The end

© Norah Colvin

© Norah Colvin

I have always loved working with beginning writers, rejoicing with them, and sharing their excitement, as they make meaningful marks on paper for the first time.

Their stories may be just a few writing-like squiggles, one word, one sentence, or one event in length; but the stories in their heads are much more, with elaborate settings, characters and events. Their ability to create stories, for a long time outstrips their ability to express them in written words.

It is the role of the teacher to acknowledge the effort and, armed with an understanding of the writing process, knowledge of how writing develops, and awareness of each writer’s learning journey and needs, support the learning.

As soon as they can, many of these beginning writers add the words “The end” to their stories. It gives them a sense of accomplishment, of completion, of a job finished with nothing more to be done.

But don’t all writers enjoy that sense of accomplishment, of completion, of a job finished?

However, the reality is that there is usually much more to be done: revisions and rewrites, edits and proofreads, and feedback from readers to consider. The end of the story is only the beginning of the publishing process.

It is the process of writing that children must also learn. They need to know that not every piece must carry the perfection required of publication. Unrealistic expectations can quickly demolish a child’s willingness to have a go. Appropriate and timely feedback and encouragement is important to the development of beginning writers.

love of writing

Providing them with real audiences for their writing provides a purpose and incentive to engage in the process of revision, rewriting, editing and proofreading. Of course, the publication expectations of beginning writers are not as rigorous as for older or professional writers.

There are many ways of providing young children with readers; including:

  • class books of stories and poems (not unlike the flash fiction compilations of our stories)
  • books made for siblings or children in earlier grades
  • letters written to parents, grandparents, children at other schools
  • blogging, now widely accepted and implemented
  • journal writing

If all drafts of writing are kept in a folder or portfolio, a favourite can be chosen for improvement and publication. I wrote about this in a previous post: Writing to order. Conferences between the teacher and individual writers are important when choosing a piece and deciding on preparations required for publication.

The initial conference would be about the content; specifically what the writer wanted to convey, the intended audience, and how the writer wanted the audience to feel.

When the writer was happy with the message, usually after revisions, edits, and possible rewrites, discussions would focus on choice of words and sentence structures.

The final conference would target surface features such as spelling and punctuation.

No red pen is ever used by the teacher to mark a child’s work. All changes are made by the child in pencil. The purpose of conferencing is to help children develop independence in their own writing process. The number of conferences and revisions required would be tailored to an individual writer’s development.

In order to respond to what has been achieved, it is necessary to understand the individual’s development, and to ascertain whether this piece of writing is reflective of that. Consideration must be given to all aspects of development displayed in the work; for example:

  • is the message clear?
  • is the piece complete?
  • what words are spelled correctly?
  • what language structures are incorporated?
  • does it sounds bookish?
  • does it have elements of figurative or poetic language?

There is always something new to celebrate in each piece of writing.

In the end, what is important is to encourage children to write, to wonder, and imagine. The process for young writers is not much different from that of all writers, and their egos are just as tender. We want their engagement with writing to have happy endings.

This week at the Carrot Ranch Charli Mills wrote that

“Every good story has a beginning, middle and end. It might be the end of the world as we know it, what comes next?”

She challenged writers to In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that pivots around an unexpected ending.”

The end of my story, I hope, implies a new beginning; and a better one than that of the original I penned. (I’ll let you know at the conclusion.)

Pretty Princess

Once upon a time there was a princess, pretty in pink and smothered in cottonwool. In constant preparation for the life arranged for her, there were few opportunities to think outside her royal expectations and obligations: Stand straight. Point your toes. Smile sweetly; and on, and on.

But think she did: Why does the moon shine? What makes the rain fall? How does the grass grow? Why can’t I: play outside? straighten my hair? eat with my fingers? go to school with other kids?

One day she said, “That’s it. I’m going.”

And she did. The end.

In the original the parents said she’d only leave over their dead bodies. She said that could be arranged!

“And she did. The end.”

thank-you-1200x757

Thank you for reading. I appreciate your feedback. Please share your thoughts.

 

 

40 thoughts on “The end

  1. Pingback: How important is perfection? | Norah Colvin

  2. Sherri

    Oh Norah, you know me, I think your original ending would have been a hoot! Great flash, really loved it. You’ve stirred up a few things in me here, as you have a gift of doing, and always so good to read you, although I seem incapable of leaving you short comments as a result! And of course hoping this doesn’t go to spam..! What a fantastic way of teaching through conferencing between teacher and student, giving confidence to the inner critic and not a teacher’s red pen in sight. Oh I shiver at the very thought, so fresh those memories still. I think probably more so because of a job I held several years ago as a legal secretary in the probate department of a solicitor’s firm. My boss dictated all his letters etc. but no matter how fast I typed and worked and made sure to do everything I needed to in a day, I could never get that pile down. The main reason was I would present to him towards the end of the day all his neatly typed up correspondence, and there was a lot of it, for him to check and sign, so that I could then envelope it up and take it down to the post room ready to go out that night. But he would go through the letters that he had dictated and decide to change things he had said, putting his red pen through entire sentences, paragraphs even. I then had to correct them and the time it took made me late to leave every night. I hated it and felt like I was back at school again. One day, I thought like your princess, ‘I’ve had enough of this’ (with a few swear words added to the end of that, ha!) but I didn’t need to leave, as I was laid off when the office closed! The End. Not long after, I began my writing career. A New Beginning. So you see, this came back to me in a flash – no pun intended – after reading your post. And happy endings are why I love coming here to visit you my friend, for which I thank you! ❤

