Editing Bites…But Fills You Up

So, I’m teaching a creative writing class to seniors this year at my high school. Actually, I have two sections, 40 students in each. That’s a lot of papers to read, in case you’re keeping track.

After learning the basics of fiction so we all had a common vocabulary (and reading masters of the craft like Flannery O’Connor and a host of others), the students were required to create short story rough drafts of 10 pages or more. For the last few weeks, I’ve been reading and editing these marvelous beginnings, and I can say that I’ve learned a lot myself from editing them. Here are my lessons from editing beginning fiction:

1) Some people just have a way with words, and some people don’t.

2) Most people think the word ‘definitely’ is spelled ‘defiantly.’

3) Zombies and vampires are evergreen.

4) Verb tense is a bitch.

5) Many people think that Satan is spelled ‘satin’.  Thank you, spellcheck.

6) Those who cannot come up with creative ideas often steal the ideas of video games thinking I’m not cool enough to recognize it. However, I am cool enough.This results in arguments wherein students either try to convince me that they write scripts for video games professionally or that I am out to get them.

7) Nurturing young talent is really fun, and I realize how much I really do know, even if by worldly standards I’m sort of a failure in the publishing world.

About twenty of my budding writers are participating in Nanowrimo (National Novel Writing Month…www.nanowrimo.org) and are very inspired to reach their word counts and see their stories published. I am excited to see it too. I’m always really gratified that they have realized how much editing is vital to good writing. The creative writing class gives me leeway to really let them revise multiple times. Most of the time in English, we do guerilla writing: write it once, revise, turn it in. This doesn’t really allow for much real learning about the craft of writing. Many of my former students who are now in college tell me that digging in and revising that one story over several weeks really taught them the craft of revision, which is separate and nearly as important as the initial creative spark.

I should probably be better about editing my own stuff. I have revision aversion too. But more and more, I am seeing that revision is the key to my success, at least in my own view.

The rest of the publishing word doesn’t care, and I don’t care that they don’t care. So there.


2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Sam
    Nov 14, 2010 @ 03:54:32

    i am so way jealous that there is now a creative writing course! but you should definitely be the teacher to teach so i’m glad to hear that! it is entertaining to hear about the things you have learned about editing. especially when the kids think they can outsmart you. i still remember what that was like, haha.


  2. Ron Goetz
    Nov 20, 2010 @ 09:06:16

    @Sam: Laura “should defiantly be the teacher to teach” cause she “don’t care that they don’t care.”

    @Laura: Years back, for a couple of semesters of teaching freshman comp, I had students revise each of 3 or 4 papers twice, three drafts in all. Didn’t stick with teaching, so I never got the feedback you did, but I’m sure my students benefited as yours have. “Weary not in well doing,” sister.


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