From D1 to R1: Lessons from the First Writing Seminar Deadline

First-years, you’ve just survived everyone’s favorite time of year: your first Writing Seminar deadline. Over the course of the past few weeks, you’ve learned the difference between motive and thesis, discussed strategies for analyzing data, written a draft of your first essay, and finally, turned in your first piece of graded work: your R1!

The process of going from an ungraded draft to a graded revision may have seemed intimidating. In part, this is because most first-years have little to no experience with serious revision of essays. In high school, when standards were lower, I, like many others, got away with handing in first drafts most of the time. When I did make the time to revise, my “revision” consisted mainly of adding a few fancy words to my essay and tightening up my conclusion. So when I got to my Writing Seminar and was essentially told to rewrite my entire essay, I panicked.

Did I have to completely start over? Was all my D1 work wasted? As I had no experience with the revision process, I struggled to even begin the process of writing my R1. So if you felt the same way after handing in your R1, read on: I promise that your next two revisions will be made much easier (and dare I say, pleasant?) with the help of a few key strategies. 

First, don’t be afraid to delete. It’s natural to feel attached to what you’ve written after spending lots of time working on it. But even if it sounds good to you, not every sentence in your D1 will make it into your R1. Though adding content is an important step in revision, paring down your essay will often make it clearer and more powerful. To help yourself get comfortable deleting, take a step back and read your entire essay aloud, start to finish. You might realize that your favorite paragraph doesn’t fit into your argument, your conclusion doesn’t address your motive, or your examples are overly wordy–so don’t be scared of that delete button! (Another tip: making these kinds of major edits in a new copy of your document allows you to better compare drafts and ensures that you don’t irreversibly delete anything important). For more tips on harsh editing, check out this article by former correspondent Bennett!

Frick Atrium: where the author did the bulk of her R1 revision last spring!

Second, give yourself time. This advice may sound cliche, but taking a full twenty-four hours away from your essay can help you see the bigger picture. When my Writing Seminar professor first gave me this advice, I panicked at the thought–how could I take a full day off with a deadline hanging over my head? But provided you start revising early, an extended break can give you the valuable ability to see your essay with fresh eyes.  

Finally, use your friends as revision resources! People outside your Writing Seminar have a unique perspective on your essay: since they aren’t familiar with the details of your assignment, they can provide simple feedback about whether your argument and prose flow or not. 

Though revising your D1 into a cohesive R1 have been intimidating, concrete strategies can help you get started early and make your next two revisions easier. Above all, remember that your Writing Seminar exists to help you familiarize yourself with the revision process–so when in doubt, use your professors as tools! They’ve already given you significant useful feedback through D1 conferences and comments, and using these suggestions in conjunction with other strategies will almost certainly put you on the path towards successful revisions. So good luck, and happy writing!

— Ella Feiner, Engineering Correspondent