Fifth Writing Assignment: Revision

PURPOSE: to give you practice rewriting, to give you a chance to get closer to the point you wanted to make
LENGTH: at least one paragraph, at most two
The couple pages at left are two different versions of page 18 of Chapter 3 of a book I'm writing on Mark Twain. I'm sharing them just to show you how I write -- i.e. by re-writing, a lot. Almost all published writers work the same way. By writing they discover what they're trying to say, but once they know that they have to rewrite what they've already written to bring it into line with the emerging focus; when they go back to re-read their work they realize they haven't made an idea clear enough; they think of new things to say, or realize they have to leave out something they've said, or see that part of what they've written really belongs in a different part of the argument. (The brilliant last page of The Great Gatsby, for example, was originally at the end of the novel's first chapter.)

I think the more you include real revision as part of your own writing process, the better your essays will be. So . . .


For this writing assignment you can start with anything you've written for the class so far. In many cases I suggested paragraphs, &c., for revision on the last (graded) paper, but you can ignore my suggestion if there's something else you'd prefer a chance to rewrite. You should use at least one paragraph, but you shouldn't try rewriting more than two paragraphs. As you go back to what you've already written, try to bring into focus in your own thoughts what you were trying to say and do in the passage, then look for ways to say and do it better on the page -- either by leaving out, putting in, reordering, changing the words, &c. There is no magic formula for revision either, but your goal is to eliminate the weaknesses and improve on the strengths of what you've already written.

When you hand in the revision Friday, also hand in the first version -- so I can see where you're coming from too.