PAPER OPTIONS B and A
(see also online syllabus for other details and explanations, and the grading system break down for each option)
Option B Writing Guide
Although there are simple exercises in section to practice writing, the single most
effective training technique, by far, is being forced to come up with one’s own paper.
There is nothing that gets more at the heart of what it takes to write than, well… writing:
finding what you have to say and getting it across to the reader.
That is very different than, say, asking a teacher to tell you what to write and then writing
that thing for a teacher. If the teacher already knows what you should say, then why does
the teacher need to read it, if she already knows it? A reader should read something they
haven’t read or thought before.
This is not always easy. It forces a writer into an uncomfortable position. It doesn’t
always feel great to have to think or create on one’s own.
One might even think that
because it feels bad, something must be wrong
. But this uncomfortable feeling is at the
heart of writing, and facing up to it is, by far, the most effective training in writing.
We have some techniques and tricks and exercises to ease the pain, but without the pain
and uncertainty of having to craft your own essay, you are not really training in writing
effectively. When your TA and your Professor write, they face this pain on a regular
In Option B, you are deciding to do real adult and mature writing training. It is up to you
to decide how many essays you will write and how many pages each will be (within the
total specifications). The essays do not have to have any connection to each other, but
they can if you wish. Each essay is different and it depends on the thesis, the material, the
texts, and the kinds of thoughts involved how long it winds up to be. This can’t be
dictated. Of course, it might be impractical to write only 2 page papers because you
might not be able to get anywhere in that space. Perhaps a very skilled writer might be
able to do it, but probably by connecting them in some way. On the other hand, by
intention or accident, a little two-page gem might appear, which might be accompanied
by a longer piece, and they may or may not be connected. It really all depends and it is
impossible to dictate how that plays out.
Also, the topic or main point of the essay should come from the writer’s sense of purpose.
This can’t be dictated. Even how the composition is organized depends upon the writer’s
intention and how the writing plays itself out. In real writing, all this is the responsibility
of the writer.