Response #9 – Sue Miller’s “A Lecture on Revision”

As we head into the final two weeks of the semester, I would like to ask you to start thinking about revising, refining, polishing and deepening one of your four essays. In  her essay “A Lecture on Revision,” Sue Miller gives us some pretty wonderful insights on how to think about revising.

In the exercise for this week, I’ll ask you to:

  • take up Miller’s idea of “the dragon,” or how you might deepen your essay by looking closely at the what is the core struggle you are grappling in the work.
  • As she also implores us, to keep in mind a reader, to make the work of consequence for a reader. Another way of thinking about this is to project out, to give a reader not only our story, but to help readers in thinking about their own lives and struggles.
  • To consider the other word she uses: “center.” What is at the center of the essay you’re writing? Once this is determined, we can deepen the meaning of the essay by writing toward this core.

In your response this week, discuss what you have learned about revision from this essay, and how you might begin revising your own work.

Please post by Tuesday(ish), April 21.


Exercise #9 – Revision Exercise – Interviewing Your Draft

For this week’s exercise, choose one of the four essays you have written this semester. Consider choosing not necessarily the one that you think is the best so far, but the one that you think has the most meaningful thing to say.

Many times the key to revision is learning to “listen’ to what our draft is trying to tell us. Writers have to be ruthlessly honest with ourselves about what is and what is not on the page as opposed to what we hope is on the page. One technique I find useful is to interrogate the draft. Interviewing the draft can help you help think more deeply about what it is you hope to accomplish. Here are some questions to ask about your draft:


  1. What is the one thing I wanted to say, the single most important message I intended to deliver?
  2. What single message does the draft deliver?
  3. To whom is the message being sent?
  4. Does everything in the draft support the intended message? If not, do the digressions serve a different purpose?
  5. What are the most effective elements in the draft?
  6. What are the most underdeveloped parts of the drafts? Where does the draft break down or take a turn?
  7. Are the reader’s questions all answered by the end of the draft?
  8. Is the voice of the draft appropriate to the reader? Does that voice stay consistent?
  9. Is there anything that can be cut?
  10. Are the portions of information adequate? Is it saying something the reader already knows, or does it provide new insight or information?
  11. What do you want the reader to think feel or do after reading the draft? If you were the reader, would you think, feel that way, or take that action?

And, from the Sue Miller Essay, “Lecture on Revision,” here are two additional questions (from p. 350).

  • What drew you to write this essay?
  • What is the central struggle (center) of the essay? Has that struggle been made clear to the reader?

It may be that not all of these questions are relevant to your essay, but the majority should be. Work to answer at least 10 of them.

Make sure you identify at the top of your page which of your essays you have chosen.

Please email to me by April 23.

Week #14, April 20-24

  1. Response #9 — Due on April 21, by 5:00 PM
  2. Exercise #9  — Also due on April 23 by 5:00 PM

Essay #4 will be posted under “Workshops” in the next couple of days. Please remember that peer responses will be due on Slack on April 27.

Please note:  While I like the idea of a potential ZOOM get-together so members of the class could meet, given that several of you live out of town, that people’s schedules vary widely during Finals week, and that adding one more thing to your Finals week schedule seems unfair to you at this late date, I have decided to not try to schedule this.

Please remember that in addition to emailing me your final draft of one of the four essays during Finals, I will ask you each to post either a video or audio of you reading your essay by the end of Finals week.


Week # 12 – April 6-April 10

Hi Everyone,

Hope you’re all doing well. I’ve been reading through your essay #3’s, and finding them quite moving. I was thinking maybe rather than the usual peer workshops, I’d just put them in a readable form to share? That way you can read them without having to worry about providing feedback. I think it will be good for all of us to read them, and to hear what some of your classmates are going through. There are a few essays that did cover an event as originally assigned, and I think it will be good to read those, also, just as a reminder of where we were just a few short weeks ago.
Stay healthy everyone!

This week’s agenda:

  1. Response #8 — Due on Tuesday, April 7
  2. Exercise #8 — Due on Thursday, April 9
  3. Please also note that your Essay #4, Due April 16, is posted here:

Please let me know if you have any questions.





Week #11 – March 30-April 3

This week’s agenda:

  1. Response #7 – Due on March 31
  2. Exercise #7 – Also due on April 2
  3. Read Chapter 8 in Writing True.  This chapter is about new media. Look for a related blog post about this later this week.
  4. And, looking ahead, here’s the assignment for Essay #4, due on April 16.

Please note, I’ll try to to schedule essay #3 Slack workshops for April 9. I plan to post these essays and peer review assignments later this week. I think it’s important for you to have readers for theses essays, and as many of them will deal with COVID-19, they’ll be of interest, cathartic even, for you. My new policy of flexible due dates, however, means that I’ve not yet received all of the essays. Bear with me as I determine the best way to schedule this

Thank you!