Last Friday, I held my first-ever writing class for eighteen teenagers.
It was awesome. I'm not implying that I was awesome—I don't want to think about that one way or another—but the kids were awesome. Some of them loved to write already. Some loved to read but weren't so sure about writing. Some avowedly hating writing, but they all listened, and they got it.
When they asked them what the rules of writing are, they said, "There are no rules!" And they would be mostly correct.
I say mostly, because there are a few rules of writing.
Here are the six rules I gave them and I want them to live by as we critique each others' work. (That's how we're going to do things in this class—not too much talking from me, mostly sharing from them.)
1) No story is too lost (if you aren't willing to give up!)
2) Everything can be fixed
3) The fixes are often smaller than you think
4) Be prepared to throw out everything—but when you throw out everything because you understand your story better, that is true progress!
5) You are never done—and that's a good thing!
6) Writing is not a talent, it is a skill that needs regular practice to be developed
They don't teach that in schools. In school, they teach rules. In a lot of homeschools, they teach rules. Rules overwhelm children when they are trying to grasp their ideas and put them down on the page. Rules overwhelm adults when they are trying to grasp their ideas and put them down on the page. Rules are easy to state, easy to enforce, easy to grade. But rules do not teach how to write.
The last step in publishing (basically) is copy-editing. And yet that is one of the first things teachers work on with their students. Copy-editing.
The last step in teaching writing to people of all ages should be copy-editing. The first step should be talking about ideas.