28 Aug 2008 [ Prev | Next ]

Ex 1-0: I, Writer

In about 200 carefully chosen words, teach me who you are as a writer. Use vivid examples that unite to illustrate a single main idea. Do it all in a single, well-crafted paragraph.

Bring an electronic version of your assignment to class. (You can use a thumb drive, put it on your I drive, or e-mail it to yourself.)

Your objectives are to demonstrate your ability to
  • focus on a single subject, and
  • craft a well-organized paragraph with a topic sentence, supporting details, and a conclusion.
(Bonus -- if you'd like to start working ahead, consult this handout on preferring vivid "showing" to unnecessary "telling".)

The Writing Process
Writing is not a "sit-down-just-before-the-deadline-and-do-it-all-at-once" activity. The course assumes that you will take time to plan, draft, and revise each assignment before you submit it.

Planning -- Choosing a Focus
Writing prompts are not like questions on a quiz, where  you are expected to answer each one, in order.  Use the following prompts to guide your thinking, and come up with your own controlling idea, illustrated with good examples, in order to express an important point about yourself as a write.

  • Who are you, as a writer?
  • What do you you write, for whom, and why?
  • When, where, and how do you write?
  • What have you written that made you proud? Embarrassed? Bored?
  • Do you have a physical reaction when you think of the words "college writing"?

Exploring your Ideas

The course will ask you to experiment with different methods of exploring through writing, such as brainstorming, idea-mapping, and freewriting.  We'll go through each of those strategies in class, though you're welcome to try them on your own. (See section 2b in SF Writer.)

Drafting --  Giving Form to Your Ideas
Your writing task is not finished once you get to 200 words. College writing students are expected to make occasional mid-course corrections to stay on track, and frequent hairpin turns in order to follow an idea that heads off in an unexpected direction.

You won't be able to cover every possible answer to the prompts in just 200 words.  Try jotting down your reactions to each prompt, and see which one sparks your creativity the most.  Choose that prompt as your topic, and determine what your answer will be. 

Rather than wasting 20 words repeating or rephrasing the question, just focus on giving the answer.  

Revising -- Seeing Again, Building on Strengths
Once you have a decent draft, try putting it aside and coming back the next day. You might also try

  • Trading drafts with a classmate and exchanging ideas (this is perfectly acceptable in a writing class)
  • Asking someone else to read your draft to you.
Find some way to help you step back from the act of composition, and take on the role of the critical reader, so that you can focus on making the approach you've chosen as effective as possible.

General Revision Checklist:

  • Is your strongest, best idea mentioned right away in the topic sentence? (If so, good!)
  • Is the first two-thirds of the paragraph just filler ("Some people like to talk about X, while other people like to talk about Y.  I am here to ask a question about the completely unrelated topic Z.")? (If your first significant thought comes at about the 2/3 point, cut that filler and start over again with that strong thought in the thesis position.)
  • Are you puffing up your language in an effort to boost the word count, or maybe to sound more intelligent?  (Writing "at this point in time" instead of "now," or "utilize" instead of "use"?)
  • Have you illustrated your main idea with vivid details taken from your life? (Instead of a dry list of chronological events, I'd rather read an angry rant -- provided the rant is on topic.)


This assignment is a diagnostic. It's purpose is to help us identify your strengths and weaknesses. It's also an opportunity for you to get to know my evaluation methods.

While this assignment does not receive a grade, I will provide feedback according to the following checklist. You can easily avoid some common submission mistakes (such as submitting several short paragraphs instead of a single paragraph, omitting your name or a meaningful title,

Ex 1-0


Title block MLA-style title block (see SF Writer 335).

Title An original, thoughtful title - not just a variation of the assignment title.

Layout One double-spaced paragraph (beginning with an indented line).

Typeface 12-point Times New Roman (or similar)?


Length About 200 words?  ~10% variance? ~20% variance?

Theme Addresses assigned topic? Off topic? Split focus? Rambling?

Timeliness Submitted on time?

E-text File accessible during class workshop?


Diction Word choice: stuffy? slangy? misused? IM-speak?

Proof Nicely polished? Garbled typing or disjointed layout?

Punctuation My overall impression. We're not concerned with the details just now.

Grammar My overall impression. We're not concerned with the details just now.


Voice Inconsistent? Dry? Personal? Flowing? Inviting?

Clarity Muddy? Wordy? Precise? Concise? Snappy?

Details Absent? Vague? Irrelevant? Helpful? Vivid?

Conclusion Absent? Redundant? Routine? Substantial? Insightful?

"Can You Just Tell Us What You Want?"
Okay.  I want...

  • you to dive in, sleeves rolled up and eyes open. Writing is not like arithmetic or spelling, where you can stop once you've found "the right answer."  Every thing that has been written can be written better. Every writer can improve.
  • you to take your first step towards reaching your true potential, not just as a writer, but as a thinker, a problem-solver, and the future of our civilization.
  • you to understand I'm not looking for a specific answer, or any specific approach.
  • you to use any tone you want -- funny or fearful; factual or philosophical.
  • you to be honest. You won't get more points for expressing an opinion that I happen to hold, or fewer points for disagreeing with me.
  • you not to waste words. (Don't repeat the question... just dive right into the answer.)



Candis Bostic said:

I handed in the wrong paper on turnitin.com for this assignment. Can I resubmit the correct one after you remove it.
Thank you

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