What to do?

Today we will finish up our writing pieces. Some of you need to finish revising and some of you need to edit. What’s your plan? What will you DO today? Remember the things I need to see in your writing:

* Strong, creative lead
* Imagery
* One moment (ten minutes)
* Dialogue 

Once you have everything in your writing, you need to make sure that it’s correct. Editing is very important when in writing! Please check and fix:

*spelling
* complete sentences (including capitalization and punctuation)
* paragraphing
*dialogue punctuation

What do you need to change to make your writing better? What do you need to fix? Share your plan  (be SPECIFIC) in comments and then get to work!

 

Happy Revising!

Revising my lead

OK, I’m going to work on my lead. I feel like it’s dull and uninteresting. Here’s my original lead, actually here’s the first paragraph:  

It was a normal day in September. I was in my classroom getting ready for the day ahead. I remember being excited about what I was teaching that day and now I have no idea what I was teaching. As I was organizing my desk, my friend Jen calmly walked in and said, Michelle, there’s a phone call for you.” I thought that was so weird. No one ever calls me at school. As I walked to the phone, my mind was trying to solve the puzzle of who was calling me. I was so focused on that, I didn’t even realize that Jen brought me to the principal’s office to answer the phone. Still, nothing seemed wrong, just weird. Everything changed the moment I said, “Hello.”

 

Revised. As I read and reread, I realized I didn’t need the first few sentences: 

As I was preparing for the day ahead, my friend Jen calmly walked in and said, “Michelle, there’s a phone call for you.” I thought that was so weird. No one ever calls me at school. As I walked to the phone, my mind was trying to solve the puzzle of who was calling me. I was so focused on that, I didn’t even realize that Jen brought me to the principal’s office to answer the phone. Still, nothing seemed wrong, just weird. Everything changed the moment I said, “Hello.”

 

OK, I don’t need those first sentences, but the revised lead doesn’t make sense. Let me try it again:

Cool autumn mornings in September always make me smile. It’s a fresh start and a chance to be a better teacher than I was last year.  As I was preparing for the day ahead, my friend Jen calmly walked in and said, Michelle, there’s a phone call for you.” I thought that was so weird. No one ever calls me at school. As I walked to the phone, my mind was trying to solve the puzzle of who was calling me. I was so focused on that, I didn’t even realize that Jen brought me to the principal’s office to answer the phone. Still, nothing seemed wrong, just weird. Everything changed the moment I said, “Hello.”

 

 

Sigh, I don’t really love that one either. (This is tough, but I think writing and rewriting the lead and keeping them all here for me to compare is helping me.)

 

It was an ordinary morning in September when the cool breeze and blue sky remind me why I love the fall. I was in my classroom getting ready for the day ahead and enjoying the quiet moments before the chaos. As I was organizing my desk, my friend Jen calmly walked in and said, “Michelle, there’s a phone call for you.” I thought that was so weird. No one ever calls me at school. As I walked to the phone, my mind was trying to solve the puzzle of who was calling me. I was so focused on that, I didn’t even realize that Jen brought me to the principal’s office to answer the phone. Still, nothing seemed wrong, just weird. Everything changed the moment I said, “Hello.”

What do you think? Which lead did you like the best? Do you have any compliments or comments?

Draft #2

I spent a little time reading over my first draft and decided that I needed to add a few more details. Here’s the second draft:

It was a normal day in September. I was in my classroom getting ready for the day ahead. I remember being excited about what I was teaching that day and now I have no idea what I was teaching. As I was organizing my desk, my friend Jen calmly walked in and said, Michelle, there’s a phone call for you.” I thought that was so weird. No one ever calls me at school. As I walked to the phone, my mind was trying to solve the puzzle of who was calling me. I was so focused on that, I didn’t even realize that Jen brought me to the principal’s office to answer the phone. Still, nothing seemed wrong, just weird. Everything changed the moment I said, “Hello.”

I heard sniffling and my sister’s voice. She was crying. She could barely spit out the words. “Michelle, Dad collapsed. He’s in the hospital.” My mind couldn’t make sense of what she was saying. I kept repeating, “What? I don’t understand. What happened?” I also didn’t notice that Jen was still there and so was my principal and my friend Sharon. The room seemed crowded and still I didn’t understand why. Kate, my sister, kept talking. I realized I was holding my breath and suddenly I needed to sit down. It hit me. Dad’s sick. Dad’s really sick. I need to get to him. The next few minutes (or longer, time stopped for me) I had to plan. I need a sub. I need a plane ticket. I need a ride to the airport. I need someone to take care of Leo. Before my mind stopped and now I couldn’t stop it. 

