Responses, Plans, and Drafts

While only the final versions of your two essays will earn letter grades, you will have some writing due nearly every week of this course. These process pieces are the building blocks of your final essays. The more work, thought, and care you put into them, the more likely you will be to produce a compelling final essay.

Responses (r)

Your first writings for this course will consist of three brief responses to Spelman’s Repair. (Response 1 will be to Chapters 1-3; Response 2 to Chapters 4-5; Response 3 to Chapters 6-7.) I will then ask you to choose one of these pieces to develop into your first essay.

You will be writing your response to the other members of this class. Your aim should thus be to say something interesting about Repair that other readers of the book might not have noticed. I suggest you look for either:

  • A specific passage, idea or example in the text that you find intriguing (or perhaps provoking), that you think you can connect to your own experiences, or to something else you’ve read, or to some other part of Spelman’s book; or
  • Something Spelman does as a writer that you admire, that you’d like to imitate in your own work.

I will ask you to post your responses to this website by Mondays at 4:00 pm; we will discuss them in class the next day.  I anticipate that most responses will run about 750 words—but don’t fixate on that number: If you have more to say, write more; if you’ve distilled your thoughts in a brilliant 500 words, that’s fine. I’ll expect your prose to be thoughtful and carefully edited, but your main task at this point is to pinpoint something in Spelman’s book that you might develop into your first essay.

Plans (p)

At three points during the semester, I will ask you to pause, review the work you have done so far, and formulate a plan for moving ahead. Specifically, I’ll ask you to put together a plan to develop one of your responses into your first essay (p1), to conduct some research on a “project of repair” for your second essay (p2), and to revise and develop the early stages of that piece into its final form (p3).

A plan is not an essay. It doesn’t have to be a polished piece of connected prose. But it does need to be thoughtful. Over the years I’ve noticed that people who prepare detailed plans—that is, who think carefully about what they want to do with their writing and how to do it—are the same people who, perhaps unsurprisingly, write strong essays.

Drafts (d)

I’ll ask you to develop your second essay through a series of three drafts. The first two drafts will give you the chance to develop a strong set of materials and ideas for the third and final version of your piece. It’s thus hard for me to imagine how you could write a compelling second essay without doing some hard work on these early drafts.


While none of your process pieces will earn letter grades, I will keep careful track of them, using the following system:

10 points Good
5 points Hurried, incomplete, or wildly off the mark
0 points Missing or late

Together your eight process pieces will count toward 20% of your final course grade. More important, your GTA, classmates, and I will also offer you feedback for developing these pieces into your final essays. So approach them seriously. They are in many ways the heart of the course.