a quote from my favorite author

“The most solid advice, though, for a writer is this, I think: Try to learn to breathe deeply, really to taste food when you eat, and when you sleep, really to sleep. Try as much as possible to be wholly alive, with all your might, and when you laugh, laugh like hell, and when you get angry, get good and angry. Try to be alive. You will be dead soon enough.”

-William Saroyan, The Daring Young Man on the Flying Trapeze

Thursday, June 14, 2012


{ . . . a day late, but who’s counting?}

A writer’s words:

“Usually I don’t write until know what I want to write.”

“I don’t write the first draft and then practically throw it away, as I understand some authors do.  I pretty much try to get it right the first time.”

“I think that reading aloud helps you detect things in the story that you might otherwise not notice.”

What I can learn from these words:

I can rehearse a piece of writing in my head before writing.

I can write-off-the-page (a technique I learned from Nancie Atwell) before I begin writing to get my ideas organized.  I can continue writing-off-the-page throughout my draft to plan before I write.

I can revise as I draft.

I can read my draft aloud (as a whole or in pieces) to help me find ways to strengthen my writing.

How I might approach this teaching point with my 8th graders in writers’ workshop:

In a few days, our writer’s workshop time will be focused on drafting ______________ .  Start thinking about what you might want to write about.  Where might you begin?  Where might your writing take you?

Before drafting today, try writing-off-the-page to gather your ideas.  Some writers like to jump write into the writing, but today we are going to try a new strategy to see if it might work for us. (return to this technique mid-draft)

As you are drafting today, pause to reread what you have written and make changes on the spot to strengthen your writing while it’s still fresh. 


  1. Isn't it interesting how many different ways authors write? If students know about the different possibilities, it is easier for them to choose the way that works best for them.

  2. Love this because this is how I write! I've always felt a little (or a lot!) guilty about not revising like you're "supposed to". Once i finish a piece, I can hardly stand to look at it-- many times I don't! (horrible, I know!). But I brainstorm and plan and draft like crazy in my head before I ever get close to a piece of paper or a computer, and then the whole time I'm writing, I'm constantly re-reading and revising sentences, paragraphs, going back farther and jumping back forward and switching things around! So it's very affirming to realize that some "real" writers write like I do!

  3. I remember reading that Margaret Atwood uses a similar approach - revising as she goes so that by the time she's done there isn't much to revise. I agree with Terje that it is empowering to know (for students and their teachers alike) that there are many different ways to approach the process. What suits one author may not suit another. It may even be true that different pieces of writing require a different approach from the same author. Freedom to choose what works comes from knowing what's possible.

  4. Oh my gosh, how did I miss this post? Thank you so much for sharing some of one of my favorite author quotes. Crash makes me cry, every time I re-read it...I always choke up. I love his bio too. Writing- off the page...I love this strategy....thank you so much Christy.