Saturday, December 18, 2010

Letter to a student...

Write like academic you--avoiding writing like you think you should write, like your grandmother is leaning over your shoulder. Present in your essays is nice organization, solid thinking and analysis. However, the puffed up, wordy and vague sentences mess everything up. I'm making a big deal out of this because it seems to me if you could get a handle on this your writing will really improve. Hiding among the wordiness is some strong writing and clear thinking.

Get closer to your topic. Stand nose to nose with it.

"In the world we live in" doesn't really mean much. There is no other place for us to live, it's like saying "Here, on Earth..." What do you really mean - in 2010? In the world of Lansing teenagers? Michigan? "It is my understanding..." "I think" "I believe" - You don't need these because reader knows it is your essay, ergo, those are your thoughts and beliefs. Using this wording is technically called authorial intrusion. You are creating a distance between you and the reader. I suggest you not do that. It's like you are standing at a window telling me what you see. Please get out of the way and let me look for myself.

Have you read the section in the S King book, On Writing, about his experience with the newspaper article he wrote about the sports team? That is an illustration of what I'm talking about.

Think about this - what if you wrote a whole essay on the genre you mentioned: screamo. What is it? What are the distinct characteristics that make it different from other genres? Why did it show up? How does it impact the local scene? Who likes it and why? What musical value does it have or why is it so bad? Show - describe with details.

This essay tries to cover too much ground. It's a tour bus going 55 through the city. The tourists don't really get a good look at things because you're zipping through too fast.

Pick one stop. Get out. Totally stare at it, think about it, analyze it, and make it matter.