The Writing Process as a Living Story

In some ways, it’s too bad that the cur­ricu­lum in most schools calls for writ­ing per­son­al nar­ra­tives at the begin­ning of the school year because I think stu­dents could learn a lot by craft­ing a per­son­al nar­ra­tive about the process of research­ing, writ­ing, and revis­ing an infor­ma­tion­al writ­ing assignment.

What do I mean by that? Well, late­ly, I’ve been think­ing about my non­fic­tion book-mak­ing process as a liv­ing sto­ry. Even though I write (most­ly) expos­i­to­ry non­fic­tion, there is a sto­ry, a per­son­al nar­ra­tive, behind every book I create.

I doc­u­ment­ed the sto­ry of craft­ing Dead­liest Ani­mals in a series of blog posts, which I bun­dled togeth­er on this Pin­ter­est board.

Writing Nonfiction Step by Step Pinterest board

I told the sto­ry behind No Mon­keys, No Choco­late in this inter­ac­tive time­line.

No Monkeys No Chocolate timeline

Based on ques­tions and feed­back from stu­dents and teach­ers, I cre­at­ed a mod­i­fied inter­ac­tive time­line with info­graph­ic ele­ments to describe the expe­ri­ence of writ­ing Can an Aard­vark Bark?

Can an Aardvark Bark? timeline

I cre­at­ed these mate­ri­als as edu­ca­tion­al resources for teach­ers and stu­dents, so they could see and hear and under­stand a pro­fes­sion­al writer’s process. My goal was to pull back the cur­tain, so that stu­dents could see that my expe­ri­ence is very sim­i­lar to their own.

But, sur­pris­ing­ly, I prof­it­ed from the process myself. By think­ing through and reliv­ing the expe­ri­ence, I noticed things that I con­sis­tent­ly do wrong, allow­ing me to brain­storm ways to work smarter. I was able to ask oth­er writ­ers tar­get­ed ques­tions about their process, and exper­i­ment with the tech­niques and strate­gies they suggested.

I think young writ­ers could also ben­e­fit from telling their sto­ries of cre­ation. Imag­ine stu­dents using tools like Flip­grid or Padlet or audio record­ings or sto­ry­board­ing to doc­u­ment their non­fic­tion writ­ing expe­ri­ences. They could address some of the fol­low­ing questions:

  • What was my process?
  • What chal­lenges did I face?
  • How did I over­come them?
  • Who or what helped me?
  • What might I try dif­fer­ent­ly the next time?

This activ­i­ty will help to solid­i­fy the steps of the non­fic­tion writ­ing process in their minds, which as I dis­cuss in this post, can real­ly help some stu­dents. It would also offer a fun, authen­tic form of self-assess­ment and a start­ing point for dia­logue with others.

Why not give it a try?

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Julie MurphyJulie Murphy
5 years ago

I LOVE this post! It’s infor­ma­tive and so encour­ag­ing, teach­ing us that writ­ing a book can be a long process. The end-prod­uct is great (hope­ful­ly), but the process is just as impor­tant to acknowl­edge. Thank you.

Melissa Stewart
Melissa Stewart
Reply to  Julie MurphyJulie Murphy
5 years ago

Thanks, Julie. It is a jour­ney, and it takes as long as it takes.

5 years ago

These time­lines are infor­ma­tive and encour­ag­ing. Per­sis­tence pays. I also love that you found some help­ful insights about your own writ­ing process as you were cre­at­ing these resources for teach­ers and students.

Melissa Stewart
Melissa Stewart
Reply to  Anita
5 years ago

Yes, I was­n’t expect­ing to learn any­thing myself, but I did. There’s always some­thing new to learn about the craft of non­fic­tion writing.

Ms Victor Reads
5 years ago

I love the idea of reflect­ing more on the process! Will try this with kids for sure!

Melissa Stewart
Melissa Stewart
Reply to  Ms Victor Reads
5 years ago

Let me know how it goes!