July 4, 2021: Back on Campus
For the first time since February of 2020, I was back on campus at the University of Central Florida this week! Having spent the last 4 semesters teaching on-line classes, I am teaching a face-to-face class this summer. It felt wonderful to be back and it felt spectacular to be in a classroom and see my students sitting there in-person.
The class I am teaching is for those studying to be teachers and focuses on how to teach writing to elementary school students. This topic is totally within my circle of passion, so it is a pleasure to teach. Our first class this week involved a very interesting discussion on whether or not writing is a solitary or social activity.
Being a traditionally published author of middle grades novels, in addition to being a classroom teacher and college professor, gives me a unique perspective on this question. Writing, after all, permeates every aspect of my life and is something that is an integral part of my daily routine. And with all honesty, I have to say- it is both!
This is not a cop-out or an avoidance of taking a position. It is simply the conclusion drawn when taking a close look at the stages in the writing process and the realization that comes from the fact that some stages are very much solitary, and some are entirely social.
Let’s take a look at each of the accepted stages of the Writing Process:
o This when the writer is laying the groundwork for their piece of writing. It may involve collaborative discussions or brain storming, both of which are social. It may involve research which might be more solitary. Planning could also involve outlining or creating character backstories. Another critical component of planning is thinking of the finished product or the intended audience, which could be considered both solitary and social. Planning in a classroom is usually more social than planning for an adult author.
o This is decidedly solitary. Unless you are collaborating and doing a piece with multiple authors, drafting is probably the most solitary stage in the writing process. During this stage, the writer lives with just their thoughts, their characters, their ideas, and getting the story onto paper. No matter the genre or final product, at this stage the writer is working alone. Whether a novelist or a student working on an essay, the drafting is most productive when done alone so that the writer can focus on getting their initial thoughts and ideas down.
o For the revising stage to be productive, it must be social. It must involve others. This is where the writer shares their writing with beta readers, historical experts, teachers, or critique partners and seeks their feedback. What works? What does not? Where are the plot gaps? This information is critical to improving and revising our work. Just this past week, one of the professional writing groups to which I belong held a Critique Event. We had to sign up and provide our writing ahead of time, and industry professionals read our work. We were then scheduled for ZOOM conferences in which they shared their thoughts on our work. I submitted a picture book manuscript that I thought was done and polished, but that I had been having no luck with during the submission process. Well, the feedback from this agent made clear that it was not as done and polished as I thought. Her feedback has now given me a new direction as I go through another set of revisions to this story.
o Again, this stage also needs an additional set of eyes to catch those editing errors we all may miss. We all know how to correctly capitalize and punctuate our work, but those types of errors inevitably sneak onto the page. A clear set of eyes will help to flush them out and make sure our work is as error free as possible.
o This is when our writing is sent out into the world. It is finally ready for our readers. And while the reader and writer may never actually meet, this becomes a social relationship as the reader interprets and experiences the writers words and thoughts. While the reader may be solitary as they read, they are building a (social) relationship with the writer.
Whether you are in a solitary stage, or experiencing the social part of writing, my best to all the writers out there. Savor and enjoy every step in the process.