Wednesday, February 27, 2019

Writing Wednesday - What I've Learned So Far and How It Impacts My Students

This past weekend I presented at Dublin Literacy as I wrote about HERE. While it was a wonderful day for many reasons, I had a blast talking to two teachers about my writing life. See, when I had been minimizing my presentation before we began to ensure my computer was actually charging, they saw my desktop wallpaper.

And while I love all teachers, I loved these two because they were immediately inquisitive - who was the cat? Was it mine? I debated for a minute, then launched into a truthful explanation - I am currently writing a romance book and this is one of my inspiration boards. (FYI - when I told my husband this he was incredulous, you told a few teachers that you were writing a romance book? Then I owned up to the fact that it came up a few time during some presentations too. I guess this means I’m all in, so to say.)  

At any rate, in talking to them, I shared a few things I learned about in the process of writing. I thought I’d take a moment to share them here in case they can help you as well.

I can’t write without inspiration
As I explained to the teachers at my session, I have an inspiration board because I cannot dream up characters from scratch. Some people can, which is so cool! However, I’m not blessed with that ability. However, once given an image I can imagine characteristics, personality, etc. I also do better when I have visuals for setting. This means I have pictures saved from online anytime I see something that inspires me. I also take pictures when I’m out in public on the sly. It helps my creativity get jump started and I love it.

I need a specific place to write
If you follow me on social media you know that I write at coffee shops a lot. I don’t write in my hometown because I’d run in a lot of people I know, but I write a town thirty miles away because I need to focus. I can write at my house, but being out and only having writing as my option makes me focus better. If I do write at home, I can only write in my bedroom in this little office area because it is filled with light, but is out of the way.

I prewrite by thinking
I often only write on the weekends. (This is something I need to change.) That being said, I’m constantly thinking about my story and what I’m going to write next. When I finally sit down to write, I quickly reread what I wrote last and dive in, writing what has been in my head rather quickly. I do this with blog posts and pieces I’ve contributed to professional development books that friends have written. My prewriting in my head is vital to my writing process.

I hate outlining
In the world of romance writing I’ve seen lots of interviews where authors are asked if they are “plotters” or “pantsers”, meaning do they plot out their books or they write by the seat of their pants. I’d say I do a bit of both. What I’ve found is that I hate to be tied to an outline. This probably extends to writing I’ve done in school. I abhor graphic organizers. They stifle any writing I want to do and trying to use them, trying to outline what I want to write about, makes me freeze up and I’m unable to write. What I can do is roughly plot out a few things I want to write in a book and make sure I write to that. As I write I make notes of threads I’ve left open so I go tie them up later, but that’s all I can do. I’m assuming this means my revision, when I get to it, will be extensive.

I will note that for this second book in the series I’ve started a Google Spreadsheet that lists all of my characters in the series so far, characteristics, etc. There’s a tab for every location and description of it. There is a tab for the timeline of book one and two. There is a tab for every recipe I’ve mentioned, or song, etc. That helps me keep organized too.
Sorry, blurred out all of the character info.

I’m motivated by data
Every time I sit down to write I open up a word doc that has each day I wrote, what time I began, what time I ended, and how many words I wrote. This is hugely motivating to me.
First few times writing the second book in my series.   

The more I write, the more I write
When I write daily, I write more. I know, no kidding, right? But I also find that the writing comes easier to me. I’m constantly thinking about my story and what can happen next. The struggle with having other jobs beyond writing is that daily writing isn’t always easy to come by. That being said, when it is my writing life is much healthier.

Writing Wednesdays - there’s lots of ways to do this job.
I started this writing series in 2019 because as I wrote more, I began to listen to podcasts with interviews of some of my favorite writers. With each interview I was fascinated to learn of another way an author tackled their craft. What I also came away with was the multitude of ways to approach writing. I was more convinced than ever that we need to have our students write a lot. They need to uncover how they write best, what conditions they need to be successful. And, most importantly in my book, we need to ensure we’re not dictating how they go about it. Some might need to prewrite in their head, some might need graphic organizers or outlines. Some might need to write daily, some might write in spurts.

They need to claim ownership of that, so we need to provide the opportunity. To do this, I am giving my students lots of opportunities to write. I want them to examine when the writing comes easily, when it doesn’t. Just as I want them to develop their reading identities, I also want them to develop their writing identities. I share my process and the process of the writers I’ve had on this blog or I’ve heard in interviews. Hopefully through both my students will either see themselves in another writer and form a connection or get an idea of something to try.

For years I knew that the fact I was a voracious reader made me a better reading teacher. I don’t know why it took me so long to realize that through writing myself, I knew better how to teach writing. It has been a journey.

So, what are you writing? Or what do you want to write? Do you have any specific questions regarding writing you’d like answered? I’ll be back next Wednesday to talk writing a bit more.

Have a fabulous week!