Monday, October 20, 2014

"Red, the blood of angry pens; black, the marks of mistakes past..."

by Abby Ponder 

For almost all writers, editing is a fundamental aspect of the writing process. Without it, mistakes can be glossed over and points can remain unfulfilled. And while in most cases editing is no one's idea of a good time, it certainly doesn't have to be the nightmare most people make it out to be.

Whenever I'm writing, my first draft is, to put it rather bluntly, a bit rough. Actually, it's more than a bit; it's generally so rough that I almost always refuse to let anyone else even glance at it. My first draft is usually a compilation of various outlines (a step outlined in a recent post) that have been tossed together into an assortment of paragraphs that are usually long and rambling with very little cohesion. It's something resembling a paper, but it's not there yet. Like I said, they're rough--but that's okay.

Anne Lamott, most known for her novel Bird by Bird which highlights tips for successful writers of all genres, has a chapter in the aforementioned novel called "Shitty First Drafts." In the chapter, Lamott explains that a first draft is just that: a first draft. It doesn't have to be perfect, but it is a starting point. The whole point of the first draft is to get words and ideas on paper, after all, and that is almost always the hardest part of writing: you have all these fantastic ideas, but you might not have a specific place to start or a way to tie them all together. However, between the help of your outline and your "shitty first draft," you'll begin to have an idea come together and slowly but surely the idea begins to blossom.

So, after you've written that first draft, some people write another one... and then maybe another one after that. I know that I usually go through several drafts before I am finally satisfied.

My British Fantasy Literature paper rocking some Les Miserables lyrics, as one naturally does. 
For a class I took last fall, I had to write a paper breaking down the concept of love in works of British Fantasy Literature. (Harry Potter was, unsurprisingly, incorporated into this assignment.) However, even though I intimately knew the subject matter, there were still a number of changes that needed to be fixed. A friend of mine helped me to put the editing process in perspective, made me take a step back and laugh at it, and the break from the seriousness was a tremendous help. 

Editing, in my experience, is mostly about taking that step back and examining what the words staring back at you are trying to say. It's akin to reading another person: they're trying to say something, but it is up to you to decipher the meaning. 

There are two things that I have found incredibly helpful in the editing process: (1) printing off the paper, and (2) reading it out loud. 

While it is easy enough to edit a paper on the computer (and, admittedly, it does save some paper and ink money), there is something about editing a paper on, well, paper that makes a huge difference. People tend to be more inclined to skim when reading online, and consequently it can be very easy to skip over the small mistakes--especially when you're not on the hunt for a misplaced pronoun or a comma splice. When you print the paper out and literally put pen to paper, you'll be surprised at how many things you see. And, like with my paper above, there is a sense of accomplishment that comes from seeing a marked up paper. Sure, it means you still have a ways to go, but it also symbolizes progress, and progress is never a bad thing.

Next, reading the text to yourself (or another person) can alter your perception of the words before you. Reading aloud forces you to interact with the paper and actively think about both the content and the style. Additionally, most people have a tendency to catch any misplaced words or confusing phrases when they're hearing of speaking them. What sounds good in your head may not always work out loud, and this step can do a lot in terms of drawing attention to that. 

Whenever it seems like too much, and you feel as though you can't make sense of the words anymore, take a break. Sometimes you need to give your brain some room to breath, and then you can come back ready to get back to work. 
Comic by Debbie Ohi
When you feel like you're finished, though, or even if you're stumped along the way, don't forget to utilize the WKU Writing Center. While we are not an editing service, we will help walk you through any bumps in the road you may be having. Sometimes it's nice to have a second opinion on things, too. 

As always, you can schedule an appointment by clicking here and selecting a time that works well for you. We are also available for drop-in appointments, but those function under a first come, first serve basis. 

Monday, October 6, 2014

Understanding Your WKU Library and the Looming Research Project

by Abby Ponder 

Well, we're all back from Fall Break now (or, at least, most of us are) and that can only mean one thing: those mid-term and final deadlines that initially seemed so far away? They're approaching--fast. And for a lot of students, that final project will be coming in the form of a research paper. (But have no fear, the Writing Center is here!)

