Monday, August 24, 2009

100 (Big) Words

If anyone at school ever asks me what "Duotrope's Digest" is, I'm simply going to say a research tool. Not that I spend too much of my plan time or lunch surfing the web, but it's been known to happen.

Sometimes, the writing world collides favorably with what I am paid to do (at least more than writing).

See, my students are lazy about revision and rewriting. I even had one student tell me, rather matter-of-factly, that professional writers don't revise. So, after I'd replaced my dangling jaw and secured it with copious duct tape, I started thinking. Dangerous thing, thinking.

The best teaching methods, especially for high school, are those I call guerrilla tactics. If the students don't know they're learning, wow, you can really make progress.

Enter the 100 word essay, a new assignment that I've modified from various fiction markets that publish stories of exactly 100 words (my personal favorite being Necrotic Tissue). You can't write a 100 word anything without revision. No one lands at exactly 100 words on the first try. No one uses just the right words on draft one.

Revision? You bet...serious writers, professional or amateur, fiction or non-fiction--they all revise. I can't wait to see what my little angels have for me when they turn in the first batch later today.

(insert evil laughter here)

27 comments:

Jeremy Kelly said...

My favorite assignment in high school was from my creative writing teacher: Write one page a day, everyday - about anything. Even if you don't have anything to say. I am remembering that now as I try to fit in 1000 words a day on the novel.

Sophie Playle said...

Very clever. I wonder what they will come up with!

Jamie Eyberg said...

My writing teacher in HS had us do a hiccuping butterfly essay (I will explain) A timed exercise where you write whatever comes to mind, you can't stop writing during that time period, just go. I think mine was the most messed up thing she has ever read, but it was fun.

I like the 100 word assignment. Good choice. You are a smart man.

Aaron Polson said...

Jeremy - good point. Writers write.

Sophie - hopefully something brilliant...but I'm not holding my breath. ;)

Jamie - smart because I'm reading more 100 word essays and less big ones. ;) Oh, they'll have some "biguns" later, but for now...let's learn to revise, huh?

Michael Stone said...

Ha, you're a sly one, Mr Polson.

Aaron Polson said...

Mike - I do my best. Sometimes it works, others, well...

katey said...

Now that would've driven me nuts in high school, and I would've loved it. You're saving these kids so much trouble later!

I'd be interested to know what they come up with.

I also like this hiccuping butterfly idea of Jamie's. I think we did things like that, but never non-stop, and it didn't have a name that cool.

Rebecca Nazar said...

I love the challenge of 100 words. Could I sum up War and Peace or Moby Dick doing so? *shudder*

onipar... said...

That's pretty brilliant. If I ever land a teaching job, I'll be sure to try it.

Aaron Polson said...

Katey - you'd be surprised how many want to be done after one minute.

Rebecca - I don't know...those "kids" in Chicago sold "Twitature".

Anthony - I'm hoping to work them a little and save my poor, aging eyes.

Barry Napier said...

Awesome idea.

I am, however, glad that none of MY teachers were quite as clever...

Brendan P. Myers said...

What a clever idea. Touche.

ElanaJ said...

Research tool...yeah, go with that. ;-)

And what a great way to teach about revision. If they only knew how much revision authors do. Man.

Aaron Polson said...

Barry - I second that.

Brendan - Hopefully their victory, too.

Elana - Maybe they'll learn...maybe.

Robert said...

Definitely a good idea, but what about *cough* hint fiction? ;-)

Cate Gardner said...

They think they just landed the easiest homework ever - boy, are they in for a shock. :)

My English teacher was so uninspiring, your kids are so lucky.

Carrie Harris said...

Wow. The 100 word assignment. I had a teacher who gave out assignments like that when I was in high school. First it pissed me off. Toward the end of the year, it made me want to be a writer.

Aaron Polson said...

Robert - I mentioned the idea to a group of students...after trying to cram their essays into 100 words, the idea of a hint story in 25 or less blew them away.

Cate - lucky or cursed.

Carrie - I like to piss them off. A little. It means they care. ;)

abrokenlaptop said...

That's an excellent idea! Are you going to encourage them to submit to different markets?

-Mercedes

Aaron Polson said...

Mercedes - No, but I do have something devious up the ol' sleeve that mimics the process.

(insert evil laugh)

Alan W. Davidson said...

I wish you had been my english teacher back in high school. Mine were too dry. Bet the kids now refer to you as Mr. Evil...

K.C. Shaw said...

Muahahahaha!

I wish I'd had a teacher like you when I was a kid.

Danielle Ferries said...

Great idea. Looking forward to hearing the outcome.

Jameson T. Caine said...

I'll echo KC's thoughts, where were the teachers like you when I was in high school? By that time I already knew I wanted to be a writer, so having a teacher like you would have been awesome. Instead I was quizzed on what way the author's use of the prison symbolized the protagonist's struggle, and how that related to a discussion of the uses of irony. ;)

BT said...

Sweet. Back in high school I could never find an end to anything I wrote. It just went on and on and on..., but I go on.

Are you going to slowly play this out so they have to produce work under 350 words (52 stitches, the student edition), 500 words, 1K, etc - see, I told you I can go on and on and on and...

Natalie L. Sin said...

Pro writers don't revise? That's adorable.

Aaron Polson said...

Alan - I would cherish a name like Mr. Evil.

KC - I second the evil laugh.

Danielle - Let's just say they have plenty of room for improvement.

Jameson - Um...I think I read that book...and took that quiz.

BT - how delightful, really. Funny how I can hardly stutter without writing 500 words, and they think it is a mountain to climb.

Natalie - the only thing adorable about them.