Tips for writing

I’m a big tip fan.  Tips are good because they are simple (i.e. easy to remember) but they contain complexities.  Read more to see what I mean.

1. Don’t reference the assignment.  It makes sense in a draft to reference an assignment (not just this assignment, but any assignment), but I’d encourage writers to cut those references out as they move the draft along.  Imagine readers beyond the class; they won’t know what you are talking about, and they probably won’t find a reference to an assignment to be a compelling opening paragraph.

2. Show don’t tell.  Easy piece of advice, but hard to actualize, and sometimes it works to show and tell.   Sometimes we need to tell our readers what is going on, what an event means, but our readers will typically be drawn in to an essay that shows them an event, is full of vivid details (showing), and avoids saying things like “this was the best / worst day of my life.” If you have to tell your readers “this was the best day of my life,” at least go on to show them, in vivid detail and interesting language, why it was the best day, so far.

3. Write on the bias; seek a 3rd dimension. Obviously stealing this one from Linda Brodkey, and it is my newest, favorite, and most cryptic suggestion.  I think literacy narratives lend themselves to two dimensionality in early drafts: I read this, I learned this, it changed me in this way, now I am this person.  That is two dimensional: your life, your literacy.  The third dimension places your life in to a larger cultural context.  As we have seen from our readings, that means considering the race (the whiteness?), class (Carol Bly showed us how class works even in MN), gender (could be school gender dynamics, family gender dynamics, cultural gender dynamics), even age dimensions (early maturity, or immaturity!) of your literacy narrative.  It might mean considering “what does it mean to be an English major, an Education major, a Theatre Major?” Or it could be a dimension that consider literacy as a tool for living.   Your lives can open up in to those dimensions; seek the third dimension.


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