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.”