Goals for Writing

One of my goals for this year was to expand my general homeschooling goals into more specific goals in some areas. One of these areas was writing. Writing occupies a prime place in my overall goals, but I wanted to break it down further, into the "nitty-gritty." For example, one of the ones I have so far is "To be fully comfortable with the editing process, and use it well."

I have six specific goals so far, but I feel as if there is something missing. Naturally, then, I turn to the internet. Help me, internetz, you're my only hope! ;)

So - what are your specific goals with regards to writing?


Smrt Mama said...

Self-editing is great, but the ability to accept and implement edits from others is also important to successful writing. All manner of grammatical errors can be overlooked in the arena of professional writing if you have the ability to work well with an editor.

I'd be interested in seeing your list. I'm rather fond of Mark Twain's list, myself.

These are a few of the traits I think are part and parcel of good writing. A strong writer should be able to:

1. Use and understand symbolism.
2. Create and implement figurative language maturely and avoid trite or cliched figures of speech.
3. Display an understanding of pacing. Avoiding a sense of "and then..." is one mark of a strong writer. Good pacing makes a simple story seem profound. Bad pacing makes a profound story into a movie of the week.
4. Write with a strong narrative voice, even in non-fiction. Narrative voice is one reason why some biographies are so easy to read and others are a chore.
5. Eschew obfuscation. Writing so nobody can understand what the hell you're talking about doesn't make you look smart; it makes you look pretentious.
6. Don't retell the same story unless you can write it better than the original. You can swap out whatever other items you like for hair combs and pocket watch chains, but we all know you're just rewriting "The Gift of the Magi."
7. Any item or creature that interacts w/ your main characters should be a tool that furthers the plot line, a symbol (see #1) that sheds light in the inner mechanisms of the character, or both. If you aren't giving us Chekov's gun or a satisfying red herring, don't give it to us.

Of course, now I am inspired to make this a whole post.

Kash said...

With regards to editing, I suppose I'm thinking of college & informal writing throughout life, assuming you aren't in a position to have an editor of any type. In general, most communications aren't subjected to editing before you publish/send them.

It's interesting, of course, that most of my list so far is very focused on academic/informational writing and yours is more focused on creative writing. :) One of the big ones (which I'm having trouble phrasing) is integrating cited sources/research into an overall essay or paper, so that it supports a main point or subpoint and flows with the writing, instead of looking "plopped" into the middle. KWIM?

My big one is that "All writing has a thesis."

Gretchen said...

I struggle with articulating my goals for writing, too, even though producing good writers is probably my single biggest motivation for homeschooling (if I had to pick one). I can tell you some of the big issues I noticed when I taught freshman comp (I should probably think this out more and do it for myself, too!) I was really surprised at how really just impressively terrible nearly all of the writing I encountered was. This was at Brandeis, so a pretty competitive school, and there was no opt-out option with freshman comp, so I got the entire spectrum.

*The thesis thing is huge. Very few of my freshmen understood what a thesis was. I would find a brilliant thesis buried on the second page of a four page paper and would have to point it out to them and say, "look! you have good ideas!" I think a lot of practice identifying explicit and non-explicit theses in all different kinds of writing is good for this.

*Basic understanding that anytime you write you're making an argument, whether in fiction or non-fiction.

*Awareness of your audience. The textbook I used talked a whole lot about reader-based prose. I think this is a particular issue with college freshmen, because they think they're smarter than everyone else, and if you don't get what they're saying it's your own damn fault. So drilling it into younger, less belligerent writers that it's THEIR job to make their argument clear is a good thing.

*Nitty gritty organizational stuff. My freshman, seriously almost without exception, could not construct a decent paragraph. A great many of them could not write a good sentence. I'm a big believer in the sentence to paragraph to essay idea that both SWB and MCT advocate. These were smart kids--some of them very smart--and they had great ideas in a lot of cases, but they COULD NOT translate them into writing. I hear a lot of people say that they could unschool everything except math....if I were going to pick only one subject to do formally, I would pick writing before math in a heartbeat. It's a skill, and you can't cram for it, and you can't learn it in one semester of college. My feeling right now is that I plan on assigning lots and lots of SHORT essays in middle/high school. I think the one or two or three page paper is where you learn to write good sentences and good paragraphs and how to make your paragraphs flow logically.

Smrt Mama said...

I'm talking about professional writing, which encompasses writing in any professional field, academia including. Teaching academic writing to its own end is one way to go about it, but I don't see it as a final instructional goal for lifelong writing application. If you're working in academia, you'll have to learn the formatting for your field, anyway, so a generic "this is academic writing" doesn't have particularly long-reaching application. You might use MLA in undergrad, Chicago in grad, something else entirely after the fact. Most of my published writing has been in AP style. I think that if you have a strong grasp of narrative voice and the importance of bits of information having relevance, you can integrate that into academic, fiction, or other professional writing.

Queen Christine said...

Sometimes I have to set concrete quantitative goals. When I was in college, for example, I'd make myself write one poem a day, even if it was crap. Then, at the end of the month, I could sit down and edit them into something more reasonable, even if just one or two survived.

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