I saw a question on Linkedin Answers this morning about how to teach writing. The poster was lamenting that her students weren't getting better, despite her best efforts. In the outline of her methods, I noticed she gave a lot of assignments and made lots of corrections. I know she's working hard. But I think she, like many writing teachers I know, are focused too much on the wrong things.
As I've written here many times, you can't be a good writer if you're not a good thinker and reviser. Yet so few teachers focus on building capacity in either of these areas.
Duh. Pre-writing is the first step in writing. This is different from the research phase. Pre-writing is where we map out the piece in terms of audience, purpose and ideas. It can be a useful guide in doing our research. After we've done our research, we may need to revise our ideas or purpose a bit, and then we can start drafting. (Download a free packet of our pre-writing strategies here.)
This is where writing really starts to happen. We should draft quickly, then spend most of our time honing the piece to meet our needs and our audiences'. This is where we can check off our ideas and details. Word choice and sentence fluency. Voice and organization. This is where the writing really happens. And it's especially powerful if we involve others in helping us polish our piece. That's why I'm such a fan of the workshop model.
Becoming a better writer
So, if you really want to improve your writing skills -- or if you want to help someone improve theirs -- invest more time pre-writing and revising. And if you are helping someone else, spend less time correcting and more time collaborating.