DISCUSSION: “Revision and Life–Take It From the Top Again”

Earlier this semester, we read Stephen King’s “Toolbox” for writing. For Monday’s class, you’ve read Nora Ephron’s meditation on revision. For your final response post, reflect on the development of your writing process this semester. Does anything Ephron said resonate with your experience?

13 thoughts on “DISCUSSION: “Revision and Life–Take It From the Top Again”

  1. Ephron’s point about writing cohesively and thinking about writing as a whole as opposed to revisions in minor parts stuck with me. Like Ephron, I feel most productive when I am writing something as opposed to just thinking. In order to get my ideas out, I first write what I’m thinking in an outline or flow of thoughts. Sometimes, after I write a bulleted outline, I’m tempted to keep the sentences I’ve written and just connect them together, as it seems easier. However, this process often takes a long time because I get stuck in the wording of what I’ve already written, and connecting it can feel unnatural. This semester, it has been easier for me to retype my ideas from the outline when writing my rough draft because the flow of ideas often helps me write a more cohesive paragraph with more intuitive transitions and flow of ideas. Also, if I go back and reword or add things to an essay, I tend to get caught up in the minute mechanics and the whole paragraph doesn’t seem completely cohesive when I read it over. If I just write in a flowing manner, I think more logically as if I were speaking, so the ideas come out more naturally. I think taking this process one step farther and retyping entire essays would in theory, work in the same way. Though I haven’t had her same commitment to retyping entire essays, this semester I have started writing more as a flow of ideas instead of focusing on small sentences and not looking at the bigger picture.

  2. I always knew rough drafts were important, but my experiences typing in high school didn’t corroborate that. I found that most essay assignments were easy for me to accomplish in one draft, maybe two, but I would never spend much time actually re-reading and re-writing essays. Obviously, college is different. I know my essays won’t make it far without at least a peer-edit of some form and multiple drafts over days allowing me to have a new perspective on my writing. Ephron’s style of endless drafts is something that I struggle to relate with because I find myself much slower. In no way have I ever been able to type as much as she does.
    I think that the amount of productivity I have and how much effort I put into my work should be improved. Ephron has a great work ethic that I want to simulate. As my college career continues, I think that my overall writing will improve. The time I have put into English 1 has already improved my writing. I anticipate that my ability to convey my thoughts will improve when my focus narrows. When the time comes for me to hone in on a major I know my writing will improve because I will be talking about topics I care most about.

  3. Throughout this semester, I have learned a lot about the writing process and the steps needed to make this process as effective and also efficient as possible for me personally. I came into english 1 with a process that I had been using since sophomore year in high school, which included a heft outline before each paper, and a more rigid way of looking at the construction of an essay. Instead of looking at a persuasive essay as a way to express your opinion in a powerful and comprehensive way, I think I viewed it more as a five-paragraph paper comprised of an intro, three supports of the thesis in three separate paragraphs, and a conclusion that restates the thesis. After this semester, however, I have learned to view the persuasive essay in terms of its final goal. Firstly, I am now able to write an essay without a super detailed outline. I can start with a thesis and have ideas for evidence to support my argument, and subsequently write down ideas and body paragraphs that flow from my stream of thought as opposed to trying to hard to stick to the premade outline.
    I believe I have also learned a few good revising techniques from King’s piece. While I do not find myself rewriting parts of my essay over and over again like Ephron does, I feel more able to read through my final or close-to-final drafts of essays and catch aspects that weaken my argument and know how to make them stronger. I am especially vigilant of excessive adverbs and using active verbs throughout the paragraphs in order to make the argument more concise.

  4. During this semester, I have learned how to write and how to use the writing process more thoroughly and efficiently. In high school, I didn’t have much of a technique for writing essays and I managed to do alright in my English classes over the years. I knew that that mentality would not fly in college and that I needed to develop some structure in my writing process. This class has provided me with that opportunity to develop my writing skills. Using techniques such as outlines, multiple rough drafts, and peer editing has really allowed me to feel like I have gotten better at writing.
    Writing is something that I feel that I am very good at. It is not something that I necessarily enjoy doing. This class has allowed me to write about topics that I enjoy writing about, rather than writing on lame topics that I have no desire to write about.
    I could resonate with some of what Ephron says in the article. Sometimes I find myself writing my papers over and over again. Sometimes I do it so much that I lose track of time or just completely change the topic of my paper. This is something that I have struggled with for some time and will probably continue to struggle with.