 The day turned into a blur. I boarded the plane. It felt like I held my breath for the whole trip. When I got there, I still couldn’t see him…more holding my breath. Finally, it was late that night and I saw him. He looked different. I was scared. I realized that he might not survive. I was sad. This moment, that phone call changed everything. 

 What do you think of the new draft? Again, compliment and question please. 

My first draft

We talked about first drafts being ugly or messy or just plain bad. The first draft is where you get your ideas down. After much thought, I decided to write about the moment when I found out my dad was sick. It’s a powerful moment and I’ve never written about it before. Here’s my ugly, messy first draft:

 

It was a normal day in September. I was in my classroom getting ready for the day ahead. I remember being excited about what I was teaching that day and now I have no idea what I was teaching. As I was organizing my desk, a teacher walked in and told me that I had a phone call. My dad was sick. I was scared. He was really sick. I didn’t know what to do. He was far away. I was supposed to go and see him. The rest is a blur. I went to see him. It felt like I held my breath for the whole trip. When I got there, I still couldn’t see him…more holding my breath. Finally, it was late that night and I saw him. He looked different. I was scared. I realized that he might not survive. I was sad. This moment, that phone call changed everything. 

 

Give me some feedback on my draft! Please start with a compliment. Tell me one thing that you liked about it and then ask one question or make one suggestion about how I can improve my draft. 

Introductions and feedback

My online writing camp officially starts tomorrow, but today there are introductions. Here’s what I shared to introduce me:

 

Good morning, my name is Michelle. I teach sixth graders in northern Virginia. I lurked here in Teachers Write last year and this year my goal is to participate. There are lots of stories floating around in my head, so my goal is to pick one and write it. Writing creative non-fiction (poetry, memoir pieces) is much more comfortable for me, so I’m jumping in and trying fiction. Thank you for this supportive community! Writing goal for week: work in some revisions from Friday feedback. Writing goal for summer: find my story!

 

Oh and from Friday feedback, I received some amazing feedback. Here are some of the positive things people (teachers and authors) said about my writing:

What I like and works is the mood you set right away. I’m not even sure how you do it so well, but I really feel the particular energy of the scene – a mix of sleepy and nerves, excited energy, something new about to happen.

I’m very hooked with your story opening.

I love books about this sort of “super power,” especially in terms of a school, so I’m hooked.

I’m intrigued! This starts like a contemporary piece, but does this teacher have some sort of mind-reading capability? Definitely an interesting twist! 

…the quiet moment before school would be much needed! That is usually how I start my day, and I can’t read my fourth graders’ minds – thank goodness!

I can’t wait to hear more about Jack and his teacher (wish I could be a mind-reader!).

 

You know what’s funny? I am just as elated at the suggestions that were made to make it better. I can tell that the readers really read it and thought about how to make it better. I have  some decisions I need to make about my writing.

I also wonder if she can only read Jack’s mind or all students.

I agree with the idea of playing with POV. I like the idea of showing both sides of this relationship, and I like how they intertwine here, happening in real time, rather than alternating by chapter.

I want to know: is this common, or limited? Can everyone have a power? Does everyone have powers already? Is it all mind-reading, or are there other abilities? Is it a natural talent, or is there some operation? I WANT TO KNOW!

Suggestions: Be careful with verb tense shifting. It starts in present and then changes to past. Also, in interviews I’ve read with literary agents and their first page preferences, they suggest not starting with the weather. 

One way to do that might be to really exaggerate it at first in your draft. What I mean is, to add little cue ins for yourself to keep the POV or voice straight, eg. overuse Jack’s name and edit it out later. “Jack did…” this. “Then he did . . .” this. That may help you write the stuff that follows clearly from one consistent POV and then you can edit it out/clean it up later.

 

They found all of the things that I know I struggle with and they gave me specific suggestions on how to make it better, while leaving it up to me. Whew! I’m exhausted already and camp hasn’t even started. Off to try some of these suggestions. What are you writing this summer?