After a month of struggling to get their stories on paper (or on hard drive), my writers have completed their stories. All four met their word count goals! During December and January, we are continuing to revise and edit. Hopefully we will be finished with final copies (or as final as they will get) by the time we're gearing back up to start school next semester.
Now is also a good time to reflect on their accomplishments and on what we've learned through this process:
1. My second-grader, who always insisted that it was too hard to write more than four or five sentences on any topic, completed a story that exceeded 750 words - and with plenty of time to spare. A couple of paragraphs will never seem unachievable again. My goal for her first revision is to extend the story so that the ending seems more of a natural conclusion and reveals a purpose (or message) for the story.
2. My perfectionist fifth-grader, who cannot leave something unfinished or partially complete, powered through to complete a 1200+ word first draft that still had some holes in the plot and character development. I know this seems a strange thing to celebrate, but if you've dealt with the kind of perfectionism that brings the writing process to a screeching halt if the perfect solution to a writing process doesn't present itself right at that moment, you understand why I'm celebrating. Sometimes you just have to trust that the solution to a writing problem can wait until time to revise and move on. My goal for her first revision is to give a multisensory appeal to the story - telling the story through action and description as well as through dialogue.
3. My ninth-grader with a million ideas and not enough attention span actually completed a full draft of her novella. Exceeding 10,000 words (by a long shot), she showed herself that she can maintain focus and interest long enough to complete a lengthy project. My goal for her first revision is to maintain a distinct voice for each of her characters.
4. My eleventh-grader is not new to the novel-writing process; he has been working on a novel for close to three years. For him, the goal was to complete a cohesive story from beginning to end without stopping and rewriting large sections before reaching the revision stage. Perfectionism again is the enemy of the process. He can rewrite all he wants now that we have a complete draft to work with, although I doubt he will need to do such hefty rewrites on this story. My goal for his first revision is to weave the beautiful mastery of language he exhibited in the descriptive passages in the first few pages of the story throughout the rest of the story, to maintain the tone and style.
What a wonderful adventure we have been on the last two months!