Monday, July 18, 2011

How Other People Can Help the Writer

My wife and I finally agreed that she would read my articles, that she would make no judgments, negative or positive, but would ask questions any time something was not clear. It worked perfectly. Her questions were non-judgmental, simply asking what I meant when I said such and such. I clarified ideas that she asked about, included background information on teachers’ professional reading and resubmitted the article, which was accepted for publication and appeared as the lead article in The Reading Teacher for January of 1982.

This experience in writing for professional journals was a valuable lesson, which I shared with my students when I was working with them on revising their work. I encouraged them to have others read their drafts, but that the rules must be very clear: No judgments. No “This is great,” or, worse, “This is awful.” And no comments on misspellings, mistakes in grammar or punctuation—unless you ask for them. Only questions when ideas are not clear.

Many professional writers say that they refuse to let others read and comment on their work while it is in progress. My experience was different. If I had not tried to write an article for professional publication, I don’t think I would ever have learned how important it is to have others respond to my work while I am still in the process of revising it. But that response has to be controlled in order to be helpful. I have found that having others judge my work in progress does hot help. Questions do. RayS.

Next Blog: A Second Experience in Publishing: The Vagaries of the Writing Process.

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