  5. I believe that my writing has developed tremendously throughout the semester. In high school my writing process was that of a procrastinator. I would always think about what I was going to write and how I was going to organize my thoughts, but I never did any formal outlining. You could say I did a mental outline. I would then wait until the last minute and turn in my first attempt at the assignment. I knew that these habits would not stand in college. This semester has turned me into someone who chjunks my work. I believe that this transformation has occurred because of the deadlines for class and how instead of letting us do the paper at our own pace, we have specific deadlines for two pages, four pages, and then a completed essay. I appreciate these deadlines because it helps me plan and makes me less stressed for big assignments. Aside from chunking my work, revision has become a massive part of my writing process. I will spend equal amounts of time revising as I did to write my paper. These new writing habits that I have developed this semester align with Ephrons writing. She submits her writing paragraph by paragraph and I submit my writing page by page. She also expresses a feeling of “writing is rewriting” and I stand by this because this semester I have learned that revision is just as important as your original draft.

  6. I don’t think my writing process has changed much over the course of the semester. My writing process usually starts with an elevator statement or catchy title that I think encompasses my main idea and then I go on to write an outline. I think a development is that I have become more organized and thorough in creating my outline. At first it was a collection or organization of random sentences that came to my head and ideas that I wanted to talk about. However, now I find myself setting up overarching themes and topics that I must discuss and prove first before I add in any examples or full sentences. Another development is my willingness to seek for help and listen to other’s opinions. Getting my first two papers back, I realized that my opinion on my own essay was not enough. I now meet with a writing tutor at least once for almost every paper I write.
    In terms of Ephron’s writing about revision, what resonates very much with me is that there is no concrete formula for revision. She made herself very relatable by describing how she wrote in college and emphasized that the skills of revision comes with time. Her own method of revision is not fool-proof, which she recognizes when she mentions that the last sections of her writing are often less good than the beginning. Her essay does not give the “how to’s” of revision but rather ensures the college reader that it will come with time and that it is important. Although I like the ambiguous and mysterious aspect of her advice, I do wonder how I will revise my own essay. I don’t think I have ever truly “revised” an essay and am curious as to how this last assignment will come out.

  7. This semester has changed my writing process more majorly than any other English course has. Just like Ephron says, I spent my entire high school career writing an essay in one or two sittings, barely editing it and turning it in. I never wrote a detailed outline, then did one paragraph at a time, and edited multiple drafts. Furthermore, I never read any of my work out loud to myself. It wasn’t that I didn’t want to do well, it was just that I didn’t know the right tools and methods to succeed. My English teacher senior year was big on writing deliberately and trying to keep a singleness of effect throughout an essay. I don’t think that I spent enough time or wrote enough last year to get good at it though.
    This year has been different mainly because I’ve written much more than I ever have before. I was used to writing maybe one big essay a month and being able to wait until near the deadline to start. This year, we are working on a major essay almost all the time, and each essay has a timeline of 1-2 weeks. Writing with that short a timeline was a new concept this year and definitely was the hardest thing for me to adapt to. One of Ephron’s big points is that you should revise sometimes as if you know what you are doing even if you do not. The process of internally editing and re-editing does in fact help me figure out where I want to go. I’m the type of person who will put things off if I think I don’t’ know how to do them yet, and it’s been the same with essays this fall. However when I just try to begin an essay and then keep fixing it until it starts to take shape, it becomes much easier.

  8. Before this class revision had always been something that I wanted to to do but was either too lazy or too late to do. In High School, I usually just wrote out the essay and handed it in. But now I’m more conscious because after rereading my essay especially out loud, I discovered there are a lot that made very little sense or lack the neccessary punctuation.
    I do however see the authort’s claim of revising it so many times a bit too much.
    I do agree with the author’s point of finding a voice because writing can be hard when there is no set mental voice that is used throughout the passage.
    I also find it rather interesting that the author mentioned the idea of age having something to do with theways we write. As she claimed that her writings are compltely different in her twenties incomparision to her thirties and fourties.