So, you're staring at this blank slate of an assignment with no clue what to do next. You have a topic, maybe, but all that supporting research? Where are you supposed to get it? Well, my friend, the library is your new best friend when it comes to getting started on your research. There are floors upon floors of shelves upon shelves, and lots of friendly people there to assist you along the way. Books are unfortunately becoming an underutilized resource so make sure you take the time to utilize them; you can find a lot of great information in between the lines.

Remember these guys? They knew to search between the lions.
Photo courtesy of Mississippi Kids Count (
If you haven't paid a visit to WKU's very own library yet (Helms-Cravens), it is located in the center of WKU's campus between Grise and Garrett. If you've ever visited Java City for a quick caffeine fix, you're in the right place! Just travel through the Confucius Institute and you're in library territory. (Or enter through the Commons at Cravens, located between FAC and Grice.) If you're not on main campus, though, the regional campuses each have their own libraries, too.

However, we know that getting into the library isn't always an option. In that case, the WKU library has extensive online databases at your disposal. On the library homepage there is an option to explore Electronic Resources. In most cases, students will use the Databases option, though there are a variety of others to explore, too. Once you're in the Databases, you can opt to use EBSCOHost, Jstore, Newstand, etc. (If you are not using a university computer you may be prompted to enter your NetID and password, but from then on you'll have complete access.) From that point, you'll be able to search to your heart's content. 

The search engine for EBSCOHost, which can be found here.
After you have found your treasured resources, whether they be books from the library or journals collected via some of the databases, there are a variety of citation formats to be aware of that depend on the style guide in question (MLA, APA, Chicago, etc) and the source that you're using (online journals, novels, newspapers, etc). For a quick look at the more common style guides, the Purdue Owl has some great guides to MLAAPA , and AP, while the Chicago Manuel of Style has its very own guide available on its website.

Throughout the whole process, though, don't forget that the WKU Writing Center is here to assist you along the way! We encourage you to schedule an appointment with us at your convenience, but we are also available for drop-in appointments on a first come, first serve basis.

Happy Writing! 

Monday, September 29, 2014

The WKU Writing Center and the Commons at Cravens

by Abby Ponder 

You've already scheduled your appointment, and so you begin making your way towards Cherry Hall 123 with your paper in hand. You're ready to go! When you get to the top of the hill, though, you realize that the door is shut and no one is home. So, what do you do now? You thought you were supposed to have an appointment? 

Well, you're right--you do have an appointment. But if that appointment is scheduled at a time after 4pm, there's a very good chance that you are in the wrong location. 

A few semesters ago, the WKU Writing Center introduced an additional location that is found at the reference desk in the Commons at Cravens. While the Writing Center in Cherry Hall 123 does close for the day at 4pm, the Cravens location opens its metaphorical doors right at 4:00 and remains in business until 9pm. Cravens allows students to continue to seek guidance on their papers at later hours, and at a location that is central to campus for students who may not be able to get up to Cherry Hall during the day. 

Consequently, students scheduling appointments should always be mindful to double check where the appointment will be meeting to avoid confusion and missed appointments. (When in doubt, check your confirmation email!) 

So, here you are, ready for your appointment. You're in Cherry Hall and it's already 4:10; there's no way you can make it down to Cravens, you may think. If you're worried about missing an appointment, send us an email at and we'll work to address the problem. And remember, scheduling an appointment is easy to do. Just go to and click "appointment scheduler." From there you'll be prompted to log in (using your WKU NetID and password) and then schedule an appointment at your convenience.

We hope to see you soon! 

Monday, September 22, 2014

Finding that elusive starting point.

by Abby Ponder  

You sit down with your pen and pencil (or with your fingers hovering over their respective keys on your keyboard), and you brace yourself: it's time to write. Whether you've waited until the last minute and are working against a clock, or are starting a month in advance, there's no easy place to start. The words don't always flow automatically and sometimes you're just stuck.

First, take a deep breath.

It can be overwhelming when you're staring at a blank screen, cursor blinking ominously at you. You feel like you have to put something on the page, and the longer that screen stays blank, the worse you begin to feel.

Sometimes writing a paper is the easiest thing in the world to do. The words are coming, the ideas are flowing, and just like that you're finished and awaiting your well-deserved A. When it works out like that? It's great! But it doesn't always. So what do you do when you don't know where to start and you've already wasted enough time on tumblr or Netflix, procrastinating the inevitable?

