Revising Your Essay

DUE: Monday, March 6.
PURPOSE: to give you a chance to improve your essay (and your grade) by rewriting it
    One of the things good writers know is that the heart of good writing is almost always revision. I won't say always, because Cooper boasted that he hadn't even read his manuscript of The Pioneers before sending it to the printers, and Stowe claimed that the holy ghost inspired Uncle Tom's Cabin, that she just wrote it down as fast as the vision was unfolded to her. But in my case, as I've said before, I don't even know what one main point I most want to organize an essay around until I've written a first draft. And words and passages that seem really clear to me as I'm writing them the first time (because I know what I'm trying to say) often strike me, when I re-read them a few days later, as hard to follow, unpersuasive, or off the point.

    So for this assignment, I want you to think of the essay you handed in last week as a draft. The comments I've put on it you can think of as one reader's response. With luck they'll help you identify the various strengths and weaknesses of what you've done, and give you cues about how to revise -- but I don't want you to think of the revision as simply "fixing" the places I marked as problematic. In some cases, for example, you'll probably want to reorganize the essay from scratch; in others, leave out parts of the draft and add new sections; in others, elaborate what you say about certain passages, &c.

    Two things I want you to do before writing the revision. One is look back through the essay and my comments and start deciding for yourself how you can best reshape it to develop the idea that most interests you. The other is come see me to talk for about fifteen minutes about your plans. To that end, I'll be in my office these additional office hours this week:

WED. 3/1 -- 12-1; 3:30-4:30
THURS. 3/2 -- 12-3
FRI. 12-2

I'll also be around during my regular hours. If you want to sign up for a specific time, I'll bring a sheet to class both Monday & Wednesday, or you can e-mail me a day or two ahead of time, and I'll let you know if the time is free.

    I'll give the revised essay a new grade based on both how good I think it is, and how much work you seem to have put into improving it. I can't promise it'll get a higher grade than the original essay, but in either case, I'll only record the highest of the two grades as your grade for the first formal essay. Good luck!