Your work this semester will center on drafting and revising two substantive nonfiction essays. This course is set up to support your ongoing work on those writing projects.
You will have some writing due each week of this course. Some of these writings will be informal and exploratory exercises (Xs). These are brief pieces, usually running about 1,000 words or so. Their aim is to help you get started on your longer projects for the semester. What will distinguish one exercise from the other is the kind of work or research —memory, observation, interviews, reading—that I’ll ask you to base your writing upon. My aim in asking you to ground your writing in these different kinds of research is to push you to look in varied places for ideas to write about.
At the start of the semester, we will also set up several writing groups. The success of this course, frankly, hinges on the success of these groups. Each group will consist of five writers and will meet during every second or third week of the semester. You are required to present a piece you are currently working on at each meeting of your writing group. In most cases, this will be a revision (R) of one of your exercises, an exercise you’ve decided to continue to work on, to develop and and refine. At other times, it may be a revision of a revision, of a piece you’ve shared at an earlier workshop and have since done more work on. These Rs tend to run somewhat longer than Xs—usually about 1,500 words. I’ll also expect you to read and comment on the work in progress of the other writers in your group.
I think you’ll find working in a writing group useful in a number of ways. It will provide you with a regular set of deadlines, offer you feedback on your work-in-progress, and give you a sense of the kinds of things that other people in this course are writing. In past versions of this course most people have wanted to continue in the same writing groups for the entire semester, but we will check around spring break to see if any changes need to be made.
Over the course of the semester, I will ask you to bring two essays (Es) to a polished and final form. These pieces usually run about 2,000 words. The first will be due just after spring break, the second at the end of the semester. Only these two final essays will receive a letter grade. I will mark your other weekly writings for this course with a √ or √—. You are also required to submit one of the pieces you write this semester for publication.
All writings for this course are due on Tuesdays at 10:00 AM. This deadline will give both the members of your writing group and me time to read and respond to your work before class the following day. So it is crucial that you post your work on time.
I’ve structured this course to offer you regular practice and feedback in the craft of writing. There aren’t many crunch points in the semester where large amounts of work come due, but there aren’t many blank spots on the calendar either. Instead there is a steady stream of reading and writing. You’ll thus do best in this course if you establish a consistent work schedule. Don’t fall behind, and I promise that you’ll finish the semester feeling more fluent, confident, and expressive as a nonfiction writer. Good luck!