First Readers Help You Know More Than You Thought You Knew About What You Wanted to Say
Finding out the impact of your drafts on readers can help you be brilliant on the page when you revise. Here's how to get the most help from early readers:
Have them answer these questions after reading what you've written:
- What words and phrases remain memorable after you’ve heard my essay?
- What feelings do you experience from hearing or reading my essay that you think are intended?
- What feelings do you have that interfere with the ones the essay is going for? Where in the draft does that happen?
- Where are you curious to know more?
If you listen to responses to these four questions, you will have a great head start every time you start a revision. You will find it easier to shape your essay for finding and communicating insight.
When you rewrite, if what you wanted to say was misinterpreted or not picked up, you’ll find a way to be sure the experience is in there. Sometimes, readers are smarter than you are—they see what the writing says and what it says is amazing and you can run with it.
For instance, a student of mine thought she was writing a piece putting herself down for being a clutterer and promising herself (and the world) she would do better. When I read the piece, cluttering sounded delicious as she described it—maybe not PC but wonderfully rich. My response was that I enjoyed the clutter and the connections she could make by looking at the things around her. Originally, the author had a statement in her work about doing as the anti-clutter movement says should be done. After my response as well as the whole groups’, she came across an article in the NY Times that said, “Studies are piling up that show that messy desks are the vivid signatures of people with creative, limber minds (who reap higher salaries than those with neat “office landscapes”) and that messy closet owners are probably better parents and nicer and cooler than their tidier counterparts. She could use a quote from the article s an epigraph for the essay her own words steered her toward.
To bring an essay to successful completion: write and show your writing to trusted readers and if you listen with an open ear, their responses will help you find your deepest truths.
Creating Poems and Personal Essays from Journal and Journal Style Writings, starts Friday, May 3, 2013. Enrollment is limited to 10 students and early registration is recommended. For details, visit our classroom page.