Writing is revising



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1. Revision

“Writing is revising.”

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2. Even the Experts Revise

Frances Fitzgerald’s editor concerning a draft of her book Fire in the Lake: “The present material is pre first draft; it has not got to the point where an editor can do anything with it. It is so rough, so lacking in clarity, that all we can do is throw up our hands.”

Fitzgerald’s Fire in the Lake went on to win the Bancroft Prize for History, the National Book Award, and the Pulitzer Prize.



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3. “Signs of a Student Writer”

“The first version of a sentence has been allowed to stand in the final draft.”

Notice the final draft of the sample Migrant Mother essay: not one sentence in the final draft is the same as the sentence was in the earlier draft.



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4. How Long Does It Take to Write an Essay for the Class?

From start to finish, it takes most students 8 to 10 hours to write a good essay.

One student’s response: “it takes me about 2 hours to write an essay and about 6 hours to revise it.”



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5. What Do You Do When You Revise?

Revising is not proofreading: You should not write a first draft, proofread it, and turn it in as your final draft.

Revising begins with the big things: the thesis, the thesis statement, the organization, the support and development of ideas.



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6. Review the Thesis Statement



In one sentence, does the thesis statement (1) identify your subject; (2) express, specifically, the main points of your paper; and 3) identify how the main points are logically related?

Example: “The photograph depicts a family suffering from extreme poverty, but it also demonstrates the determination of a mother to do her best to care for her children and to endure through difficult times.”



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7. Putting It All Together

Thesis: The photograph depicts a family suffering from extreme poverty, but it also demonstrates the determination of a mother to do her best to care for her children and to endure through difficult times.”


  1. The mother and her children are severely impoverished.

  2. The mother in Lange’s photograph is responsible for the survival and well being of her children, and it is clear that she is doing her best to provide for her children.

  3. The responsibility of caring for her family helps the mother remain strong and determined not to be defeated during these difficult times.

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8. How Do Your Thesis Statement and Topic Sentences Look?



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9. Developing Ideas within Body Paragraphs

Each body paragraph should be focused on supporting and developing the main idea or insight presented in the topic sentence.

The main idea of each paragraph should be developed with specific descriptions of parts of the painting or photograph.

Each body paragraph should be at least half of a page long (and that is a short paragraph).

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10. Development of Ideas and Description in Body Paragraphs

Struggle is a natural part of human life, and can be clearly seen in the painting of Christina.  As she sits in the field, her legs, covered in white tights, are bent awkwardly and sprawled out behind her, covered by the bottom of a pink dress leading down to her brown, old-fashioned shoes, which makes her seem as though she is unable to move her legs.  Her knees are gently bent in a way that proves she is unable to use them to crawl.  Christina is alone in the middle of the field surrounded by a sea of endless wheat, which explains that her struggle is just with herself and her own body.  Also, because she is very far away from the house and in the very middle of the field, not by a road, she looks as though she is abandoned.  The gray sky also adds to the fact that she is alone and makes the day look gloomy even though there are no clouds.  Looking through her point of view, her travels through the field may look endless, since she is so far away from the house.  Even when she finally reaches the house, there is a fence all the way around the house, which shows that once she gets to the fence, she still has obstacles in her way.  All of these elements in the painting together show Christina’s struggle with her physical condition.

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11. Development of Ideas and Description in Body Paragraphs

It is often said that power will never last. It has been proven time and time again with the fall of the Roman Empire, the collapse of the Nazis, and many other great nations that have risen only to be brought down once again. In this picture, the Colosseum has a lot of obvious wear. The building that once stood so glorious now has faded in color and is probably not quite as sturdy. The windows were well defined and showed the great architectural ability of their creators, but now they are chipping and breaking away. Still, even in the midst of the aging and decaying of a once grand building, there is still a sense of great power. While the Roman Empire did collapse, the Colosseum holds fast as a remnant of Italian power. It may be tattered in many places, but it is not in complete ruins and appears to be able to last a great while longer.

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12. Development of Ideas and Description in Body Paragraphs



The main sailboat has three boys and a father sailing in it. They look as if they are having a fun time relaxing on the boat. The dad looks as if he has a little bit of anxiety because of the storm, but the children look like they do not care a single bit. The children are nonchalant about the storm and they may think the weather is just perfect conditions for sailing. The older looking boy is steering the boat with ease and using only one hand. He has a darker colored shirt on and a life jacket with a hat. His sleeves and pants are rolled up showing his bare feet. The other two boys have hats on, too. While one of the younger boys has a dark shirt on, the other one’s is dark red or brown looking. The boys look calm and relaxed. The small boy farthest left may be taking a nap with the weather not affecting him at all. He has shoes on and a blanket around him. The father has a red shirt on and he has a beard. His face shows that he is focused on what he is doing and shows some anxiety probably about the storm that is moving towards them. The father may be a little worried, but that is the nature of how parents are usually. The father is showing the viewer that there are still times when one can enjoy activities that were done in the past.

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13. Your Body Paragraphs

Does each body paragraph begin with an idea or insight about your subject?

Is the paragraph focused on supporting and developing this idea?



How much specific description appears in the body paragraphs of your essay?

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The Peer Critiques

Explain one thing that you like about the first body paragraph and at least two ways that you think the first body paragraph might be stronger.

Example 1
Your first body paragraph was all right, but it seems a little clinical. It had some good descriptions of things in the picture, but it doesn’t really make a claim or express an idea other than the two people being old, and it doesn’t go beyond describing the picture itself. You could probably put in a different opening sentence to tie the paragraph together, like perhaps claiming that the people in the photograph look ordinary and rather melancholy, and use your facts and descriptions to support that. Your first paragraph was a little short, but I think that if you add in a stronger claim sentence and fill out some more details that you think support this claim, you should end up with a strong paragraph.

Example 2
In the paragraph, I liked all the clear and vivid descriptions used that all reflected back logically to the main idea of the paragraph. I thought that the ideas would flow more clearly together, however, if sentences were combined. Some of the sentences are short and choppy, but could easily be made stronger by combining two or three of the short related sentences together to create a more complex sentence and a better flow of ideas. I also thought that some of the imagery could be made more vivid and interesting if the word choice was changed in a few spots. The words “big” and “little” are used a couple of times each, for example, and if they were changed to more vivid description words, the effect would make the paragraph much stronger.

Example 3
It could be longer. There are some errors.



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