Revisiting: Writing 101

This writer’s workshop, I’m attending, has me thinking beyond writing to editing being more than a spell check. I am very lazy with commas. Years ago, one of my teacher’s criticized my use of the comma, saying I use too many. I fixed this as any rebel would by leaving them out, a nasty habit to get into, or should I say, to get out of?

I must confess: my problems go far beyond punctuation. I need to return to the idea of thinking in terms of ‘the essay‘, instead of excusing running off topic as being a stream-of-consciousness style. Of course, the personal essay involves a life, but that doesn’t mean, the whole life needs to be in the piece. One thing I hadn’t considered was the distribution of weight. Just because the information is important to me, doesn’t mean it is necessary for the essay.

So, editing beyond spelling and punctuation, means cutting. I am not a wordy writer; I am actually, stingy with words. I remember a conversation I had with a writing professor, when given a five-page assignment. I told her I don’t know how I could possibly go on for five pages about the topic. She told me not to worry about the length assigned, that others write with excess words, and therefore, need five pages to fully explore the topic. When I am writing, blogging, without an assignment, I let myself go off in a variety of directions. I’ve found that I need to cut, not words, but entire thoughts and paragraphs. I do know, where a professor may have been lenient, the publisher’s word count is concrete.

Having identified my topic and cut out the useless paragraphs, I was left with more work. Then, I needed to develop paragraphs to support my theme. That’s right, an essay has a theme. As an English major, who enjoys writing, I need to follow the rules, as I have ambitions, beyond writing a blog. and here I am embarrassed by my incompetency.

Getting serious about my writing has slowed my contribution to blogging, which on most days, has had an entry, lately seriously neglected. I hope in return, as the workshop has come to a conclusion, to give my reader more thoughtful writings, as I remember the basic rules and strive toward professionalism.


About Aligaeta

I am a life time resident of NY State. A graduate of Nassau Community College, AA in Liberal Arts and Queens College, BA in English and Sociology. I am the mother of four children, the survivor of divorce, and I love to write in prose. This blog will be a record of my journey... destination unknown. Read more...
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10 Responses to Revisiting: Writing 101

  1. Lisa says:

    I think there is value in following the rules, but also in consciously breaking the rules. I try to show my students the value of revision. That’s the main thing. Don’t limit yourself, write first and let yourself ramble if you need to . Then go back and be willing to be harsh and cut, revise, etc. That’s why it helps to have someone else look at your writing–someone who can be brutally honest and who you respect. Yesterday in my Comp class two students said that they thought they were GREAT writers when they started the class. Then they got the first assignment back from me and were crushed. I felt really horrible about crushing them. But, they also both acknowledged that, after they stopped saying that I didn’t know what I was talking about and really looked at their work they understood. They both feel like they now are becoming better writers, although they still seem a little crushed. We all have things to learn and improve upon, but I don’t think that necessarily means following all of the rules.

  2. Aligaeta says:

    Yesterday I read the response of a writer to being published. She said, now I know I’m done editing that piece.

    • Lisa says:

      🙂 But after my dissertation was “published” I re-read and went, “I can’t believe I wrote that. I could make it so much better.”

  3. Pingback: Eating my own Words *burp!* | Spread Information

  4. jannatwrites says:

    Lisa has a point – as writers, I don’t think we’ll ever be completely satisfied with our writing. Sure, if it’s being published, the edits are done “ready or not.” If I ever do get a novel published, I don’t want to read it after it’s done because I’ll end up disappointed.

    I’m looking forward to see how your posts change as a result of the class.

  5. Aligaeta says:

    Janna you mean when you get published… be confident my friend, there are other places beside the shelf for your manuscript. Have faith!

    And I did begin a comment on your post this morning regarding the second book and then got distracted and didn’t send. I’m wondering if not being finished/published with the first is holding you back. Perhaps it needs fresh eyes or rested eyes (yours) or a different publisher for consideration.

    As for my posts changing… funny thing, in class tonight the comments on my second essay were the same as the first draft of my first essay…
    -It’s rushed, too many topics without enough information
    -and, what’s with those commas

    Will I ever be a writer?

    • Lisa says:

      Don’t be so hard on yourself. You are a writer. We learn each time we put words on the page. Commas are such a personal thing. I used to have arguments about commas with my Dad. I used more than he thought I should. (Side note, I miss being able to turn to my Dad for writing feedback, but he is lost in the abyss of Alzheimer’s). As for too many topics, well, narrow things down. You can do this. You are a writer.

  6. Aligaeta says:

    I even went back to Stuck and White, putting the commas in where I missed. Spell and grammar check questioned some commas so I removed them. You would think if it scopes commas what’s left must be right. Who knows?

  7. jannatwrites says:

    Ditto Lisa’s comments 🙂

    Comma placement is tricky, and I know I dont’ get it right all the time, but I wouldn’t get too hung up on the punctuation right now.

    As for narrowing down the topics, practice will help. It could help to write your piece one day and then set it aside until the next day when you can read it with a more critical eye. I find that when I can walk away and edit later, the final product is cleaner than when I write and edit in the same sitting. Good luck 🙂

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