Reading and recognizing the techniques and methods of good writers helps build good writers.
We’ve recently spent some time studying the beginning of two different novels. We read them without their titles, so we had no context of what we imagined the stories would be about. Through this process, we used Active Reading to comment together and point out the many things we recognized as we slowly read the pages. Our observations included elements of the writing like:
recognizing the first phrase from paragraph 1 was mirrored in paragraph 2
the narrator was speaking in First Person “I”
a comment about the narrator’s “dad’s voice” made us suspect the dad was passed away or gone
the word selection and topics developed a humorous tone (“talking anus”)
the narrator was childish but knew a lot of adult things
the sentence syntax/construction developed a very chaotic narrator’s voice – lots of interrupter phrases, inserts, and long, long sentences
the writing was likely developed for a more adult audience, since teens aren’t likely to know many of the initial topics the narrator covered: Shakespeare, the Beattles’ song title used as a phrase in passing, French words, the Paris museum
altered use of dialogue in the writing – developed between two speakers but within the same paragraph instead of a new line per new speaker.
the tired, somewhat depressed tone of the narrator: using the dismissive words occasionally (“anyway” 2x, “anymore” in one page)
predictions as to who “Ron” is – mentioned as if he is in a close relationship with the narrator’s mother. “Money can’t buy me love, obviously”(3) Writer casually includes Ron without telling readers who he is to the narrator for another few pages.
After reading and sharing our observations together, we each took some time to journal our reflections on:
What we liked about the writing.
What we disliked about the writing
How cleverly the narrator’s personality was established
Observations on the author’s choice of Point of View – how it may have changed the storytelling to have chosen a different P.O.V for that specific story
With a text selection on your own, read and record on the text your observations related to the style of the writing, development of the initial elements of literature (setting, characters, tone, and initial problem), like we’ve done together. You’ll have two samples to choose from.
Once done, reflect in your journal on the same topics:
What you liked
What you disliked
Establishment of narrator’s personality
Two or three specific developments of the writing (phrases, sentences, conflicts, etc) that you liked in particular.
One of the most important parts of learning is the reflective process for the learner. It’s like a feedback loop or a litmus test of sorts – when you continue to look at recent or current work and assess it asking yourself questions like:
is this work I’m proud of?
is this writing piece a good representation of my abilities as a writer?
is there anything in what I’m writing that’s challenging me, my development of ideas, my creativity, or my style of writing?
what’s my attitude towards the work I’m developing? Am I doing it with intent or am I falling into passively writing without being thoughtful or purposeful in it?
what is my goal in my recent and future writing pieces? am I focusing on improving syntax (sentence structure)? Am I trying to develop more consistent use of punctuation and mechanics? Am I focusing more on a full story or realistic characters, over careful sentence development?
am I trying to write like anyone else? Am I feeling self-conscious of what I’m developing? Am I comparing myself to another writer who’s invested more time in their writing style than I have?
am I doing this just for a grade (in Creative Writing class) or am I doing it for some personal reasons/enjoyment?
In your ELA classes, this type of Metacognitivepractices (learning about yourself as a learner) are called AR Tasks (Assess and Reflect Tasks). Here’s your first one in Creative Writing 20.
Consider these questions in relation to the last 1 or 2 writing pieces you’ve developed, based on the Senses Image Cluster work.
To remind you of those steps, you’ve recently done the following:
selected a location with ambient sounds and used it to brainstorm and Freewrite the 5 sense elements you’d expect in that sound environment (volleyball tournament, country garden, camping location, or fireplace setting, for example)
You developed a Writing Activity #1 based on that Freewrite and sensory elements. There was formative (during the writing) feedback given.
You developed a Writing Activity #2 based on the same sensory focus and received formative feedback on this as well.
You’ve taken some time to review and make edits/corrections to your writing and should start recognizing the types of common errors you’re making in the writing as well as some of the positives/strengths in what you’ve developed.
Now, consider the following questions for your AR Reflective Task:
What are your main errors in the writing you’ve recently developed? Are there constant errors you can identify as well as some occasional errors?
Do you recognize/understand how to avoid some/all of these errors? Explain what you need to do instead to avoid some of the biggest/most constant errors.
What do you like about what you’ve written in these recent samples? Identify a few specific things you like most.
What could your goal(s) be to improve in the short term (near future)?
Identify one change in story direction you could have taken with your writing piece.
One of the most important elements of writing that influence the reader’s experience is strong sensory development, especially in helping develop sceneries. There are many ways to practice or develop this skill, but using an Image Cluster to purposefully list elements of each sense while in that environment will help you recognize and develop some of these elements more naturally in your own creative writing.
Click the chart to the right to expand the Image Cluster Sample
Scene Sources: Pics or Vids
It may help you to use a scenery image or even video of ambient sounds of a setting. Some examples are posted for you below.
Before you Freewrite: Select a source to develop at least four aspects of that environment for your five senses: sound, touch, sight, taste, and smell.
During your Freewrite: Remember the rules – don’t stop, keep the pen moving, don’t censor it, no correcting or editing, no rushing- just continued writing, and see where your consciousness takes you with it.
After this Freewrite:
Read through what you wrote and count how many of your Sense Elements you brainstormed ended up included in what you wrote.
In reviewing what you wrote, identify any examples you would describe as Show, Not Tell writing.
Use a highlighter over the text and select parts of the Freewrite you especially liked that you would pull and use in some creative writing you may do in the future.
Reflect on doing the Freewriting by hand – if you used a specific pen, did it write smoothly for you? Could you feel a difference in the feel of what you were writing? Do you like the feel of the writing or as you write are you wishing instead you could be typing it? Do you think what comes out of the Freewrite would be different at all if it were typed instead of written? Is there a difference for you? If so, can you describe it?