Let Them Write
All my writing is digital: my prewriting for thinking and drafting and revising. Very rarely do I use pen and paper anymore. I am currently revising my NaNoWriMo novel. Still. In Google Docs. I write about the process at my blog for writing teachers, Wordsmith Agora. This seems a good time to review those thoughts:
I love to write. I love to see the words appear on the page, paving an image or dusting off a memory for the reader. But I had no idea how much fun it would be to create a whole new world. I’m literally creating something from nothing, a world that did not exist now exits!
Whether or not anything comes of it really does not matter. This is thrilling! But it is also work — daily imagining what comes next.
Let me backtrack: My friend, Denise Krebs, whom I have never met in person, introduced me to NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) for myself and Young Writers NaNoWriMo Young Writers for my eighth grade students.
Who would have thought that five teen boys and three teen girls would write for over an hour each day, and then type! You can hear a pin drop. Then they huddle together and share the bits and pieces of what’s happening in their stories. It’s amazing. Last Friday the students invited writing buddies to join them, students also in the project whom they’ve never met but have collaborated on previous projects. They are so excited to be authors, wordsmiths to their own stories.
We did start out with the excellent NaNoWriMo curriculum, and I do present lessons in reading class tying the writing to literary elements as required by our state standards. However, the students are driving the purpose with each other in their discussions and sharing. We draft on paper (except for two who are hyper-typers), and then type in Google Docs. The students can share with each other and do share with me, their teacher. Google Docs allows feedback through comments, but often the students just sit together in front of the screen, reading and talking about their drafts. We’re a writing community. And now that we’re writing, that prewrite plan helped, but they are spinning their tales as they write.
And that’s my story. I barely wrote the prewrite plan as I my students were required to do. I did have a spark of an idea for which I imagined the beginning and orally told this to my students who still ask, “Have you written what happened next to Blue?”
I remember reading somewhere that Stephen King starts his stories with a question and then wove the answer into his spellbinding tales. I’ve also read that writers just write. As a teacher, that just seems so simple, too simple. What about a plan, a structure? Details? Strong verbs?
I entertained my husband with my tale; he was mesmerized. That encouraged me to sign up and get going.
I’m not expecting a published novel from this; I just know my family will enjoy it.
My experience is this: I’m just writing. There’s a spark of story that ignites every time I start to add to the tale. It unfolds letter by letter word by word, sentence by sentence, dialogue by dialogue, image by image. That spark lights and spawns another spark. There’s been no real plan, only a glimpse that is fleeting to the real world and consciousness, but that explodes when my fingers cover the keys. Characters blossom. Setting stirs. Plot propels. With no plan, only a spark.
This is an experience I’ll remember, and I will pause to see what blossoms when my students want to “just write.” My expectation of prewrite, plan, draft may just extinguish the spark emerging within their imagination, and then what would the world miss? I’ve experienced the feeling of “I am a writer” for the first time, and I want my students to feel it too. Did you see that flash? It’s a spark of an idea from someone — maybe you!
Please: Let them write!