Nov 08 2013

Perl “Understanding Composing” – Reading Response

Published by under Reading Responses

In Sondra Perl’s Understanding Composing, the author examines parts of the writing process that are not covered by the linear plan-write-revise process. One of these ideas that she discusses is recursive revision, that is, the idea that revision loops backwards as often as it moves forwards. During this type of revision, the writer would be making sentence, paragraph or even global-level edits during the writing process, perhaps even as the paper is being written.

Personally, I’ve always wondered why the writing instruction I was taught during high school never discussed the uneven blend of the different parts of the process that cropped up whenever I put my pen to paper. This writing habit has only intensified during college for a few reasons. One of those reasons is that I tend to be a first-drafter, at least during the crazy parts of the semester. Much of the time, intensive revision will only occur when I am already immersed in the topic. This generally happens when I’m writing. Sometimes I edit on a sentence or word-level to make my language clearer, but much of the time* I draw from what I’ve already written. My topic sentences act as an outline to help me stay on track with the rest of my paper. This often requires me to go back and read my paper several times throughout the writing session, which helps me to catch any other inconsistencies or issues.

Within this process, retrospective structuring comes up quite a bit. Most of the time, I brainstorm a general outline for the paper, but what actually spawns from this often depends on what feels right at the time. My “felt sense” is also impacted by the assignment requirements and previous grading experiences I’ve had with the professor. These elements remain in the back of my mind as I write the paper, but much of what I actually write depends on the last sentence or paragraph I wrote. Thus, my writing process is extremely recursive.

*for a traditional expository essay or assignment

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