Thursday, February 3, 2011


Eric is writing a pirate fiction story for his independent writing goal, and I was talking it through with him after school.  He didn't know where to start.  He's a creative kid who gets sucked into details and sometimes gets stuck in the minutiae, unable to pull himself out and finish the story.  I know this about him because he's also able to talk through his process.

"Well, if I were you, I'd probably make a list of scenes I want to include, and then pick one to start with," I say.

A few minutes later he comes back up to my desk.  "Okay, I know where I'm starting.  I'm going to write a scene where the family receives their invitations to go on the cruise."

This worries me a little because he's got this great idea about pirates taking over the cruise ship and the parents getting killed and the kids having to solve the problem themselves.  I don't want them to get stuck in the living room, double-checking their suitcases.  This is a common problem with kids learning how to incorporate detail into their writing: they want to incorporate ALL details.  I've learned to talk about the balance of showing and telling, not just showing instead of telling.

I consider how to address this with Eric.  And then I decide to be honest with him about my concerns, just as I would with an adult peer writer asking for help.  I wouldn't do this with all writers because they might let me in to unintentionally take over their pieces.  But Eric won't do that, and my speaking to him directly could save him hours in the long run.

"I think that's a fine place to start," I say.  "But remember that your action takes place on the ship.  And that's going to be an awesome story.  And I want you to get to it," I say with a smile.  He knows what I'm thinking.

"Yeah.  I promise I won't get stuck with them packing," he says, and starts typing.  It's a really good feeling to know what a kid needs and do your best to meet it.

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