Thursday, June 24, 2010

Revision Logs

I'm teaching a composition class over the summer and right now I've begun grading my class's first set of papers. With this class, I decided to try something I haven't tried before. Along with the final draft of their papers, I had them turn in a revision log. For this log, there are two parts:

Part 1: They had to create a list of feedback they have received on their paper. They needed to include feedback they received from their peers in the class, feedback from me, and feedback from anyone else (like a tutor, friend, or family member) who helped them work on their paper.

Part 2: They had to create a daily log of what they did on their paper that day and, if applicable, whose feedback that change was in response to.

I had a couple of ideas behind the log. One was to help students look at their feedback comprehensively and see if there were trends where more than one reviewer pointed out the same strength or weakness. Another principle was that if they wrote down the specific steps they took to revise their paper, they would be more aware of their writing/revising process, which is something I put a very big emphasis on in my classes. One of the most important things anyone can learn about writing is what works best for them, and being aware of process is where that all starts. Last, my practical impetus behind the revision logs was to help hold students accountable for their revision. Sometimes, when I read a final draft, I find a student has ignored feedback, or made minimal changes. In a few of the very worst cases, I've read final drafts that were identical to the rough draft, save for a change in font, because students are nothing if not optimistic that I'm not paying very much attention.

So, I thought I would try an experiment where students had to write down what work they had done on their papers and when. Then, when I return the graded final drafts, I hope that by looking at their revision logs along with my comments on their rough and final drafts, students will be better able to see how effective their revisions either were or were not.

At this point, I haven't yet read the papers themselves. I decided to start by looking at the revision logs. It makes for interesting reading. Not surprisingly, I'm noticing a correlation between students who wrote detailed revision logs and students who are strong writers overall. Students who struggle with writing overall also struggle with their revision logs. As we continue through the semester and students get more practice with writing and revising, I'll be curious to see how the revision logs evolve.

Here are a couple of audience participation questions: When it comes to revision, have you ever done anything like a revision log? How do you handle going from getting feedback to compiling/implementing it?

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Mind the Gap, or At Least I've Got Fun Books

I've been lagging behind on the contest for a while now. No Bueno. Sadly, half a dozen other things have been demanding my attention lately, and while they're good things to pay attention to, they're rather distracting from the thousands of words I currently need to write in order to catch up.


In other news, I was at the library the other day and I stumbled on The Best of Joe R. Lansdale and since I was looking for something that'd be either funny or horrific, I picked it up. I'd never heard of Lansdale before, except, when I looked at the Table of Contents, I realized that I had, sort of. A few years back I got talked into watching a movie called Bubba Ho-Tep which is based off of Lansdale's story of the same name. I was pleasantly surprised by the movie, which stars Bruce Campbell, by the way. So, I was quite delighted to find out that the book I'd more or less randomly picked off the shelf was directly connected. Sometimes, it really is a small world.

I'm about two stories in to the anthology right now (one of the two I've read was "Bubba Ho-Tep") and I'm quite enjoying Lansdale's style. In some ways, he rather reminds me of Chuck Palahniuk, whose book Tell-All I'm currently listening to on audiobook.

I may be lagging on the writing contest, but, on the other hand, I'm in a good reading place right now. It's kind of a wash.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Emotional Writing

Some time ago, I was on a professionally published writer's website. I'll skip her name, but tell you that she's got multiple novels on the bookstore shelves. On her website, I read an update where she was describing how she gets emotionally invested in what she writes. A specific example she described was in the book she was writing, she had just written a scene in which her main character did something "unforgivable." According to the author, writing that scene where her character committed this act was so emotional for her that after she finished, she went into the other room and sobbed. She was... dramatic about it.

My reaction was, "Huh? Are you serious?" Getting that emotional about a made up person committing a made up act that you made them do? Sounded a little unbalanced to me.

Do I think good writing requires emotion? Sure. Do I think good writing makes the reader feel like they're involved in what's going on in the book? Absolutely. Do I think that, in order for the reader to feel the emotion, the writer should feel the emotion first? Sure. But, do I think you should have a nervous breakdown because of a fictional event? Um... there's a difference between reality and pretend.

I was thinking about this last night. Last night I got to a scene where I killed off a main character. It wasn't the easiest scene to write because I was trying to make it as hard as I could on the other characters. I was trying to make it hard on the reader. I mean, that's kind of the point behind killing a main character. But, I have to confess, I did not, in fact, have to go in the other room and sob about it.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Sit Down and Shut Up!

Deb sometimes talks about this guy. He's the worst kind of guy. You know the type. He never has a good thing to say He's always finding the negative. He never builds anything up, but instead is constantly tearing you down.

And you want to know the very, very worst part about this guy? He's not really a guy. He's the voice in your head. He's the Inner Heckler. When you're writing a scene, the Inner Heckler whispers in your ear, saying things like, "That dialogue is awful," or "I can't believe you thought this plot development was a good idea. It's soooo lame," and, "Really? That's the best you can do?"

Most of the time, my Inner Heckler doesn't act up too much while I'm doing a rough draft. Usually, he bides his time, waiting until the rough draft is finished and he can be dismissive about my chances of ever getting it polished up to be good enough. See, my Heckler and I have a system.

For some reason, with this contest, he's breaking the deal. The past week or so, my Inner Heckler has gotten brave and he keeps hollering at me, which has put a big kink in my plan to write the most words. Dang Heckler, I bet Jenny's paying him off. I wouldn't put it past her to try bribing him to act up.

But, the good news is I've put in a call to Security and they're hauling him off, even as we speak. He's been disruptive and now I'm putting him in his place. It's a place with a sturdy lock and that funny-looking stuff they put on the walls of music studios to soundproof them.

Take that, Mr. Heckler.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Slow But Steady

The writing contest is trucking right along, with most folks keeping a pretty steady pace. Me, I took a few days off to concentrate on other things, but I'm trying to make up the distance I lost. My usual writing bribe tends to be Twizzlers, but lately I've been trying out Mountain Dew's summer flavors, so that's been my bribe of choice ;)

Between the soda and doing a lot of out of the house pages, I'm feeling pretty good about where I am right now in the contest, though I do need to step it up a bit.

Bring on the caffeine and sugar!

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Words, Photos, at Least I'm Getting Something Done

I've been doing a lot of polymer lately and I'm finally getting around to taking photos and listing new earrings in my Etsy shop. Taking photos of jewelry is tricky and I feel like I'm only now getting the hang of it, thanks to the help of my nifty tripod and a couple of props from the thrift shop.

It's funny how there's little that motivates me quite so well as having something else I should be doing. Turns out, this contest is proving productive for my non-writing To Do list.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

From the Starting Block

The starting pistol's been fired and the race is on. My June goal is simple: write, write, write. My aim right now is more about consistency than quantity, and I'm making it my goal to average at least 3.3 pages a day.

One other thing I did to help me was that last night I took a page from Debbie's book and spent some time with index cards. I wrote out the next chapters for Oracle with one to a card. I don't have too many yet, but it's a start. On each card, I wrote a couple notes about what happens, making it clear which POV that chapter should be in, and then I wrote a note titled "Main Conflict" and things like "Sedge wants..., but..." to help me focus on having tension in each chapter.

Writing out the cards was interesting and helpful. I'm curious to see what writing pages with them will be like.