Editing creative writing
Ask any published author, and they’re likely to tell you that they spend as much time – if not more – editing their work as they do creating it in the first place. And while your child may not be penning the next Man Booker winner (yet!), it’s never too soon to get them used to the process of reading through and improving their own work. ‘Self-editing is a vital skill to learn, and it puts children at a massive advantage if they learn to do this at a young age, rather than relying on a teacher or parent to go through their work,’ explains Ed Vere, bestselling author of Max the Brave and Max at Night (both £5.99, Puffin).
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Learning to edit is, however, a tricky process and one that children often see as boring or unnecessary. So how can you encourage your child to master this important skill?
Write first, edit second
Children are often conditioned to think that their work has to be perfect at the first attempt. But while this might apply to subjects like maths, it’s something to actively discourage when it comes to creative writing: editing as you write is hard work and disrupts the flow of thoughts and ideas. ‘It’s very important to write naturally first, and write what you want to write, then edit your work afterwards, otherwise writing becomes a very dull process,’ says Ed.
Editing can be daunting, as any published writer will admit. And if your child is asked to go through three pages of their own work, they’re likely to give up almost as soon as they’ve started. To get them into the habit of self-editing, start with small pieces, such as the 100 Word Challenge, where children have the opportunity to write and upload their 100 words of writing in response to a weekly prompt. ‘One hundred words is a manageable amount to read back, so taking part in the challenge and getting your child to go over their own work is the ideal introduction to editing,’ says Julia Skinner, founder of the 100 Word Challenge and The Head’s Office blog.
Read it aloud
This is one of the most valuable ways to self-edit. When your child reads their own writing aloud, they will get a sense of how well (or not!) it flows. ‘It will help them to work out where they need to make the story better, for example by introducing suspense or humour,’ Ed explains. It also helps them become aware of where their punctuation is lacking, and draws their attention to spelling and grammatical errors.
Try a different genre
Experimenting with rewriting a piece of work in a different genre is a great way to stimulate your child’s creative juices and improve on their first draft. ‘You could, for example, ask them to try rewriting their prose as a poem, or in a different style such as adventure or mystery,’ says Julia. ‘It engages their thought processes and helps them to make their writing even better.’
Think about the audience
Part of the editing process involves thinking about who your child is writing for, and how well the writing suits their audience – for example, the tone will be different if they’re writing for their teacher rather than for their younger sibling. ‘I often ask children to imagine that they’re writing for their best friend, as this focuses their attention on whether the piece is something that they would like to read themselves,’ adds Ed.
Put in clever extras
The editing stage is where children can add in literary devices to their work to make it livelier. ‘These include “wow words",’ similes, metaphor, humour and other such tools,’ Julia explains. These will gain children bonus points where their schoolwork is concerned, but will also make their writing more vibrant and interesting to read.
Involve other people
Although self-editing is an important skill, all good authors know the value of having an impartial editor to look over their work, and it’s a good idea to get your child to ask someone else – ideally a friend, rather than an adult – to read what they have written. ‘This really helps children to make the best of their writing; after all, no one wants their friend to have to read something dull,’ Ed says.