The writing Roles of ‘writer’ and ‘editor’ help keep your writer in control of their writing.
Many of us have a tendency to believe that we know more than our children…and often we are right, but in the case of writing stories our children will know more. Do NOT take over your child’s writing because you believe that you have better ideas! Before you know it, it will be your story, not their story. How does that help them find their own writer’s voice? I have a few ideas about how you can help your children become excellent and enthusiastic writers.
When the child is writing a story, their role is that of ‘The Writer’ and includes choice about what and how they write.
Your role is ‘The Editor’. You can help them with proofreading spelling and grammar, and whether their work engages the reader by describing scenes and characters’ actions convincingly.
Another important role of ‘The Editor‘ is to motivate them by offering writing suggestions, but you do not decide what they will write. Please remember to suggest possible plots and scenarios and characters in a way that they do not feel pressured to accept them.
Only make suggestions relevant to them. People write more expressively and in more detail about what they know about. They can write adventure and fantasy stories using scenarios, places, and people they know well. The best stories are based around skills the writer has, such as riding a scooter, skate board or bike, or fishing, building, climbing, cooking, or hiding from adults; and they are set in areas they know well, and with characters based on people they know. For example, my students have written about creatures from outer space but set the landing of the space-craft in their town. They have written about a young spy based on themselves and friends and using events happening at school or at their home. They have written about fairies living in a piece of wilderness, by a stream, or in a garden they know well. They went snorkeling and then wrote about a fantasy world under the sea.
In my EDITOR role I tend to ask questions first about who and what they would like to write about. Only when they can’t answer those questions do I offer suggestions. I pause in between each suggestion to give them a moment to think about whether that idea would work for them. After offering two or three suggestions I often pause again to ask what they don’t like about those ideas, and what sort of ideas they’d like instead. Then I make suggestions or ask more questions closer to what they want. If none of that works I stop discussing writing until the next suitable coaching time. Remember…no pressure!
Write all ideas down immediately. Flow charts and mind-maps as well as lists are useful ways to get ideas down onto paper. If your child is not at all keen to write, you can write story ideas down as they tell you. The time spent thinking up ideas is a valuable and often underestimated part of the writing process. Successful adult writers often spend a lot of time thinking before they write.
A simple way to develop a story with a writer is to have a piece of paper folded width-ways into three parts which you head up with “Beginning, Middle, and End”. Ask them to write down very briefly what happens in each section. I always lean heavily on the question starters ‘what, where, when, who, why, and how (the 5 Ws and H).
Under the Beginning you can ask them to describe where and when the story takes place and who is in it. For example,
Where is the main hero?
When is this happening?
What can we see?
What can we hear?
Who is with her/him?
How old is he/she?
The Beginning is where the writer introduces their character(s), describes the background the character(s) are living in, and may even jump right into the middle of the difficulties those in the story are experiencing. For example:
What is happening?
What do you do next?
The main action usually happens in the Middle. This is where the hero(es) solve a crime or mystery or have an adventure or series of adventures where they overcome difficulties.
What happens next?
What terrible or exciting, or weird thing happens now?
What trouble do they get into?
How do they solve that problem?
Endings tie up all the loose ends in a satisfying and convincing way.
How can we end it? and
What will happen at the end? are useful questions to ask.
Planning a story is a ‘work in progress’. What is interesting and fun for you and your child is that the planning process can be on-going while your child writes. The first ideas may be discounted or radically changed at times as the characters develop and as twists and turns of the plot reveal themselves. It is very important that you and the writer quickly jot down new ideas throughout the writing process on the planning page as they occur.
Follow me if you like this post and want to know more about how you can develop strengths in your child with minimum fuss and effort.