Writing Week: Everything I Need to Know, I Learned in Fifth Grade

No, really. I teach elementary school, and in the early years of my career, I taught a 5th grade writing class. In Utah, our students take a writing test called the Direct Writing Assessment. I graded them for 8 or 9 years.

Now that I write in addition to teach, I'm realizing that all that stuff I taught to ten-year-olds? Actually valuable. So let's fall back on our roots a little.

The Writing Process:
1. Pre-writing. Some of us spend a lot of time here, outlining and researching and filling out character sheets and whatnot. Some of spend very little time here, deciding instead that the discovery approach to writing is best.

2. Drafting. Some of us spend a lot of time here, getting in a few hundred words after a long day at the office. Some of us spend very little time here, getting as many pages written as fast as possible. But no matter what, in order to write a book, you have to, well, write the book.

3. Revisions. Some of us spend a lot of time here, fixing and rewriting and adding details. I'll admit that most of my writing time is spent actually revising or rewriting what I drafted. Others of us don't spend a lot of time here, because we nailed what we needed to from using an outline or by taking the time during the drafting stage to revise at the same time as write.

But everyone revises. Usually more than once. And more than twice. This is also the stage where most of us turn over our MS to trusted critique partners or beta readers. Then we do some more revisions based on their feedback.

4. Edits. I'll go on record and say that I think revising and editing are the same thing, but in 5th grade, this is where I would teach the students to make sure the punctuation was correct. The capitalization. The paragraphing. When I get to this stage in my novel-writing, I actually check for chapter placement, indentations, style, etc. It's really formatting more than editing.

What about you? Do you think revising and editing are the same thing?

5. Final draft. This is when you sit back and exhale loudly and say, "I'm done. I've done the best I can do, and I'm done."

Then the real fun begins. The querying. *wink*

What else is in your process? Does your process look like this at all? I'll be back another day to discuss the Six Traits of Writing that we use to grade the DWA.


Matthew MacNish said...

I revise and edit at the same time, but I don't consider them exactly the same thing. Revising (or re-writing if you're like me) is more broad, cutting large sections, fixing big picture things like character arc, pacing, or plot-holes). Editing is more fine, mostly just fixing mistakes but also looking at grammar, sentence structure, and making sure you don't have repeated words or too many cheesy metaphors too close together.

Unless, like me, you love cheesy metaphors.

Amber said...

I used to teach 4th grade. I never liked to write and always assumed I was a bad write until I had to teach others how to do it. Made me realize I actually love it and just needed the right teacher(s). I fall back on my writing lessons quite often!

B.E. Sanderson said...

I've always thought of editing as something you do to make the story you've already written better, and revising as when you scrap what you've already written and write it over - be it the whole thing or just a scene. :shrug:

LM Preston said...

I've grown to love the editing process and realize I get better and better with time

Emily said...

Thanks for this Elana. It's funny, you're right, we do really learn all the building blocks in elementary school.

It's nice to see it simplified like that. Makes me think that I can do it!

Perry Wilson said...

I love the prewrite. It's the time when people don't think I'm writing. By the time I'm done with thinking it out and putting together an outline, I know the story enough to 'barf' the first draft onto the page. Then it's revise, revise, revise, polish

erica and christy said...

My son will be in 5th grade next year, I'll have to bribe him to bring his textbooks home!

And I'm like Perry - my first version tends to be a vomit draft.

Krispy said...

Yeah, I totally see editing/revising as the same thing, but I like the distinction you make when teaching.

Just glad this isn't any of that 5 paragraph essay stuff. Eck.

Elana Johnson said...

Thanks, all! And yes, Perry, I like the pre-writing thinking stage. It's like idea soup in my brain.

Elana Johnson said...

Matt, don't worry, I like cheesy metaphors too. :)

Amber, yes! Teaching really shows you how much you already know. Or what you don't. Both of which are valuable.

B.E. Yeah, it's a way of thinking about it. I definitely don't edit what I'm not sure I'm keeping yet. But sometimes I can revise without deleting and rewriting, which is much deeper. Sometimes I can just fix awkward stuff, and not really scrap everything. You know?

LM, I love editing as well. It's where I spend most of my writing time.

Emily, you CAN do it!

Erica and Christy, oh I word vomit, baby. Feels good, too. ;)

Krispy, I hear you on the 5-paragraph essay. Technical writing is so boring. :)

AES said...

Thank you for posting this. My daughter is almost finished with 5th grade. In the last 3 years she has learned next to nothing about writing in school! I can't stand it. I'm actually going to share what you've posted with her. :)

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