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Paul Massa WRT 102.53 Blog #3: Nifty Writing Tips

Posted on February 11, 2019

Sometimes you read for enjoyment, sometimes you write for an enjoyment, but have you ever thought about reading to get better at writing?? Seems crazy, right? However, the articles “The Maker’s Eye” by Donald Murray and “Shitty First Draft” by Lamott allow you to do just that!

Both writings regard tips that can help you improve your literacy. Let’s begin with “The Makers Eye.” In the article, Murray considers ways that you can improve your revision skills from the inside out. He begins by stating that most writers “usually read (their paper) through to correct typographical errors and consider the job of writing done”. I, and I’m sure my classmates can say the same, have done this an infinite amount of times! Murray explains this can’t be the case if you’d like to be a talented writer. Murray exclaims a tip early in the article by explaining that while revising, one must be “their own best enemy” so that revisions aren’t complacent. Another tip is to encourage harsh criticism upon yourself, and to look at your writing skills as imperfect as to only get better – much the same as artists and directors don’t like releasing their work until it is absolutely FLAWLESS! Furthermore, Murray points out that writing is a “sum of all parts” process – each section of a writing piece has a “relationship to all the other sections”. Murray continues by addressing what he calls the “seven elements” of revision. He lists each in order of importance (most important first, less so last) as another tip – a good writer must prioritize his/her revisions appropriately. He lists the elements in the order of subject clarity (is my main point of the writing piece clear?), purpose (WHY am I writing this?), audience (how can I make my audience want to read this?), form (what type of writing piece (novel, manuscript, magazine) should this be?), structure (is this fluent and easy to read?), development (does my writing “flow” so that one thing leads to the next appropriately?), and tone (how can my writing have lively spirit?). To note, one of the reasons Murray formatted his priorities in this such way is because he believes that form, structure, development, and tone are highly dependent on subject/purpose/audience and NOT vice versa; that is why subject/purpose/audience must be taken care of first. As a tip, Murray suggests following these rules of revision to make the task less sloppy and more precise and goal-oriented to ensure success. After this is all done, Murray tips that then and ONLY then do you focus on smaller details (such as word choice, grammar, and small single word additions) since now the most difficult is already behind you! Murray also suggests you take breaks in your revision (perhaps every 20 or so minutes) to ensure you don’t become restless and want to rush. After all revisions are complete, Murray tips that the piece should be “effortless to the reader” to read. This can be accomplished perhaps by peer revision, where someone else reads the text and provides feedback. Finally, Murray suggests you don’t wait until the last minute to finalize your piece, as you may regret it later. Comically, Murray concludes “if only they had another couple of days, just another run at it, perhaps…”.

After reading Murray’s advice, I really didn’t think anything else could possibly be more clear in how to perfect revision. However, Lamott’s “Shitty First Draft” also provides very considerable insight. Lamott notes that professional writing is not simple – even the greatest writers of all time take huge amounts of time revising and editing and that their Best Selling books were not started and completed in a mere single sitting. He states that no great writer sits down and feels “wildly enusiastic and confident” about writing a great story. He continues by noting that they don’t write one draft and never look back. In fact, the hardest and most consuming part of writing is actually the first draft, where “pen first meets paper” so to say. However, Lamott suggests that the first draft is the base for all future drafts and the final result of all your hard work – and that the first draft can’t be skipped and it can’t be where you finish your writing. Lamott explains that a great piece should have 3 drafts in total; with each one important in completing the final piece. This is Lamott’s greatest and most valuable tip in his article. The first draft is, according to Lamott, is where the most ideas are generated. It should be “childish” and “romp all over the place” – it should be where your mind explodes onto paper all its thinking of pertaining to the subject matter. Lamott purposely points out that anything can be deleted later, but it will be harder to add things later on. The second draft should be where most “cuts” take place – with not many additions and instead trying to be more concise with your writing. The third draft should be where small edits are made, and the where the piece is finalized to your hearts desire. In the form of ethos, Lamott was a suitable purpose to write this article because he was a food writer for “California” food magazine and was often stressed beyond belief at his reviews not being perfect before submission. To compensate for this, Lamott offered another tip to writers – you must control yourself no matter how annoying writing the first draft may be and you must disallow distractions (even imaginative ones!) to hinder your work. You can do this, as Lamott states, by imagining your bothersome friends/parents in a “volume controlled bottle” and leaving the volume “down, and get back to your shitty first draft”.

Both writers are very knowledgeable in how to revise, and their tips can be applied to any situation that requires you to write – from essays to blog posts JUST LIKE THIS! Just take a deep breath; there are ways to make revision structured and eventually seamless. You should apply these tips of revision to your literacy narratives and research papers as to succeed to the best of your ability!

What are you waiting for, prioritize effectively and get to work on that shitty first draft!

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