Revision Strategies of Student Writers and Experienced Adult Writers
In this article, Nancy Sommers points out the differences between revision strategies of students and experienced adult writers. Students write following a sequence of steps (linear) that are dictated by teachers and textbooks. They think that if they follow the rule that a composition must include an introduction, body, and conclusion, then their work is largely done. In addition, they write the way they speak, so if it’s clear to them what they want to say, they are reluctant to make revisions. When they do revise, it’s usually to move words around in order to avoid repetition and they follow the guidelines set forth by their teachers. These minor changes do not reflect meaningful improvement or a development of ideas. Their essays lack depth.
On the other hand, experienced adult writers revise as a way to “find the form or shape of their arguments.” The constant search for a framework to build their arguments requires many drafts and endless revisions. There is also an awareness of the struggle between what they intend to say and how it actually appears on paper. Sommers says that these writers experience “dissonance,” a feeling of discomfort or conflict in their writing, and revision helps them resolve these conflicts. Students too can sense this “something larger” problem, but they haven’t figured out a strategy to deal with it.
I think in general what Sommers says is true.
While reading this article, I had flashbacks to elementary school. English was not my first language, so I had great difficulty with writing. I never knew how to start a paper until I learned about the 5-paragraph essay. Some critics call it formulaic, linear, one dimensional, boring, but I really needed that structure. It got me out of the writing rut I was trapped in for years. I totally relate to the students interviewed for this article. Their strategies for reviewing are very similar to what I used to do when revising my work.
What I found missing from this article is how experience and maturity play a role in shaping writers and the revision process. The older you get and the fewer restrictions put on your writing, the more freely you can think and the more likely you are to take risks. I also think that a big difference between these 2 groups, besides maturity level, is that obviously experienced adult writers, and many in this group sound like professionals the way she describes them, write for a reason other than to please a teacher. They write because they like to, not because they have to. This is the path they have chosen, so they have a vested interest in their writing. Even though they spend a great deal of time on revision, they write with purpose, so that every word, sentence, and paragraph is well thought out. They know how to manipulate words in order to influence an audience. Most younger students do not have the level of maturity or language development to write effectively or persuasively. They also don’t have enough life experience to add depth or character to their work.
What an interesting article. I always thought of remix as pertaining to music. Every time I hear a new version of an old song or see a new version of an old movie, I call it a remake, but I haven’t heard that term in a long time. Does remake now fall under the umbrella of remix? And I had no idea that this could apply to literature. I always thought that copyright laws would make something like this difficult or impossible, but I am pleased to know that it has happened and that it is gaining momentum. I can see how transforming a popular work of fiction to include a different perspective or current concerns would be very appealing to a wide range of audiences.
Is a remix more difficult to create than coming up with an entirely new idea?
Or is it easier because the story is already there and you just have to steer it towards a fresh audience?
Would there be more pressure and setbacks when trying to refurbish or update a beloved movie or story?