Writing is a process. When you are done you have only just begun!
Authors write for many reasons. Sometimes we write for our own eyes only. Other times we write for others to see our thoughts. Sometimes we write to entertain. Sometimes we write to inform. Sometimes we write to persuade or to share out our opinions. At times writing can be messy, fast and furious. At other times it can be carefully and thoughtfully presented. You may be writing with a pencil or typing at a keyboard. For whatever reason we write, writing is a process!
Writing is like creating a piece of art. An author sitting down to write is like a potter sitting down at his wheel. The potter begins with a lump of clay. He throws the muddy looking lump of clay onto a spinning wheel. The potter has an idea in mind as he puts his hands on the clay. This is how I feel during the prewriting, planning and drafting stages of writing.
As the wheel spins, the potter slowly shapes and forms the lump of clay. Sometimes he is happy with the direction it is going and sometimes he is not. If not, no worries. He can smoosh the wet clay back down into a lump and begin again, and again, and again if necessary. He can continue to make adjustments as the clay takes shape by adding water to his hands. This is how I feel during the editing and revising stages of writing.
After much spinning and shaping, the potter can step away from his wheel and allow his piece of clay to dry. Stepping away from the project for a while can bring new insight to the process. When he returns he will use a paintbrush to add glaze to his piece and finally, fire it in a kiln. This is how I feel during the Publishing stage of writing.
Only under this intense heat will the glaze react and bind to the clay. Another period of cooling is required before the potter can see and appreciate all of his hard work. The piece is now complete! He is happy with his finish product and wants to share it with others! This is how it feels when I have published a piece of writing. I want to celebrate and share it with others!
Authors are always on the look out for stories. Stories are literally all around us! That being said, it is a good idea to keep a writing notebook nearby so that you can stop and jot ideas as they come to your mind. This part of the process is called pre-writing or planning. In your notebook it may look like a simple sketch, or a bulleted list of ideas. My writing notebook is full of what I call prewrites. I may return to some of these ideas, I may not.
If I do choose to return to one of my pre-writes and elaborate on an idea, I refer to this part of the process as drafting. Drafting is what I do when I want to expand on an idea that I had. I only write o the right side of my notebook and I skip lines. That way when I go back and reread, as all authors do, I have room to edit and revise. In the drafting stage I write fast and furious. I don't slow down to worry about words that I may not know how to spell correctly. I write those tricky words as best as I can in that moment, circle them so that I remember to go back and check on them later, and keep on writing. I do my best to write so that my idea has a beginning, a middle, and an end, knowing I can always go back later to add more thinking.
If I am feeling very connected to a particular draft, I will take more time to develop it by going back to make revisions. The revising stage of the process takes place when an author rereads their piece and adds more details. Depending on what kind of piece it is maybe the author adds more imagery so that the reader can make a movie in their mind of what is happening in the story. An author can think about their five senses to make their piece come alive. What are the characters saying, thinking, doing, hearing, seeing, feeling, smelling? Authors can use words to paint a picture of the setting. They can rewrite their beginning to hook their readers. Did you know that Kate DiCamillo revised the beginning of her story, "Because of Winn Dixie" five times before being satisfied with her work? Authors can go back and make sure there is a good balance of action and dialogue, making sure they are telling their story bit-by-bit. In an informational text, the author can add even more pertinent facts or details. In a persuasive text an author can add more information to convince their reader, they can write in a passionate voice. There are many, many ways to revise your writing to make it even better. That is why we only draft on the right side of our notebook, skipping lines, so that we have room to go back and make our writing even more powerful.
Another important part of perfecting your piece is editing. Often times authors will edit as they go. Even so, it is always a good idea to reread your finished piece to edit prior to publishing. I often tell my students to edit with CUPS. C is for capitolization. Make sure you have capitolized proper nouns, the first letter of the first word of each sentence, and remember whenever I stands alone it should be capitolized. Also, make sure you have not capitolized letters that did not need to be capitolized. U is for understanding. Reread you writing and make sure it actually makes sense. This sounds silly but it is a very important step. You may have left out an important word or used wording that doesn't make sense. It's helpful to read your piece outloud. Sometimes you'll hear something you've read over a thousand times and did not see. It is also very helpful to have another person read over your writing and offer suggestions. A second or third set of eyes may catch something you did not. P is for punctuation. Check to make sure that you are using punctuation correctly. Break up your writing into sentences using periods. When a question has been asked, use a question mark. To show excitement, use an exclamaion mark. Make sure you are using apostrophes and quotation marks correctly tool. Again, its alway a good idea to ask someone else to read over your work. They may catch something you did not. S is for spelling. If you are publishing your piece for others to see, now is the time to go back and check your spelling. If you were uncertain of a word while drafting, now is the time to go back and check your word wall, dictionary, or device to make sure your spelling is correct. It is also a great idea to ask at least one other person to check over your work for mispelled words.
Once you have everything in order in your writing notebook, its now time to publish. This may mean sitting down at a computer to type your piece. It may also mean getting out some special publishing paper to write on. This is the time for your neates writing. There is no need to skip lines now unless you are beginning a new paragraph. Write as neatly as possible so that others can read and enjoy your writing. This is also a time to fancy things up. This can be done in many different ways. One of my favorite ways to fancy up a piece is by adding colorful illustrations.
Once your published piece is complete, it's time to celebrate! You can feel good in knowing that you have done your best! You have created something for others to read and enjoy. Share your piece with others and take time to talk about it with others.