Winding Oak's Bookology Magazine

Anti-Tailgating Measures

Writing Road Trip | Anti-Tailgating MeasuresA few years ago, a coun­try high­way I reg­u­lar­ly dri­ve in the sum­mer became part of a pilot pro­gram to stop tail­gat­ing. Large white dots were paint­ed on the road, and new signs instruct dri­vers to keep a min­i­mum of two dots between them and the car they’re fol­low­ing. Rear-end col­li­sions are a dan­ger on this road­way, and the pro­gram hopes to encour­age dri­vers to leave enough room between cars so they can take cor­rec­tive action if some­thing goes wrong.

It occurs to me that this hints at an enor­mous­ly help­ful piece of advice you can share with your stu­dents about their writ­ing road trips, as well: dou­ble-spac­ing their first draft is one of the eas­i­est tools they have for sim­pli­fy­ing their lat­er revi­sions.

Revis­ing is chaot­ic work. When I vis­it class­rooms, I often bring along proof of this: the first hand­writ­ten draft of one of my sto­ries, com­plete with dozens of cross-outs, mar­gin notes, arrows, and addi­tion­al brain­stormed ideas spilling onto the back. This “slop­py copy” even­tu­al­ly turned into a fin­ished book that is only 224 words long, but my messy piece of paper must con­tain thou­sands of words, all com­bat­ing to see which of them will make my final cut.

In oth­er words, revis­ing is not mere­ly tidy­ing up your man­u­script; it’s an “emp­ty out the back of the clos­ets” type of spring clean­ing.

Dou­ble-spac­ing is one sim­ple way for stu­dents to make this revi­sion process slight­ly less messy and slight­ly more man­age­able. Unlike the rel­a­tive­ly low prob­a­bil­i­ty of a rear-end col­li­sion on any giv­en day of dri­ving, some­thing always goes wrong when writ­ing a first draft. Encour­age your stu­dents to think of the blank lines left by dou­ble-spac­ing as the room they’ll undoubt­ed­ly need for lat­er cor­rec­tive action.

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