Anyone who is a teacher will be familiar with Process Writing as taught in the classroom. It consists of steps labeled Pre-Writing, Drafting, Conferencing, Revising, Editing, and Publishing. These steps are often recursive, as writers may conference several times, revise, and sometimes even go back to re-drafting before moving on to the next step. Teachers also know how difficult it is to get some students to buy into this process. Many of them want to toss their work into the teacher’s in-box after dotting the last period, without a backwards glance.
I gained a little credibility with some of these students when I was able to prove to them that the real process of publication does in fact follow this model.
Peer Conferencing: I shared my manuscript with family, friends, and fellow authors while I worked on it. The demand from certain people became great enough that I sent out each chapter by email as it was completed. My students laughed when I told them that my husband was my toughest critic. When Mr. Salerni says it’s no good, I scramble to revise!
Teacher Conferencing: I carefully consider all the feedback I get from my early readers, but I don’t necessarily address every single one of their comments. However, when my editors at Sourcebooks give me feedback – or when the producer collaborating with me on the screenplay wants changes – I definitely complete the revisions as required. “You might ignore some peer feedback,” I tell my students, “but when your teacher tells you something must be changed (insert stern teacher glare here), you’d better change it before handing in your work!”
Editing: This endless task is something that students just don’t want to do. “It doesn’t have any mistakes,” they tell me. I have explained to my class that I’ve read We Hear the Dead about fifty times, and I am still finding things to change. I recently received my final proof pages and noticed a paragraph where I used the word “all” four times within two sentences. “It’s not technically a mistake,” I explained to the students, “but it sounds bad, and I can improve it.”
One of my smart cookies challenged me at the end of my lesson, saying, “Yeah, Mrs. Salerni, but when we’re done, we have to turn our work in to you for grades. When your book gets published, you don’t get grades.”
“Yes, I do,” I answered him promptly. “They’re called reviews.”
You know, I never thought I’d be pining for report cards, but hearing you compare reviews to grades is sort of terrifying. I mean, it’s one thing to have to explain a C to your parents, but trying to undo the damage of an Amazon review? Yowsers.
Lisa and Laura,
We’ll just have to remind ourselves that we are in good company. Even classics and best sellers get stinker reviews.
Just remind me I said this when the time comes for me to face one, okay? LOL!
I remember this process all too well when I was a student of yours nine years ago. I remember hating this process and waiting until the day I would never have to think about it again.
Now as I write my own novel, I’m forced to take these steps again, and much more seriously, scrutinizing everything I write that I once loved.
Just goes to show, the things you learn in school, even in fourth grade, really do matter later down the road!
I’m glad you remember something I taught 9 years ago — and that it’s useful to you now! You’ll have to give me a bigger clue, though. Nine years ago … that was probably either the year I was pregnant with Gina or the year I came back after having her. I’m gonna go dig through some old yearbooks …
I was in your class ’01-’02. Heh, I think I miscounted.
Would you believe I not only have your class picture, but I also have the business records for the Classroom City unit?