Friday, July 13, 2012

Resource Review: The Craft of Revision

The Craft of RevisionThe Craft of Revision by Donald Morison Murray
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Murray cautions us:
“Students, first of all, must learn a positive attitude toward revision. The process of revision, for most students, has not been concerned with finding meaning, but it has focused on editing superficial mechanical and grammatical errors to a preconceived and often not clearly understood standard.”

My reaction:
The one word I’m left with is INFORMATION. It seems most of the revision process is rooted in arranging, adding, removing, improving, and making decisions based on the best use of the best information in each moment.  The title could very easily be "The Craft of Writing" because as Murray demonstrates the very act of writing itself is a revision of our thoughts or the seed of an idea.

Format of each chapter:
Murray explains one concept at a time
Organizes chapters in a very specific order / how to write, rewrite, rewrite, rewrite
Most chapters offer exercises and/or examples
Some chapters offer Common Problems and their Solutions
Interviews with different writers at end of each chapter

1. Getting Writing Done—creating a discovery draft
No such thing as writer’s block. Excuse for poor habits.
a. “Writing becomes relatively easy if writing becomes a daily habit.”
i. No truck driver refused to work today because of truck driver’s block
b. Know tomorrow’s tasks today
ii. Know the territory and the task for tomorrow’s writing today

2. Rewrite to Focus

An effective piece of writing says on thing and, before rewriting a draft, you should be able to state it in a single sentence. (Steinbeck did it.)

To discover and state the focus be able to answer the following questions with specific, brief statement: a sentence or less.
a. what is the single dominant meaning
b. what is the central tension within the dominant meaning?
c. What do test readers say is the meaning of the draft?

Frame Your Meaning
a. like framing a picture with a camera
b. draw a box around a part of a picture
c. use the frame like a zoom lens
a. give students same picture with different size frames
b. write a piece on the picture

3. Rewrite to Collect (information)
a. writers write with information
i. words are symbols of information
b. don’t be word-drunk
i. readers hungry for information, images, facts, insights
c. readers read to become an authority
d. concrete, accurate, significant details
i. creates trust
ii. makes writing lively

4. Rewrite for External Order
a. you should have a draft and a bunch of information to work into it
b. now you need to shape everything and take control of it
i. 5 paragraph essay may seem harmless (but it isn’t)
-5 paragraph essays lives only in a school, not real world writing
-suggests that FORM is more important than the content
-suggests that meaning can be changed to fit the form
-there is one right way to tell all stories
-the reader has to be told what the message will be, what the message is, what it means
d. the purpose of the form is to carry meaning to the reader
i. essay? Narrative? Argument? Expository? et al…

5. Rewrite for Internal Order
a. Readers should be able to follow a trail of information
b. Remember a reader is always in control and it is up to you to give them a trail worth following (“a seductive trail”)

Exercise: Answer the reader’s questions
a. all effective writers hear the reader’s questions and answers them immediately
i. How come? How do you know that? Says who? I’d like to know more about that… Why’d she do that? Whoa, back up, I don’t understand…

Exercise: Outline after writing
a. to expose the structure of the draft
b. adapt/redesign the structure

6. Rewrite to Develop
a. an underdeveloped draft is fully developed in a writer’s mind but not on paper
b. stand back and look at it like a reader (hungry for information)
c. look for the signs of an underdeveloped draft:
-it is predictable
-it could have been written by anyone
-there is no individual vision
-the reader learns nothing the reader did not already know
d. develop with information
-reveal with specifics
-write with abundance
e. develop with authority
-convince with authority
-persuade with evidence
f. develop with clarity
-dominant impression-every piece of info supports a single meaning
-the reader should receive information in a natural order
g. develop with context
-address the reader who asks, “So what?”
h. rewriting starts with rereading
-read fragments of your writing
-search for code words or words that have meaning only to you
-read to add snapshots of memories that haunt or move us

Exercise – Emphasize the Significant
a. Arrange and Rearrange paragrahs in a 2-3-1 order
b. moving the most significant information to the edges will clarify the writing

7. Rewrite with Voice
a. lack of voice is most common reason we stop reading
b. signs of a draft without voice:
-no individual human being behind the page
-no intellectual challenge
-no emotional challenge
-no flow
-no magic

8. Rewrite to Edit
a. Twenty ways to “unfinal” a draft
-listen to the draft -cut the end -make new connections
-welcome the unexpected -cut or extend the length -reorder the draft
-expand what works -play with a new focus -change the pace
-tune the music of the draft -reconsider the audience -unbalance the proportions
-start closer to the end -put draft into new context -try a new genre
-add new evidence -look for instructive failure -role play a reader
-use a test reader -observe the draft

b. attitude change…writing is editing…trust your ear more than your eye

Exercise: Interview your draft
a. what is the one thing I wanted to say?
b. What single message does the draft deliver?
c. To whom is the message being sent?
d. Does everything in the draft support or advance the message?
e. Where are the greatest failures in the draft?

9. Rewrite at Work

10. The Craft of Letting Go

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