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Writing as a process

Most people won't realize that writing is a craft. You have to take your apprenticeship in it like anything else.

-- Katherine Anne Porter

In this module, you have the opportunity to:

1. Listen to William Zinsser read from his famous book "On Writing Well." Zinsser provides his thoughts on the writing process, and offers four basic principles for writing well. You will find this podcast by going to:

http://dukecast.oit.duke.edu/

Search for "DEL" to find the link to the podcast "DEL Professional Writing Modules." There are 5 episodes that you can listen to (Zinsser1 through Zinser5) resulting in approximately 16 minutes of audio. If you find Zinsser's comments helpful, I recommend his book, "On Writing Well, 30th anniversary edition" published by Harper Collins in 2006.

2. For those of you who struggle to get words written on the page, you might benefit from viewing the following slide show about improving your writing process. The show can be found at:

http://uwp.aas.duke.edu/wstudio/resources/documents/WritingProcess.pdf

http://uwp.aas.duke.edu/wstudio/resources/handouts/WritingProcess.pdf

3. The key to successful writing is revision, ideally incorporating feedback from a variety of readers. However, sometimes we do not have the luxury of having readers offer feedback on our writing, so it is important to be able to analyze our own writing. Towards this end, I urge writers to use reverse outlines to analyze why certain passages just don't work. If you have never used a reverse outline, or have never even heard of one, a short description can be found at:

http://uwp.aas.duke.edu/wstudio/resources/handouts/WS%20Handouts/reverse_outline.pdf

I urge you to try creating a reverse outline of the next text you write, for a class or on the job. The goal is to use reverse outlines to help you see the big picture of your paper, to determine if each paragraphs is coherent, and to help you assess whether or not each paragraph is working to motivate your ideas.

4. Finally, I recommend that you read two very short chapters from Anne Lamott's book "Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life" (1994 Anchor Books), which will be posted in the "Course Documents" folder in Blackboard. They are "Short Assignments" and "Shitty First Drafts." Although Lamott's advise is intended for fiction writers, these two chapters are relevant to all writers. I thoroughly enjoyed the entire book, and highly recommend it.