Just before Thanksgiving I returned from a convention of the Florida branch of the Association of Christian Schools International in Orlando. It was a busy time, and preparation for it made me put my book writing on hold for a while.
But that’s not so much what I want to talk about. I want to give an outline of my two presentations. This one was called “Teaching Writing by Teaching Rewriting.”
One way to learn writing (or in this case, help our students learn writing) is to work on revising already-written material, either to help it meet some basic standards, or to accomplish some other purpose.
Why is this helpful?
For one thing, it removes the questions about what to write about. You know, for all those students who have some trouble getting their imaginations going.
But even for those of us with no end of imagination, rewriting the work of others can still help. That’s because the writing belongs to someone else.
It’s comparable, I told the convention delegates, to the difference between cleaning out our own attic and cleaning out someone else’s. We’ll have no sentimental feelings and will be able to approach the writing more objectively.
‘Cause if you’re a writer, you know the feeling that this is your baby, and it’s very hard to cut off its arm. Somebody else’s? No problem.
Well, maybe that analogy wasn’t the best, but you get the idea.
The principles you use to work on someone else’s writing are ones that you’ll learn to objectively apply to your own, because ALL of us can afford to tighten and improve our writing.
And I recommended a book! It has served me well, yea, these 30 years. I’ve gone through it in-depth at least twice through the years and scanned it pretty thoroughly a third time.
It’s a unique book, I think, for learning rewriting, because the author teaches the principles, then gives assignments, then gives answers in the back so you can compare your work to his.
In the five stages of writing (prewriting, rough draft, revising, proofreading, final draft), it’s the third step, the revising, that gets short shrift, again and again. This workshop is designed to help remedy that problem.
The principles of rewriting are a passion for me, because rewriting is what my writing is all about. I find great stories, tweak them, add conversation and details, and help the work of God come alive for another generation.
I’ll explain some of the primary principles next time.