Monday, November 26, 2007

Process in Your Own Writing: Prewriting. Assignment.

The fact you got very little direction in producing the first draft of your essay performing a rhetorical analysis of a game was intentional, as was the creation of the frustration you experiences in trying to produce a text without knowing your audience's expectations. I apologize for both, but I've found a little frustration at the beginning goes a long way toward teaching some essential concepts about the writing process and the author/audience relationship.

In fact, one of the hardest things to get students to notice is that their own writing isn't driven just driven by their own purposes but by the desire to meet the expectation of their audience. When you write for a professor, this is why you want to know how long your professor expects a paper to be. This is why you want to know what format the professor expects. This is why you want to interact with your professor and get to know them well enough to know the moves you make in writing and the claims you want to champion don't piss him or her off and, hence, compromise your grade. I hope my lack of direction has made you consciously aware of how much you depend on knowledge of your audience as you write.

Knowing your audience and their expectations is the first step in the writing process, that is, in pre-writing. Pre-writing involves you in making all the decisions necessary to write prior to getting started in drafting a text. In pre-writing, you figure out who your audience(s) is and how to appeal to their desires and needs while meeting your own. You figure out what your desires and needs (your purpose for writing) are. You figure out what you can say, and you figure out how to organize what you can say and what you need to find out and communicate to make the text you produce have the effects on your audience you intent.

Writers get nervous if they don't know how to answer these basic questions, but beginning writers rarely think of making these questions conscious. Writing without such knowledge makes you conscious of the need. Now to get the lesson to register at a gut level.

Until further notice, I want you to make it a conscious part of your writing process to answer the following questions:

Who is my audience?
What topic am I writing on?
What effects do I want to have on my audience? [One way to think of this questions is as a series of sub-questions: 1) What do I want my audience thinking, believing, feeling or doing after reading my text?, or 2) What is my purpose(s) in writing this text?, or 3) Do I want to instruct, persuade, inform, entertain or some combination of all four?]
What genre am I writing in? [Genre answers questions about length, format, topics, how to use evidence. More on this later.]
What can I say? [You can answer this last with a list, a free write, a mind map, or an outline. Again, more on these techniques later.]
How do I organize what I say? [This question gets to specific tactics of organization, like, chronological, less to most important, comparison and contrast, functional vs. formal definition, etc.]

Where to answer these questions:

Set up a blog using google blogger. Name your blog using the following template: FirstNameLateNameENG101Metadiscourse. Make sure to make your blog available to me and the rest of the class. I'll set up a google doc and share it with the class to distribute blog addresses, but for right now, just set up your blog and begin posting. Your blog will be the place where you will write about writing, and this writing can form a part of your portfolio evidence.

In composition, we call thinking about and writing about writing, metadiscourse. Translate: discourse about discourse. The notion is to make your knowledge of writing a conscious conversation which can be examined, added to, and improved. In this assignment, you're developing a conscious set of questions to answer prior to drafting.

For each formal assignment in the class, include an entry in your blog which answers the questions above.

Write if you have questions.


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