Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Behind the Books: Let It Chill Out

Lately, I’ve been doing a lot of school visits for grades 4 and 5 where I talk about my writing process and teach kids some of the tricks I’ve learned over the years. For the next few weeks, I’ll be sharing some of those tricks with you.

When I was I school our rough draft was usually our final draft, but today kids do real revision.

First, they write a sloppy copy. So do I.

Then they do peer reviews or buddy reviews with other classmates. I have buddies too—a critique group that meets twice a month at a local library.

After revising, students hand the paper into the teacher. Their teacher is just like my editors. They make more suggestions for improving the manuscript.

Of course, the kids are shocked when I tell them how many drafts I write and rewrite before a manuscript is complete. But it’s the same process. I just do it more times.

One step that’s really important for my process is something that kids usually don’t do. I let the manuscript “chill out”. After finishing a draft, I don’t look at it for a week, two weeks, or even longer if possible. I get some distance from the writing. That way when I go back, I can see things that need to be changed more clearly. Because I’m no longer so attached to the writing, it’s easier to trim the fat, to clarify ideas, and to kill the darlings—the phrases I love but that are extraneous or overwritten.

I always suggest that teachers create writing deadlines with this important step in mind.

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