    • Cont of the previous statement.
      I also enjoyed the point where the author claimed that different kind of writing requires different kinds of revisions; it is true for me, as I proofread and revise differently when writing a history paper than writing an english paper. In English papers I look more for grammatical errors and word choice problems while in history papers I revise more in terms of meaning and logic.

  9. What Ephron said about the act of retyping, and how it makes sentences that need to be revised stand out resonated with me because of our unit on technology’s influence in our lives. It’s hard to believe that she still uses a typewriter, but I can understand the appeal of feeling closer to your words, which is why I exclusively brain storm and outline on paper. Also, the amount of paper that she used writing and rewriting was shocking. I felt that printing out copies for peer editing in class was a waste of paper, but her paper habits are much more extreme.
    As for my revision process, I now do more revising as I write each sentence, erasing words, asking myself if that’s really what I mean or if I can be clearer. I also have learned to abandon what I’ve written without it paining me. If I’ve written one good sentence, there’s no reason I won’t be able to do it again, or make it better. Ephron also wrote on how she catapults into her pieces, writing to get words on a page. I think that a lot of my drafts that I wrote for class were not that great, but they existed, which put me in the right frame of mind to move forward. Before this year I underestimated the power of free-writing.
    For me, my mental state definitely affects how far I get on a piece, or if I’m able to force myself to focus when I don’t want to work, and I think this plays into the importance of free writing, or Ephron’s sprinting method.

  10. At the beginning of this semester, my writing process was very different. I’m used to just writing an essay in one go, like Ephron used to, correcting my punctuation, and then turning it in. English wasn’t a very big deal at my school. I didn’t have to take it for two years, and before that I was just writing whatever came to my mind and “fluffing” it up. When we did that activity of drawing our writing process, I jotted down my ideal process instead of my actually process. I really wanted to set time to brainstorm, write a draft, edit, have a peer read it, and then edit again. Really it was more like I would just type whatever and keep it going. I would edit, but I never gave myself enough time to really revise. However, I believe I know myself a little bit more when it comes to writing college essays now. I’m so used to being very vague, passive, and just writing the first thing that comes to mind, but I’ve learned that brainstorming is so essential. Just sitting down and really exploring your topic is the best step for me. As for editing, I really agree with Ephron when she says “revise now, before it’s too late.” It’s much easier and better to edit as you go even if it’s paragraph by paragraph. That something I hope to apply as I continue throughout these next years.

  11. I definitely felt that Ephron’s description of her writing process in college was pretty accurate of mine in high school. Usually the only times I would do a real revision to a paper is if it was handed back to me with corrects that I was supposed to make and be handed back in. Even then I wouldn’t do much more than the bare minimum in terms of changing parts of my writing. Since I’ve been in college and taking this course I’ve definitely started to develop a more effective process for writing first drafts and converting these drafts into final drafts. I’ve found that talking through my ideas with someone else (be that a writing tutor, a classmate, or Alexandra) really helps in terms of getting my thoughts organized and makes my first draft stronger. After my first draft I try to go back and find parts or paragraphs that don’t communicate the point I’m trying to make as well as I’d like. I do want to keep working on this last transition to my final draft, because sometimes it’s not always easy for me to tell when I’m really done making changes and improvements.

  12. I would say that the entire first page, and majority of the article as a whole, resonated with me due to the fact that it was so relatable. By this, I mean not that our stories are relatable, but that we both experienced a similar shift in writing techniques due to a step up in our level of writing. In high school, I would just sit down, start typing and before I knew it I had an essay that would usually get a B+ or above with no significant revision or anything. Of course I learned right off the bat that this sort of technique simply would not work at this level after receiving my first essay back. However, through taking this course and reading some of the articles and books that we have looked at this year like “Toolbox,” I have an entirely new perspective on the writing process. I have come to realize the benefits of peer and personal editing and have even adopted some of the techniques that Ephron mentions in her article such as quickly proofreading and editing one paragraph before moving on to the next. This has helped immensely with punctuation and grammatical errors as well as improving the flow of my ideas.

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