Writing Circles - an overview

As a teacher, I have always been equally fascinated with process and product.  I love watching pieces of writing evolve and change as the writer grows to understand what the writing is about and shapes its emphasis and meaning.  Writing Circles acknowledge that writing evolves gradually and aim to provide support for each step along the way.

To structure our time together, I have come up with a progression of six stages of a creative process.  I will use these as a scaffolding for each week. Here’s what I mean:

Week 1 – Finding our ideas

We start from the blank page and generate ideas, brainstorm possibilities, listen for the stories we need to write. I once read a quotation that said writers are the only artists who have to generate their raw material before sculpting, shaping, painting and polishing it. So, we begin by creating piles and piles of raw material from which to choose an idea or two to fashion into story. When we discuss, we'll sort through the ideas and see which ones seem to hold the most promise.

Week 2 – Giving them legs

How do you go from idea to first draft? You sit down and write. The goal this week is to breathe a rough draft into existence. I have a few tricks and methods to keep you going. We'll put the limbs on ourwriting and get it ready to walk. As we witness each other's creations coming into being, we will use methods of response and feedback that will keep the stories moving through the week.

Week 3 – Strengthening the message

Congratulations!  You wrote a rough draft!  Now, how do we make it less rough?  How can we use elements of writing craft to strengthen the message of the story?  This week as we write,  we'll focus on aspects of craft - dialogue, imagery, voice, tension - that we want to improve.  As we listen, we'll let the writer know how the revisions change the writing.  We'll discuss the two-steps-forward-one-step-back nature of revision.

Week 4 – Test-driving our work

We're getting closer. Having strengthened the message, we now have a second or third draft of a piece. Let's see how they sound to other ears. We'll work in pairs or groups of three to do some workshopping. Our responses now shift from focusing on the writer's intentions to seeing how the writing stands on its own. We'll also discuss what to do with feedback. (Hint: you don't have to follow everyone's suggestions!)

Week 5 – Smoothing rough edges, polishing dull corners

By now the writing is starting to settle.  You know what it's about, what parts you want to emphasise, how you want to pace the story or shape the ideas.  This week, the writing is all about adding flourishes and finishing touches.  Now we play with word choice, challenge our sentence structures, vary the order of bits and pieces.  Our responses are aimed at fine-tuning the work.

  Week 6 – Reading and celebrating

This week is our final meeting.  We bring our finished pieces (or at least, finished for now) and read them aloud.  Reading our work aloud is yet another skill in the writer's toolbox!  We'll celebrate our progress with a shared luncheon and discuss future directions for our writing.  Each participant is invited to include a piece writing in an online group anthology.  We've come far.

And now we're ready to return to the blank page and start to develop another piece of writing.

I've written this description as if a single piece is developed over the 6-week period.   Participants may choose to focus their energies on one story or essay, if desired.  It is also possible to be working on several different pieces and each week bring one that would benefit from that week's focus.