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Showing posts from March, 2015

Editing is not as much fun as writing

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I thought for many years that I'd like to have a career in book editing. It seemed useful and interesting to help authors perfect their writing.

I have a good sense of grammar, syntax, and composition, as well as a large vocabulary and wide range of general knowledge. These are tools that any editor would need, I reasoned.

Editing seemed more stable that writing, where the pressure of deadlines and meeting a publisher's demands are one's daily lot in life. The editor is really in an ivory tower, away from life's hustle-bustle, sitting in a quiet place with a blue pencil and polishing someone else's hard-won prose.

Then I wrote a novel. It was pure pleasure from beginning to end. My imagination was untethered, and my heart was free to come out into the open.

Then I started to edit that novel. And am still editing that novel. It is hard, tedious work.

Now maybe it's because the novel I am editing is my own, so every mistakenly-placed comma, clumsily-worded senten…

Slogging Along

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The college semester is usually 15-16 weeks long. In my Developmental Writing classes, we are over the hump, having 8 classes behind us. And you can feel it in the air--we are definitely slogging along.

Merriam-Webster defines "to slog" this way:

": to keep doing something even though it is difficult or boring : to work at something in a steady, determined way : to walk slowly usually with heavy steps"
This is about right.The work of improving writing is surely difficult, though I hope my class is not too boring. My students (the ones who are still with me, not the ones whose life experiences caused them to stop coming to class) are working in a steady, determined way.

Our collective steps as class and instructor feel slow and heavy, as we enter into the second half of the semester and tackle the required "research project": a short research paper on an essay by Amy Tan, "Mother Tongue," or one by Sherman Alexie, "Superman and Me" (stude…

From bad to good to great

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The path to become a great writer is very simple: from bad to good to great.

1. Bad

Everyone starts as a bad writer. Writing uses such a complex set of skills, and calls for such a high level of coordination of these skills, that no one can do it well at first attempt.

Writing skills from the left, or logical, side of the brain include the proper use of rules of grammar, spelling, sentence structure, paragraph structure, and essay organization, to name the most basic. These rules are complicated and often self-contradictory.

You could compare this to learning the rules of a competitive sport like football or rugby. It takes time and effort to establish these rules in your mind and to know when and how to use each rule. Learning  such sport rules in isolation by memorization is not enough, either--you need to study how coaches and referees have applied them. To extend the analogy, you need to study how others writers have applied rules--you need to read!

Writing skills from the right, o…