NaNoWriMo Editing Checklist

This editing checklist is for my fifth grade authors and peer editors as they prepare their novels for publication in a class anthology. We’ve covered a lot of this in class (pause while I dash off to add “a lot” to the checklist!*). The rest, I’ll teach in mini-lessons on editing days.

Some of it is basic, such as plot structure, simple character development, and formatting. Others, well… After years of editing student novels, let’s just say that everyone has stuff they get picky about. Mine include “thought to myself” (as opposed to what?) overuse of “and then,” and awkward synonyms for “said.” Feel free to copy these documents and replace my pet peeves with your own.

Best wishes, happy editing, and DFTBA!

NaNoWriMo Editing Checklist

*If you’re looking for a memorable way to teach your students that “a lot” is two words, check out this brilliant post over at Hyperbole and a Half. Kids can draw their own Alots. Super cool.

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Novel Writing and Math

Good news: I met my word count goal for Day 1 of NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month). Woo hoo! My story is a time travel romance set in World War II Bletchley Park, and yes, Alan Turing will make a guest appearance.

I always have my students set up the elements of their plot before they begin. In honor of my mathematical setting, I have renamed my own plot elements as follows:

  • Beginning = Defining the Variables
  • Inciting Incident = Reality Is a Special Case
  • Rising Action = Problem Sets
  • Climax = Limit
  • Falling Action = Proof
  • Resolution = QED

Wishing a great November to all the NaNoWriMo authors out there! We’ve got this!

5th Graders Reflect on NaNoWriMo

Once again, NaNoWriMo was a highlight of our year and the best writing activity ever invented. Here’s what my students had to say about their experience:

NaNoWriMo was amazing, because before I thought I was bad at writing and now I believe that I can write.

I couldn’t really stick to my original plot as it was too plain and I had to make the plot up as I went, only this one was far more exciting and adventurous.

I liked how (my main character) grew emotionally and physically during my story.

I learned new words. I learned the correct spelling for a lot of words.

I could write more than usual. It made me love writing.

Don’t be nervous even if you don’t like writing. NaNoWriMo is the funnest thing on Earth.

What I’ve learned from NaNoWriMo is how to manage my time.

I wrote more than I expected. I just got ideas while I was writing.

NaNoWriMo has expanded my imagination. I think of better ideas than I used to.

I wrote more words than I expected. Typing fast was difficult for me at the beginning because I did not have a lot of typing skills. I got too many plot bunnies and I did not have enough time to write some of them down. Now I type much faster than I used to.

It was fun to imagine all the things in my story and not have to do nonfiction writing. It have me a chance to use my imagination. I had freedom to write whatever came into my mind.

One thing that was difficult about NaNoWriMo was that I had so many ideas and only a month to write.

What I would do again next year: Use the papers that you fill out about your character.

If I could do NaNoWriMo again next year I would start off not introducing the characters but going right into the action.

I’m considering writing a sequel.

I am more into writing now, and I learned that keeping a goal is harder than it seems. I learned how to set time aside for important things.

Don’t think too much about your writing. Just get your ideas on paper. You can edit later.

Something that went well for me in NaNoWriMo is that I wrote every free second I had.

I used everyday experiences and put them in my story. I also added details and put in things to make my story more interesting and make it harder for my characters to get what they want.

I accidentally added some things to my story that I regretted at first but then I figured out how to make my story more interesting using that.

I wish we had WAY more time to write.

I have learned that I can write a NOVEL! I also thought (before NaNoWriMo) that writing was just for school and because the teacher said so. But then I found out that maybe it was for fun! It was “PUT ALL YOUR IMAGINATION ON PAPER!!!”

It has also made me feel like a writer and it makes me feel like I know what plot is.

The story came flowing to me as I was typing, and there was never a point when I didn’t have an idea that would last me a few thousand words. The story was just talking, and I was writing without stopping. (from a 3rd-time WriMo)

NaNoWriMo gave me more confidence as if I were walking down the street and I can just say, “I am a novelist!” and be proud of it.

I made the end perfectly like I wanted. I became WAY smarter in writing. I know how to make big stories. I know how to describe better or make better sentences. (from an English learner)

I can write a novel.

Write a story that will make you satisfied.

Some ideas changed into better ideas while I wrote.

I loved writing the story and I enjoyed making up all kinds of different characters. I liked using my imagination to come up with a plot that I liked.

Even if you want to give up, keep trying. You can do this.

Don’t let your inner editor get to you, okay?

NaNoWriMo changed the way I wrote. NaNoWriMo makes me put more effort and details into my writing.

I learned to be more responsible and take care of everything that I need to do. It has also taught me to be self-confident and happy about your work, but it has also taught me to not be overconfident and cocky about NaNo, because it’ll turn around and bite you in the butt. If you’re not careful you could be in the dungeon of despair from the happiness of Heaven. NaNo is unpredictable.

NaNoWriMo: Let the Games Begin!

Dear Internet,

With only two hours left of October 2014, I am officially committing to writing a novel this November. Best wishes to all of you who will join me in this crazy pursuit. And because I’ll need to come up with 50,000 of my own very soon, I’ll let the Tenth Doctor’s words speak for me tonight:

“There’s an old Earth saying, Captain. A phrase of great power and wisdom, and consolation to the soul in times of need.”

“What’s that, then?”

“Allons-y!”

NaNoWriMo Is Coming!

NaNoWriMo teachers: The 2014 classroom noveling kits are here! If you haven’t tried NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) with your students yet, I highly recommend it! It is the most empowering, exhilarating, motivating activity you could possibly dream of bringing to the classroom. I have done it for four years with my fourth through sixth grade students, and I look forward to it with excitement every November. It comes with free lesson plans and support for teachers, but it is flexible enough to fit in with your own teaching style. Visit the Young Writers Program website for more information. As they say, the world needs your stories!

Work-Life Balance for Teachers (File Under: Fantasy)

Teaching is among the professions that consume one’s mind and soul. Even when we’re up-to-date on grading (hey, it could happen!), we spend personal time and energy researching, planning, and finding new ways to reach students. Random lightning strikes of inspiration hit us when we least expect them. (Great ideas in the shower, anyone? Yeah, I thought so.) There is always more to do, and with 30 students who will never have another chance to be in fifth grade, it’s hard to know when to say “I’ve done enough for today.”

While I love my job, like, jump-up-and-down-can’t-control-myself love it, sometimes I need to pull myself away. I need to remember that my life outside school is important too. I have a wonderful family who deserve my attention and my cooking skills*. I am helping develop two amazing organizations: Omar’s Dream Foundation and Nerdscouting. Those things matter.

I also need to block out time in my calendar for my own pursuits. This may sound selfish. It feels selfish. But I think it will help me take better control of my time and (I hope) not feel so overwhelmed by everything I have to do. Continue reading