The last two posts gave Part 1 and Part 2 of our Interterm capstone course for my Professional Writing seniors. The final piece of this three-week puzzle was a writing project (we are a Professional Writing major, after all).
I built this as a hybrid course where we met every Monday, Wednesday, Friday for 3-1/2 hours, and the Tuesday, Thursday days were set aside for them to do research and write their capstone papers. During the course of those days, Blackboard discussion questions kept the students on track and on task.
Here was the assignment:
You will write a paper of 2000 to 2500 words. You will choose the topic—something to study or learn that you want to know for the future. You have a couple of different directions you can go.
Craft—Perhaps you want to study an aspect of the craft of the type of writing you do: world-building, foreshadowing, creating twists in a plot, building a memoir, putting together a book of poetry, etc. The sky is the limit (pending my approval of your topic). The paper will include research from books on craft, from favorite books and writers who are doing it well, magazine articles, websites and blogs with information, even personal interviews if applicable. You will write the paper and source it with endnotes using CMS style and a bibliography of all sources consulted, also in CMS style.
Occupation—Perhaps you want to study a particular job such as editing (content editing, copyediting, proofreading, acquisitions; book, magazine, newspaper), agenting, publicity and social media, etc. The sky is the limit (pending my approval of your topic). The paper will include research from books on the topic, magazine articles, websites and blogs with information, even personal interviews if applicable. You will write the paper and source it with endnotes using CMS style and a bibliography of all sources consulted, also in CMS style.
The last two days were for final oral presentations, which called for them to
- Introduce themselves.
- Explain the project they chose to research, why they chose it, and how they felt it is important information that they want to carry into their post-Taylor life.
- Describe how the project fit into their “red thread” (as noted in Part 1) and how it provides a “cap” to the work they’ve done during their tenure at Taylor University.
- Give an overview of the entire paper in condensed form (like an “abstract”).
- Choose a section of about 600–750 words to read, something that will give those of us listening an idea of what was learned.
Want to know the topics covered? Here you go.
- How to run a freelance writing business
- A comparison of tragic and comic plays
- How to write the middle of your novel so it doesn’t sag but keeps the plot moving
- How American journalism has changed during the 20th century
- Why businesses (and authors) need digital marketing and how to begin
- What it takes to be a screenwriter
- Inbound marketing–how it works and why it’s the best way to reach customers
- The essential elements of suspense and how to use them in a novel
- Content editing–the four relationships that interplay for the editor
- Writing characters that live beyond the book
- How to implement theme in fictional stories
- Why poetry matters to individuals and to society
- Archetypes in fiction
- The beginner freelancer’s guide to money
- The elements of a strong memoir
- The art of the tragic character
- The ethics of horror
The students were happy that they had the opportunity to research something they really wanted to know about (the woman who wrote about suspense said that her research gave her that “aha” moment she needed to understand what had been missing in her writing).
They were all so excited about one another’s papers that we had to find a way to make sure everyone had access to all of them and could download them for later reading.
One change I will make next year is to allow the paper to be longer — most of them felt they could barely scratch the surface of their topics. I wanted to take into account the limited amount of time they had to research and write (3 weeks), but these writers felt like they could do much more even in that limited time.
All in all, I think we had a successful time together.
Then, it was time to head into spring semester!