How to get the best bang out of your MatadorU buck


Photo: College Degrees 360

I’ve been asking my students to tell me what they have learned working on assignments with me. If you find yourself sometimes uncertain about what questions to ask your faculty, or embarrassed to admit you don’t know something, these responses might give you some guidelines. Imagine yourself in a real time classroom in the presence of writing students/writers much like yourself. Even more, let yourself accept that we learn when we can admit we don’t know.

Ania speaks:

  1. No dashes in front of dialogues. (I was confused: dashes or quotation marks, or both? Thank you for remarking on that.)
  2. Always beginning my work with good solid grounding sentences. YES. I need to remember that this is not a piece of fiction, and is meant to be read by others. I always begin with sentences that I’d like to read at the beginning of a novel. Need to stop doing this.
  3. I kept your comments from my second assignment in mind and made sure to introduce action before dialogue. (I used to add it after dialogues. No more of that, I hope.)
  4. Keep my verbs active instead of using too many “-ing” endings (i.e. stop using so much past progressive instead of simple past – it must be my French mind that keeps on reverting to the use of the imparfait tense, which sounds active in French and without which stories told in the past sound too simplistic, but is actually seen as passive when used in English). Will keep my eye on my imparfait slips from now on!
  5. Set the story, set the story, set the story. Unless it’s fiction, I must set the story and not have the reader guess where the story takes place, or guess who is who. I have a bit of difficulty trusting that I can be just as creative as I wish I were even when stating facts such as a place and a name, and a profession, in the first lines of a text, but with your guidance, I realized that I doesn’t have to be that dry.
  6. In the first two assignments, I had a hard time letting go of some of the things I had written and re-editing them to make some of the things I had written and re-editing them to make them sound better. In this assignment, I completely let go of my ego and emotional attachment to a text. I kept your wise advice from the first and second assignments, as well as the following quote in my mind throughout the whole process: “The first draft of anything is s*£%.” (Ernest Hemingway) These two combined (your and Hemingway’s words) gave me the freedom I needed to distance myself from the text I was writing, which was a huge turning point for me. Thank you.”

And from Janice: “OK – I think I’m finally getting what you’ve wanted me to do. I’ve been writing too much like a damn copywriter, and not a journalist :)
Thanks for the kick in the pants!”

Richard: I have learnt from you life perspectives and philosophical thoughts as much as purely writing skills. You showed me the way for exceptional writing skills, how simplicity can convey powerful images as well as technical writing skills (e.g.: how to write a direct dialogue). I am far away from being a proficient and quality writer, but I am committed to learning. But more importantly, you push me to bring writing to the higher level. I give a lot of importance to the intellectual side of activities. Writing is not only about writing. It’s about what we relate to, and about why we write it. When writing doesn’t connect to higher values, it’s shallow. Perhaps entertaining, but superficial. I want to go deeper than a first-impression experience.

Working with you and reading your posts on your website keep me learning about these matters. Either from the updates from the Feline Front or mentioning your own life experiences in MU or FB posts, you keep reminding me to take the extra step and, more importantly, why to take the extra step.

Valerie: It might sound glib, but my favorite advice was when you told me something along the lines of ‘if you want to sound poetic, go write poetry!’ It’s a succinct reminder that simply because language sounds nice doesn’t mean it’s appropriate for a specific piece or assignment.

You have challenged me, made me doubt myself, and taught me I can handle tough feedback. I submit eagerly dreading that you’ll be the editor who reviews my assignments :)

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I invite you to comment on what you have learned and what you haven’t learned. Tell MatadorU what you need help with. Let us know specifically what areas of writing we need to cover.

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