What I Learned About Writing, Teaching Writing, Stories, and Story Form From Reading My Classmates’ Writing Autobiographies
1) That punctuation can be used in many different ways depending on whatever meaning the writer wants to convey. When writing dialogue, is it better to use a comma, a period, or an ellipse for when a character is pauses during speech? The answer, I think, is to really listen to the dialogue and judge how much importance the speaker places on their words. More importance, or a more emphatic pause, might call for an ellipse and not the comma.
2) When is the spelling out or explaining of dialect required? If the writer is spelling words the way they sound when characters speak them, is an explanation of why that is being done called for, the way Twain did for Huck Finn? I think so. I think it is good writing to do so. Readers should know who is talking, the writer or the character.
3) Lazy, or unedited, writing can hurt the final product. Words or little phrases that, if inserted,
would create a better flow or more coherence can be added. Also, things that are mentioned in the present tense that haven’t been mentioned before will confuse readers. This mistakes will be caught on a second or third reading. So, proofread.
4) Read your writing out loud. This is especially important when not writing critical essays, but can be used for those also. The ears may catch something the eyes missed.
5) Don’t teach students to try to duplicate or mimic the style of another writer for anything other than practice. This will mess with the writers personal style and dampen their enthusiasm. Let them write in their own voice, so they enjoy writing and keep doing it.
6) If a student displays talent for a particular genre encourage them to write within that genre. When it comes to writing, being a master of one form is better than being average at them all.
7) Writing dialogue isn’t easy, especially when including tag lines, prose and exposition along with it. Encourage writers to really watch how people act when they talk to get a good understanding of how to write dialogue.
8) “Writing comes more easily when you have something to say.” Encourage students to write about things they want to talk or think about. Find something within every assignment to fit the bill.
9) Show don’t tell. Telling creates tension and conflict in the minds of readers, forcing them to stop and wonder what they writer is trying to say.
10) Explain what you are talking about. The explanations don’t have to be big or long. Just enough to eliminate questions in readers’ minds.
11) Don’t mention an interesting or volatile character or a situation in passing then let it drop. This stuff could be good for the piece, so get into it.
12) Keep a consistent time line. Jumping from time period to time period without bringing readers along loses them, and they may lose the piece while they try to find where in the narration exists.
13) Don’t start a metaphor without finishing it.
14) Have readers/writers/classmates keep a co-journal or diary. One writes in the journal, gives it to another person who writes a response, then creates a new entry before returning the journal to the first student.
15) Beware of breaks in narrative.
16) Don’t suck the fun out of writing. Keep in fun and engaging for students and they will keep writing.