Compare the ways these two texts present the life of a writer.
You should consider:
- how they use language and structure
- the ideas in the texts
Here is an extract from the diaries of John Steinbeck.
Lincoln’s Birthday. My first day of work in my new room. It is a very pleasant room and I have a drafting table to work on which I have always wanted – also a comfortable chair given me by Elaine [his wife]. In fact I have never had it so good and so comfortable. I have known such things to happen – the perfect pointed pencil – the paper persuasive – the fantastic chair and a good light and no writing. Surely a man is a most treacherous animal full of his treasured contradictions. He may not admit it but he loves his paradoxes.
Now that I have everything, we shall see whether I have anything. It is exactly that simple. Mark Twain used to write in bed – so did our greatest poet. But I wonder how often they wrote in bed – or whether they did it twice and the story took hold. Such things happen. Also I would like to know what things they wrote in bed and what things they wrote sitting up. All of this has to do with comfort in writing and what its value is. I should think that a comfortable body would let the mind go freely to its gathering. But such is the human that he might react in an opposite way. Remember my father’s story about the man who did not dare be comfortable because he went to sleep. That might be true of me too. Now I am perfectly comfortable in body. I think my house is in order. Elaine, my beloved, is taking care of all the outside details to allow me the amount of free untroubled time every day to do my work. I can’t think of anything else necessary to a writer except a story and the ability to tell it.
Here is an extract from Stephen King's advice book and memoir, On Writing. He is talking about his writing desk.
‘The last thing I want to tell you in this part is about my desk. For years I dreamed of having the sort of massive oak slab that would dominate a room - no more child's desk in a trailer laundry-closet, no more cramped kneehole in a rented house. In 1981 I got the one I wanted and placed it in the middle of a spacious, skylighted study (it's a converted stable loft at the rear of the house). For six years I sat behind that desk either drunk or wrecked out of my mind, like a ship's captain in charge of a voyage to nowhere.
A year or two after I sobered up, I got rid of that monstrosity and put in a living-room suite where it had been, picking out the pieces and a nice Turkish rug with my wife's help. In the early nineties, before they moved on to their own lives, my kids sometimes came up in the evening to watch a basketball game or a movie and eat pizza. They usually left a boxful of crusts behind when they moved on, but I didn't care. They came, they seemed to enjoy being with me, and I know I enjoyed being with them. I got another desk - it's handmade, beautiful, and half the size of the T. Rex desk. I put it at the far west end of the office, in a corner under the eave. That eave is very like the one I slept under in Durham, but there are no rats in the walls and no senile grandmother downstairs yelling for someone to feed the horse. I'm sitting under it now, a fifty-three-year-old man with bad eyes, a gimp leg, and no hangover. I'm doing what I know how to do, and as well as I know how to do it. I came through all the stuff I told you about (and plenty more that I didn't), and now I'm going to tell you as much as I can about the job. As promised, it won't take long.
It starts with this: put your desk in the corner, and every time you sit down there to write, remind yourself why it isn't in the middle of the room. Life isn't a support-system for art. It's the other way around.’
The essay writing criteria
First things first! Let us have a look at the criteria that the examiners will use to determine the mark out of 20 that your essay will receive. The 20 marks available are broken down into three components:
- 4 marks for structure
- 10 marks for argument
- 6 marks for knowledge
1. The structure of the essay
The marks for structure are awarded for the way you have introduced, developed and concluded your essay. To attain full marks for structure your introduction, development and conclusion must include a number of things.
The introduction should:
- Set the question in its wider context by giving background information on the event, issue or development and/or explain some of the terms of the question.
- Indicate the relevant factors or the main ideas that you are going to use to explain the event, issue or development.
- Have a clear line of argument. This means that even at this stage you should be indicating what you believe to be the most important factors in explaining the event development or issue.
The development should be clearly focused on the question and should not just be a story or narrative of what happened.
The conclusion should:
- Summarise the argument (the points you have made to explain the event, development or issue)
- Have balance by showing that some things are more important than others and that there may be differing views.
- Come to an overall judgment directly related to the question
2. Argument within the essay
The marks for argument are given for the way you have used the evidence you present to explain an event, development or cause. When you create an argument you have to be careful that you are not telling a story of what happened in the past.
You must make the argument that you believe X happened in some part because of Y. Present the evidence that shows Y was important. Then explain why you believe the evidence you have presented in relation to Y explains X. This will ensure that you are using the evidence to support an argument and not just to tell a ripping historical yarn!
The argument should be:
- Focused directly on the question
- Supported by evidence
- Constant and balanced throughout the essay
- Aware of alternative interpretations and debate (views of historians)
The marks available for knowledge are for evidence that you present that is both relevant to the argument and accurate. These marks are given for points of evidence and points which are developed further.
Before we go any further we are going to introduce a question that should be familiar to most people who have studied Standard Grade History. You will have had practice writing this as an 8 mark essay and now we are going to show how you would plan and write this as a 20 mark Higher History.