3/8-10 – Inventing Your Writing “Rules”

You may want to FOLLOW ALONG ON THIS SLIDE SHOW instead of reading this long entry!

PART 1: The “Rules” In Our Heads

Okay, writers. On our first day, we talked about the “rules” we have in our heads for different kinds of writing (I use that term loosely; in many ways, writing rules are made to be broken).

We came up with all kinds of rules–some great, some less great. When I asked you the next day WHERE those rules came from, you said

  • Mentors and other adults
  • Teachers
  • Other things you’ve read
  • Lectures or conferences
  • Advice from other writers

We also talked about how those “rules” are sometimes really meaningful–hard won lessons from important people/books in our lives. Other times, those “rules” aren’t very meaningful. We’ve absorbed them subconsciously from our old favorites, or we’ve taken rules as legitimate without really investigating our own opinions.

PART 2: Reading Like a Writer

THEN we talked about what it means to READ LIKE A WRITER. We broke that down into seven pieces and practiced using these seven pieces on a short excerpt from “Angels in the Snow” by Matt de la Peña.

The seven elements we discussed come from two thinkers, Steve Peha and Dean Bakapoulos:

  • Ideas
  • Organization
  • Voice
  • Word Choice
  • Sentence Fluency
  • Conventions
  • Green Lines

PART 3: Finding Mentor Texts

Then we set out on a journey of two days to find some NEW fiction, NEW poetry, and NEW creative nonfiction that moves us. Writing we really love. Writing that speaks to us.

We’re calling the writing we chose by a new name: Mentor Texts.

Part 4: Bringing it all Together

Today, we’re going to start using those mentor texts to MENTOR us.The idea is that we will

  • Read Like a Writer
  • To develop new, thoughtful “rules” for writing
  • And to identify “rules” we’ve never really taken the time to name before

You’ll have three jobs with your mentor texts, and you need to do them in the order they appear here (#2 and #3 don’t make sense if you haven’t completed #1).

  1. You’ll use the seven elements of reading like a writer ON THIS FORM to identify the “rules” your mentor texts are teaching you.You need to fill out the form a total of FOUR times: one for a poem you chose, another for different poem you chose, one for a piece of fiction, and one for a piece of creative nonfiction.
  2. You’ll write an imitation of one of the mentor texts you selected. It can be a piece of prose or a piece of poetry, and you’ll want it right in view front of you as you work. This link gives you an example of what an imitation looks like and also explains how to do an imitation effectively.
  3. You’ll choose ONE of the three forms (poetry, fiction, or creative nonfiction), then write 250 words in that form. Here’s the catch. These 250 words need to follow ALL the rules that you’ve developed for that form. This is NOT an imitation, so you don’t want the other texts in view when you do this assignment.

Note that 250 words is about one page of double-spaced prose (fiction or creative nonfiction) and two pages of poetry.


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