From Mechanical to Magnificent

Not only has May meant a return to daily blogging, it has also meant a return to daily walks.  And along with the obvious health benefits of this daily ritual comes the added bonus of daily doses of losing myself within various audiobooks.  My current book, “Envy,” written by Sandra Brown is actually a story within a story.  As one story unfolds, the reader (or in my case the listener) becomes transported back in time as a parallel storyline is revealed in the form of a novel that one of the characters is writing.  And to add one more literary layer, Brown’s main character own a publishing company……so authors, editors, English professors and writers abound.

537400At one point in the story, as the English professor provides feedback to one of his students, he describes the writing of a fellow student as mechanical.

I couldn’t help but wonder that when we support our students as writers, do we spent too much time on ensuring that the mechanics of their writing is in place.  Form, format, spacing, spelling, grammar and the list goes on and on.

What do we need to do to help our students take their writing from mechanical to magnificent and meaningful?

I’ve started a list….

  • We need to model how to write stories that are impactful and full of emotion
  • We need to ensure that our students are provided with opportunities to build their background knowledge, so they have real experiences to draw upon
  • We need to expose our students to good quality “meaningful” stories and ensure that we are highlighting what moves a story beyond mechanical.


What would you add to the list?

Come write with me….

4 thoughts on “From Mechanical to Magnificent

  1. Enjoying your digital voice, Sue.
    One thing I would include is the opportunity for the students to know they have an audience to whom they are writing and to ensure that we have an audience for their words. Just like in a blog, one discovers that others are reading…someone might respond online, another may comment on an idea in passing. There is an excitement or “active wonder” about the response to one’s words.

  2. Sue,

    I agree with the ladies who have already commented. I also think that our students need to realize that in every event and daily occurrence there is a story – it is all in how you “tell” it. The word choice, description, emotion and imagery used is what brings the moment to life. By building emotion into the writing it allows readers to connect to the story and build a relationship with the text.

    All of our students have something to write about and they all have the potential to turn an ordinary event into and extraordinary story. Building relationships is al the centre of the process – relationship to the words, story, characters and experience.


  3. I’m always hoping students can find the “suspension moment”, the aesthetic centre, when distance between reader, writer, and text dissolves. Here, we are lost in that moment, and we all become one. I read to my students, the moments that are etched in memory for me–the prose I carry, because, in the reading, I recognized that I am these words, and they are me. Great writing, in my view, is in the details. I see myself, and my small town upbringing, in one line of Munro’s: “Thanks for the ride”. The words are me, and I am them. I know the feeling of the ‘cultured other’ riding through town and thinking I am less, and they are more. I only need a moment in a story, because a moment is all we carry with us. When students find a particular detail that speaks to the human condition, that sifts through literary convention, plot, character development–all of it–and meet their reader in the “suspension zone”–they have earned their writer stripes, in my book.

  4. Hi Sue,
    It seems that May means some late night blogging too lol! I would add to the list that students need to know that the mechanics/conventions of writing represent about one fourth of a rubric with ideas/reasoning, organization and communication being the other areas. By focusing on ideas rather than conventions students can be encouraged to be creative first.

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