The Writing Arc
The Writing Arc

The Writing Arc

Lead Author(s): Steve Sansom, Brian H. Kyser, Bruce Martin, Robert Miller

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The Writing Arc is a foundational guide for first-year composition students centered on the functional, core principles of the writing process. From the earliest stages of discovery, invention, structuring, and drafting and on through writing, revising, editing, documenting and formatting, and presenting, The Writing Arc provides students an in-depth exploration of the various parts of the writing process and how they fit together in the context of various modes of writing. Each chapter is punctuated by writing samples from student and professional writers in addition to the wide-ranging examples of writing included in an Additional Readings section.

The Writing Arc

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Steve Sansom | Brian H. Kyser 

Bruce Martin | Robert Miller



We wish to thank the publishers and staff of Fountainhead Press for their patience in guiding and assembling this text. Without their assistance, the rationale and design of its contents would not have reached its completion. We wish, too, to thank those students who kindly permitted us to include their works. We also wish to express our gratitude to Michael McFarland for his insightful contributions to this project and to our staff and colleagues for their support and suggestions. Whatever success this text enjoys, we share with these kind folks. Whatever shortcomings it contains are ours alone. 


The construction of any book is fraught with pitfalls. Like any composition or creative work, the writers of this textbook set out to address a very specific audience—freshman college writing students. Our purpose was to ground the student writer in the functional, core principles of writing, even as the assumptions of writing within the academy—whether composition should be taught as an academic, professional, or personal enterprise—have continued to evolve. To decide upon an effective strategy, we surveyed the multitude of pedagogical directions the field has taken, from recent pedagogical theory and the Framework for Success in Post-Secondary Writing of the National Council of Teachers of English to the various permutations our own textbook has experienced over the last several decades. Needless to say, there is a wide variety in the forms and functions of textbooks created for the first-year college writing classroom. After exploring a number of approaches, we determined that student writers would benefit most from a close examination of the writing process itself, learning how to create, structure, and present their own ideas. As a group of authors—rather than a single, authoritative voice—our purpose was to provide a flexible handbook that student writers could mine and apply toward any application.

Changes to the state learning outcomes (Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board) for the first-year writing course drove this change in strategy. Although argument is no longer required, writing arguments is fundamental to many disciplines, so we have included a chapter on both argument and analysis. The focus throughout has shifted to reading in addition to writing because the ability to read professionally written prose essays is necessary to be able to write them. We have also avoided limiting the textbook to the so-called modalities, or to writing the five-paragraph theme, though we refer to these strategies in Chapter 6. At a time when students are emerging from public schools with reduced confidence in their academic abilities, particularly with regard to their ability to express themselves on paper, the focus on process over product strikes us as both necessary and appropriate.

Finally, students are often asked to transfer what they have created into an oral format, so we have included a chapter on presentation, as this fits into state mandates stressing oral and visual communication and merges well into a textbook devoted to the process of crafting effective communication. Presentation skills are in growing demand, both as a component of co-curriculum programs and among institutions that stress writing across the curriculum, so we believe it valuable to address specifically how writers might adapt their work to the oral medium, rather than simply producing a presentation or speech from scratch. 

While we created this text partly to address the changes happening in the state of Texas, we also envisioned a much broader applicability nationally, as other colleges and universities across the country face similar issues within their states. We sincerely hope, whether student or instructor, you find this book both useful and comprehensible.