English teachers “do not appreciate the importance or the excitement of revision”, argues Donald M. Murray in “Teach the Motivating Force of Revision”. Murray points out that rewriting is frequently used as a punishment and sends the message: you didn’t get it right the first time. But do writers ever get it right the first time? Murray doesn’t think so. Meaning is discovered through revision, through rewriting and rewriting.
Murray goes on to say that process-centered writing curriculum provides the opportunity for students to experience that discovery. Rewriting becomes exciting when students discover that revision is not about conforming to rules or exercises. However, he stresses that teachers must also experience discovery along with their students. “The single most dramatic change that can be made,” Murray notes, “is for the teacher to write with the students”. Writing is a challenge that should be shared by teacher and student.
In Nancy Sommers’s “Revision Strategies of Student Writers and Experienced Adult Writers”, the author begins by critiquing a theory of writing that “makes revision both superfluous and redundant”, in which revision is no more than an afterthought. Sommers details a three year study that she conducted to examine the revision process of the two writing groups mentioned in the title. Through the study, Sommers redefines revision as “a sequence of changes in a composition—changes which are initiated by cues and occur continually throughout the writing of a work”.
Sommers begins by noting that student writers did not seem comfortable with the word revision. Instead, they used terms like “reviewing” or “redoing” to define the process. When revising, these writers asked themselves if they could find better words to use or simply look for repetition in their work. They did not use revision as a way to modify or develop their ideas—they simply polished.
The revision strategies for the experienced writers were very different. They defined revision as “rewriting”. Actual reconstruction was taking place during the process, and they felt the need to deconstruct their work and put it back together in a way that strengthened the meaning. They also examined their work for readability. They used revision as a process to discover meaning. Sommers concludes by noting that the student writers failed to share this sense of writing as discovery. The experienced writers had this sense “that writing is a repeated process of beginning over again, starting out new” and should “create dissonance”.
As far as the title for the writing process, my only concern is that we find a title or theme that works for everyone because I think that most of us have either already started something or have a concrete idea of what we would like to contribute. I don’t have anything new to add, but I liked Tobey’s “The writing Connection” or “That Moment in Writing”, and I liked Laura’s “Writing Matters”.