How to Write Stories-Step 7: Ready, Steady, Write (and Edit as You Go)

This is Step 7 of the seven steps to story writing success, a step-by-step guide for teaching children how to write stories.

In this post, I will share my experiences and insights on how to effectively edit writing with your child. I will be explaining why children (and you) should pause and revise and edit their stories regularly as they are written. I will also give tips to make this editing process as productive and painless as possible. Finally, and probably the most useful, you can look forward to a handy check-list (but not like you’ve seen) that will guide your child and you on some of the key things to include to make their story great!

If you missed the previous steps you can catchup here:

The #1 Reason to Edit as you Go

The most detrimental effect of waiting till the end of the story before editing:

Discouragement and frustration. Editing a large piece of writing can be mentally and emotionally draining, especially for children. The frustration of facing a huge editing task after putting in significant effort to complete the story can discourage children and make them perceive editing as a tedious and overwhelming chore. It can make them think their writing is not good. This negative association might hinder their motivation and willingness to engage in future writing and editing activities.

Other Reasons to Edit as you Go

Sometimes the advice, write first, edit later, is great advice. It allows kids to just write and not worry about spelling, grammar and get bogged down by word choice. This is why I love the practice of freewriting. It allows the flow of ideas without having to second guess if every sentence sounds good.

However, for children practising story writing, I would really suggest that they (and you) edit as they go along. Just to clarify, when I say edit I am not referring to spelling and punctuation errors. These are small mistakes and very simple to fix.

When I say edit, I am referring to the major story elements, like cohesion in plot and character. While they are in the writing process, I would also get children to consider literary elements such as a strong opening, strong words choices, and effective use of punctuation and figurative language for effect. All of the things that children would have already had some time to think about in the first six steps of the story writing process.

Waiting until your child has finished their story before you and your child think about revising and editing can lead to so many problems- any one of which can lead negative associations with the writing process. Here are the ones that I’ve experienced:

It becomes an overwhelming task. When my child completes their entire story without any kind of editing along the way, I am confronted with a substantial amount of text to review and revise. This can be overwhelming us, as adults, let alone our children. They now have to struggle to know where to begin or how to effectively address multiple issues throughout their work.

Doesn’t allow proper focus on specific skills. By waiting until the end to edit, our children will miss out on the opportunity to reinforce and practice specific editing skills while they are still fresh in their minds. Editing is a complex task comprising of many elements. Addressing these elements in smaller, manageable portions allows children to develop and refine their writing and editing skills more effectively.

Difficulty in identifying and correcting mistakes. When my children complete their entire story without pausing for revising and editing, they always overlook mistakes and fail to recognise areas that need improvement. Without regular editing checkpoints, it also becomes really challenging for me to choose which errors and areas for improvement to address before they start feeling like I am attacking their work! Trust me, when it comes to giving feedback on children’s writing, it can often feel like a personal attack to them.

Limited learning from mistakes. Revising and editing writing is not only about fixing errors but also about learning from them. When our children have the opportunity to amend their writing, and catch and correct mistakes as they go along, they gain valuable insights into their writing process. Waiting until the end to edit reduces this valuable learning experience.

To address these problems, it is essential to incorporate regular editing checkpoints throughout the writing process.

By breaking the task into smaller, manageable portions, children can develop stronger editing skills, learn from their mistakes, and hopefully maintain a more positive and engaged attitude towards the editing process.

Make revision and editing bite-size

Break the revision and editing process into bite-size pieces. I have extolled the virtues of editing during the writing process. But how to do this?

By using a check-list.

Check-lists help keep kids accountable by providing expectations.

They remind children (and us) of what elements to include in their writing.

Check-lists helps children stay focused on one element at a time when editing.

However, even a check-list can seem really daunting. Children can find it difficult to refer to the list at appropriate times and decide which skill to focus on as they write.

Often the whole check-list will get forgotten until the end and then we are back to sqaure one- a final draft of a story, and a huge momentous revision and editing task in front of us.

This is why I have made a check-list that breaks down the task of revising and editing a story into smaller manageable portions.

What I do differently in this check-list compared to the multitude of others that are available is that I have embedded different check-list points for children to consider through-out their writing pages so they can pause periodically and together you and your child can revise and edit.

Download my child-friendly writing pages with embedded check-list for writing stories:

How to Use the Story Writing Check-list

The check-list points I have included are skills that are included in the first 6 steps of this whole step-by-step story writing series. Because of this, you can always refer back to the suggestions, prompts and examples given in those earlier steps, or even better, refer back to the work your child did during those steps.

I use these writing pages with the embedded check-list so that the writing and revision task does not get to overwhelming.

I will ask kids to write, and then pause after they have written 3-5 lines (if they are young) or about 10 lines, if they are strong writers who tend to write a lot.

We will read their work together aloud. I will always select and make a big-deal of the good stuff in their writing. I might also add ticks on to the parts of their writing that were done well so that my kids also know what they are already doing well, so they keep on doing it.

I will then read out the first check-list box and either the child selects something or I will select something to improve.

I will not leave them to do it by them selves.

We will usually have a conversation about how it can be made better, and this is done collaboratively. I might ask certain questions to help them get a better picture of what they are trying to convey, or give them some sentence starters or better word choices that gets them thinking about how to improve that aspect of their writing. Or we will look back to the relevant step of the writing guide and look at the suggestions in the guide or the work the child has already done and use that to help rewrite that part better.

Once they have worked on revising that part of their work, they can tick that off their check-list and carry on writing for 5-10 more lines, or a paragraph depending on the writing fluency of the child.

They come back to me, we read their work together aloud. Again I will explicitly mention an aspect of their writing that I liked and then we pick a second thing off one of the nearby check-list boxes. And so on.

How NOT to Use the Story Writing Check-list

I originally made this step-by-step to use for my own kids. They range in the ages of 10 – 15 years old. I also had in mind to be able to use it with my Year 3 and 4 English class. Because of this I have included more than what most children will have as their target.

Do not try to get children to focus on everything on the check-list for every single story, unless they are older and are already incorporating most of the elements.

When I used this in my class of 7-10 year olds, I just focused on three check-list points in the whole document, depending on what I focused on during the first 6 steps of this story writing process.

With younger kids, ignore most of the check-list if you want. Celebrate the ones that the child does work on. There will always be a next time where you can focus on another element and so on until your child has built an awesome story writing skill set.  

I hope these seven steps to story writing success does help you and your children have successful writing experiences as it has in our homeschool.

If you would like to share any work your children have produced while using this story writing guide, you are welcome to email me or share in the comments. I know this would be so useful and interesting to myself and other homeschoolers.

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