Of all the modern writers, Hemingway was without doubt the foremost defender of revision as a proof of serious craft. He repeatedly stated that he more you could throw away, the surer you could be that something of substance was there to begin with, and I agree. Overwriting is not that hard to do and revision is a critical component of the writing process. I tend to underwrite and then as I revise, I go back and add what I feel is needed to clarify whatever it is I’m trying to say. Not necessarily the right way, but it’s the way I do it.
Freshman papers due and I have hundreds to grade so I won’t be writing until get them done. English is a difficult subject to teach for a number of reasons. First, most students in freshman classes are literally all over the place. Some had good high school English teachers, some not so good, some come form good schools, others from those just getting by. Others come from either the military or from the regular world where they have, for the most part, learned the minimum wage world can be a difficult place to live. Also some sadness – I caught one of my freshmen cheating on a paper. She pulled it off the Internet with minimal intro and conclusion added and when confronted about it claimed she had written it in high school – a double whammy as a previously written paper is not okay to submit in a college class. It turned out that she had submitted it in high school and received a good grade on it, however, she took it off the Internet then and it wasn’t her’s. She thought it was okay to sue and it was her paper since she had used it once. Scary, but not all that uncommon. Each year brings more and more students who are essentially unprepared for college level writing and many don’t even know the fundamentals of grammar. Makes my job difficult as freshman English is meant to prepare a student for all the following classes required writing needs and I only have 16 weeks in which to do it. While it gladdens my heart to see most go from D papers to A/B papers, I still, after all this time, hate that I can’t save them all. Some simply won’t let me and though I know the failure of those few is not my fault, I still hate it anyway.
Update: It’s that time in the semester where my students writing generally improves dramatically, making the grading much faster than earlier in the academic year. I am now finished and all papers are graded, so it’s back to the people anxiously standing around my desk that only I can see.
Been a really long week, so I am more than a little glad for the extra day off that Labor Day provides. The new semesters means first academic papers from freshman classes, and I also have editing needed on a manuscript for my agent.
The student paper grading went well – for me, not so well for the students. Freshman composition class papers generally suck the first time around, partly, I’m sure, because of the attempt to do the absolute minimum necessary as was done in high school and a lack of understanding that they are not now in thirteenth grade. Bad mistake, and most make it, though not all recover from it. An always too large portion of the papers were truly awful and ended up as F papers (I actually gave F/D’s to most since they are the first college level papers attempted by these guys). A few were legitimate A’s, a few B’s, and a couple were C’s.
Most issues were caused by a distinct inability to follow directions regarding the format, length, topic, or whatever, as well as a general lack of ability to write in any sort of cohesive manner or understand the fundamentals of grammar. That said, lots (and I mean LOTS) of markup on these papers will be discussion next week and that will lead to much improved papers the next time around. Always does. Unfortunately, many have been allowed to write really crappy papers in high school by teachers who didn’t care and/or bother to prepare them for college, so it takes the full 16 week semester to get some improved to where they are solid writers. Those who have trouble distinguishing the difference between college and high school will likely not make it through the class, and so it goes. Not everyone really should be in college. Those who will let me, will write and write well in fourteen more weeks, if they make the effort. The others will struggle with college writing assignments for the duration of the time they remaining college.
Once the grading was done, I was able to work on to the manuscript I’m completing and get it and several synopses finished for my agent. As of a few minutes ago, it’s in her hands (electronically speaking). On to completing book two of the trilogy.