revisions: In the portfolio project, they hope to teach you that writing is an artistic process based on drafts and revisions.

20.     Keep two Word documents open while you’re writing. Do a brain dump in one document while you work on your essay in the other.

21.     Use the writing center to help you polish up your draft before you turn it in for a grade. They can usually turn around an essay in two or three hours.

22.    A  River Runs Through It: In the book A River Runs Through It, the father teaches his son how to write by having him write a paper then asking him to cut it in half to hone down and tighten up the language.

23.     Use of journals for practical things: goals, exercise, weight training, to-do lists. Journals are used for a variety of purposes, not only personal diaries. The important thing is that writing things down enables you to track progress and to achieve things you want to in life.

24.     Ways we use writing in everyday life: shopping list, to-do lists, e-mail, invitations, cover letters and resumes, lecture notes, lab reports, loan applications, grant requests.

25.     They hope to teach students in writing an argumentative/persuasive essay to follow a thought to the end. We discussed ability, belief and commitment. I gave an example of an Olympic athlete. You need some ability to be an Olympic athlete and support/belief from at least one other person in your life. But the main thing an athlete needs is commitment to focus on and visualize a win. Athletes who visualize a win on a daily basis compete better and have fewer accidents and illness during competition than those who don’t. That’s the same in writing and seeing an essay through to the end.

26.     Failing forward: Einstein said, “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” Our failures show us what we need to change in our lives. That’s how we improve our writing as we continue to revise drafts. The failures show us the weak spots in the design.

27.     Launch: I compared writing to launching a rocket. At NASA, the engineers place an instrument on a shake table to discover where the nuts and bolts shake out before they launch it into space. The most difficult part of sending a rocket into space is the launch. That’s true in writing also. Getting an essay off the ground to begin with is the most difficult part of writing. Keeping a journal daily makes the writing flow faster in the beginning.

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