Over the course of the past few years, I've found that outlining is my actual best friend. Yeah, I know, all your professors tell you to make an outline. You'll sigh, sometimes, because who really wants to take the time to write something that won't even become the final product? I understand your way of thinking, my friend--I do. But try it.

To start your outline, read your assignment carefully and make sure you fully understand the question. I know that I'm prone to skimming things, especially when I'm in a hurry, but experience has taught me that it's a surefire way to miss something important. Sometimes it helps to make a list of the tasks the professor is looking for in the assignment: Write them down in a nice bulleted list, and then take notes on those objectives. The professor wants you to talk about the differences between Nathaniel Hawthorne's "Young Goodman Brown" and "The Celestial Railroad?" You can do that. It doesn't have to look perfect at this stage; you're just putting ideas on paper.

If your assignment requires outside sources, once you finish your list start looking for those resources. Pull out the information you think will be valuable, and begin placing the quotes in the areas you think they will be most applicable.

When you feel like you have a clear direction, then get started! Remember, your first draft doesn't have to be perfect--that's why it's called a first draft. And don't forget to pay us a visit in the Writing Center! We're here to help talk you through your outline or answer any questions you may have along the way.

Happy Writing!

Monday, September 15, 2014

Welcome back! Now let's get started.

Welcome back to the hill, folks! New semesters always bring a lot of new things: there are new people, new living arrangements, new classes, and, inevitably, new papers. Today marks the beginning of Week Four, and the newness of the semester is gradually beginning to evolve into something resembling a routine. And those papers that initially seemed so far away? Their due dates are starting to creep a little closer.

So, what do you do now?

Well, starting to write is typically a step in the right direction, and the Writing Center is here to help. Our writing tutors work with students at any stage in the writing process, to help boost your confidence in that final product.

Scheduling an appointment with the WKU Writing Center is easy to do: First, visit our website and click “Appointment Scheduler." You’ll then be prompted to either log in or create account if it is your first visit. From there, you’ll select a time and date, and then you’re all set! Simple as that. Alternatively, you can also give us a call at (270) 745-5719 or email us at if you’d like to schedule an appointment or have any additional questions.

For the fall of 2014, our hours are as follows:

Cherry Hall

Monday - Thursday: 9am - 4pm
Friday: 9am - 1pm


Monday - Tuesday: 4pm - 9pm
Wednesday: 4pm - 6:30pm
Thursday: 4pm - 9pm
Friday: CLOSED

The Writing Center at WKU is more than happy to assist you at any stage in the writing process, so schedule an appointment and come see us!


Thursday, May 8, 2014


Below are our hours for finals week. Get your appointments in early because we are already filling up!

Cherry Hall
  • Monday - Wednesday:     10am - 4pm
  • Thursday:                         10am - 1pm
  • Friday:                              CLOSED
Cravens Library
  • Monday:                           CLOSED
  • Tuesday:                           4pm - 8pm 
  • Wednesday:                      5pm - 9pm
  • Thursday:                         3pm - 5pm
  • Friday:                              CLOSED

Best of luck on finals, and have a great summer!


Thursday, May 1, 2014

Don't Wait till the Last Minute

Unfortunately, it is very common for students to write papers the night--or even hours--before a paper is due. This is unfortunate because it does not give these students the time required for revisions or feedback from our Writing Center tutors. We often see students who come in hours before the class in which their assignment is due, wanting to get feedback and extra credit for visiting the Writing Center.

We really encourage the students who do this to write their papers earlier and come in at least a day before the paper is due. Many professors have told us they are going to crack down on Writing Center extra credit, only giving the credit if the changes discussed in your session are made to your paper, and possibly only giving credit if the student visits the Writing Center at least a day before.

We sympathize with the heavy workload that many students bear, especially as we approach finals week, but it makes it difficult for us to do our jobs when we know that much of what we are teaching and much of the work we put in to helping you improve your paper will go unheeded or unappreciated. The Writing Center exists to help students better their writing and learn to make their own revisions in their papers. We are not an editing service or just a source of extra credit. If you are not learning anything from us, then why are we here?