This might end up labeling me as some sort of total weirdo, but I have a confession to make: I didn’t completely hate Toward a Composition Made Whole.
Honestly, I see where everybody’s coming from. Shipka is very difficult to read. Perhaps the way she writes is par for the course for book written for instructors, but her writing style is incredibly convoluted. Whenever I read her stuff, it seemed like she was deliberately making everything as technical and drawn-out as possible. It made the book seem unnecessarily arcane.
But once I managed to crack the labyrinth of each chapter, I always found myself appreciating the heart of the content to some extent. I thought that her main points were very important to understanding the writing process.
Now I might be a bit biased. I might be defending Shipka because her book goes into detail on the time-consuming and convoluted writing processes that many writers have, and I may have spent the past several years feeling guilty about always procrastinating and having such a long and winding writing process, and I may have been nursing a bit of an inferiority complex as a writer because I can’t just sit down and start producing output like other majors can…
Seriously though. If Shipka had eased up on the esoteric throttle, I think that her book might have been much more successful and digestible to classrooms like ours. I do think that there were some good lessons in that book, but this can also serve as a lesson to writers in general and Shipka in particular that making your works long and difficult to read in order to supercharge your ethos tends to drive readers away.