First Drafts

I’ve been wanting to write this post for a while, and now I’m having trouble remembering what I really wanted to say. Here goes, anyway.

I think the idea occurred to me around the time we started talking about the Writing Intensive requirement at my university. Students have to write in these classes, but, perhaps more important, they have to rewrite, revise, and rethink. That extra step of feedback and revision is what makes the class Writing Intensive. I guess I’ve always believed that students need to write in order to think out their ideas, but I’ve been less accustomed to having them rewrite, or revise substantially, but I think that that is a valuable skill for them to do.

I think this more now as I’ve been attempting to revise chapters from my dissertation into articles or book chapters. Part of my writing process involves looking for calls for papers that seem promising and then restructuring my argument and evidence into ideas that work for the specific call for papers. Sometimes that works and sometimes it doesn’t. I’ve also been doing some archival work that might augment my essays on certain writers (Katherine Anne Porter). However, with the revision process is the realization that some of this stuff just doesn’t work in the form it’s in. In that case, does it need to be thrown out? Saved for another project at a later time? Revised into a new form? This is where it’s nice to have multiple readers for your work.

Here’s how I tier it: First reader–me, obviously! I have to get it into shape past the first draft. Second reader–close friend whose feedback is valuable and who I don’t mind seeing some sloppiness or unrealized ideas. This person helps me put those ideas together or scrap them if they need to be scrapped. Third reader–my adviser who gives excellent feedback and also helps with the rhetorical situation of the article. Fourth reader–journal editors. Fifth reader–I hope a large general audience thinking about the issues I raise in my work! At all these stages, I’m doing revision which means the finished product looks very little like the initial piece of work. And it’s all valuable, but I only really learned how to do this when setting my academic work up for a larger public.

With student writing, I think a public project is an interesting idea, because if the work is just to turn in, they might stop working when they’ve decided the final product is good enough. When it’s for a larger audience, they might continue working to make it even better. But then, this more casual forum of my blog (for me–I know others actually plan posts and revise) is public, but the thoughts are often very much first drafts.

Just some thoughts. And if you want to read that public work you can here and here.


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