Saturday, May 4, 2013

The cat ate my blog post

To the tens of thousands of you (or more realistically, the ten of you who actually read my blog), I have a litany of valid reasons why I have not been posting.

Take this morning. It’s hard to write with a cat on your lap. Pablo likes weekends because my lap spends more time at home, so I am pecking this out one handed with cat hairs on the keyboard as he head butts my other hand, demanding Pet me pet me pet me.

Blame the weather. It’s been a lovely week, dry, warm, the kind of spring weather that demands one’s presence outdoors. Yes, I’m allergic to most of what’s lurking in that soil, and I pay for it with watery eyes and needing to be in close proximity to tissues.

I have been writing: not this blog, but hard at work on my latest novel. I set a date of June 1st to be finished with the first draft. And the book has steered itself into surprising directions. It may not work structurally, but I am enjoying this bout, so I will roll with it. My main characters nag me all the time. They’re teenagers, and they demand full attention.

But so do my other teenagers at work, especially the ones ready to graduate or skate the line between passing and failing my class. The kids are finishing up a semester long research project for which they (allegedly) written two ungraded drafts. Several have only shown me one draft, some have written NO drafts. The third and final draft is the biggie. Those who have not gotten my preliminary feedback are taking a huge risk. It’s like submitting the first draft of a novel to an editor or agent and expecting a book contract.

The REAL writing is in the rewrites. Initial drafts are fun to write, but revision is re- seeing the work, allowing the pieces to fall into place with more clarity. Here is where you find the inconsistencies (like forgetting a minor character’s name,) holes (such as undeveloped scenes, and glaring errors (your protagonist is blonde at the beginning, but later you describe him as having ebony hair).

This week in class we worked on thesis statements. I projected each students’ argument thesis to check for clarity, stance and warrant. Here is an example of how we fixed them:

Initial thesis:
Television is entertaining and informative, but has a negative impact on teens and society. Teenagers aren’t fully developed making them easily influenced, so partying, bad health, or even carelessness are all being more commonly demonstrated.

With input from me and her peers, here is what we devised:

Television is entertaining and informative, however , the bulk of shows on TV now geared for teens like Jersey Shore utilize partying, bad health and carelessness and do not enhance maturing  young adult brains.

Writing is a solitary pursuit, but we need outside feedback to make us better writers. To paraphrase Stephen King in On Writing, “draft with door closed, but revise with the door open. I frequently torture my great friend Elizabeth with my wretched drafts, and since she stands outside my story, she can find the cracks more easily.

Here is hoping my students are busy this weekend working on their rewrites, just as I need to get back to my novel. Just stopped by to say hello.
 Happy Writing.