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    1. Norah Post author

      Thank you, Sherri, for sharing your experiences. That must have been so frustrating to have the letters you had typed so carefully changed. The red marks were for him though because he didn’t get it right; not because you didn’t type up his words correctly. But having to stay late to repair his damage must have been very annoying. But look where it led you! To a new beginning, and I am so thrilled with where you have come and that I am able to accompany you along your journey, and you along mine. I don’t know about happy endings, but at least it’s a happy beginning and a happy middle! Wishing you safe travels all the way! 🙂

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      1. Sherri

        Ahh, dear Norah, thank you so much. It’s great sharing our journey and we can certainly shoot for that happy ending! That’s the way I look at it – every cloud has a silver lining! Safe travels to you too my friend! 🙂 ❤

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  3. Bec Colvin

    Great FF! Very funny. I like the idea of children ‘correcting’ their own work – learning from a young age that most written endeavours take several iterations, and often the most keen critic needs to be the author. Thanks for sharing!

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  4. roughwighting

    Great post. No, I don’t think there’s ever really an end to a story…! I know that with the books I’ve written, even though I finally ‘finished’ each one, published it, marketed and promoted it, and placed it in my own bookshelf, I still found little things I wanted to tweak. And I did; I re-edited each book, reformatted for the e-book, published each one next as a soft back. Re-promoted them. And yet, just as with another author’s book that I read and enjoy, the characters still return to me. They still ‘talk’ to me and continue with their story – their story that never ends!!! 🙂

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    1. Norah Post author

      Thank you for sharing your experiences with all of your books, and their never-ending whisperings. I’m pleased to hear that my statements weren’t far off the mark. I wish you success with all your publications.

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  5. Hugh's Views and News

    Oooh, out into that big wide world, but how I admire that Princess for taking a risk, Norah.

    And how right you are about ‘The End’ when it comes to writing. I finished my book in June, but, as you rightly say, it wasn’t the end. I’m almost there and can see the finishing line, but is that really the end when I cross it? 🤔

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  6. Sarah Brentyn

    Ha! How much I can relate to this! 😄 Sense of accomplishment, completion… I’m thoroughly enjoying both right now. But the reality is as you say. It took a lot to get there! And now I start again.

    We talked about this before regarding poetry but starting the writing process early often curbs some of the fear of it. Fab post and flash. (I 💙 your original ending…hilariously dark.)

    Love this: “Their ability to create stories, for a long time outstrips their ability to express them in written words.”

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    1. Norah Post author

      Thank you so much, Sarah; and I wish you success and a great readership for your stories. The ending of my original was very dark, surprisingly for me, but it seemed to fit; but not with the focus of my blog. I put it in anyway! 🙂
      Thanks for sharing.

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  7. Sacha Black

    haha! now that’s a cracking piece of flash (although the thought is a little scary) love the flash Norah, and also the point that we need to teach kids that the end isn’t always the end – I am in that gruelling (I’ve written the end several times and still need to edit again) phase!!

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    1. Norah Post author

      Thank you, Sacha. The original ending was a little scary and not really suitable for my tender audience. 🙂
      Good luck with your ending. I hope you find the right one soon!

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  8. Pingback: Beyond the End « Carrot Ranch Communications

  9. Charli Mills

    I love it when children “play” their stories. My three had a running script about their characters Bunny, Kitty and Pup. They co-created elaborate stories. In school, I don’t recall much emphasis on creative writing until spelling stories in 6th-8th grades. That was with Mr. Price, a teacher I’ve shared with you before. He was instrumental in getting me eager to write and then challenged me to write more. I love the Pretty Princess story! It brings much hope!

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    1. Norah Post author

      Those stories that continue over days and weeks are fascinating aren’t they. I’ve seen my little ones do that too.
      You have mentioned your wonderful Mr Price before. He sounds priceless!
      I intended my Pretty Princess story to be one of hope. Thank you for seeing that.

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      1. Charli Mills

        I’m so happy you remembered Mr. Price.. It was you who encouraged me to reach out to him and although it was after he had passed, I got to read how beloved he was by other students, too. Yes, your story is one of hope and I placed it in the compilation where I thought the message would be strong.

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            1. Norah Post author

              I shall have to pay more attention! I tend to read most in the comments on the prompt, and skip over some in the compilation. Now I know I need to be more mindful in how I read them. 🙂

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  10. thecontentedcrafter

    The original made me laugh out loud Norah, but really I think the second ending is more realistic and my preferred ending simply because I believe that most of us have a pivotal moment in life when we say ‘That’s it! The end.’ As a slow learner, I was thirty before I said it 🙂

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    1. Norah Post author

      Thanks Pauline. I’m pleased I gave you a laugh. To do that when you are in need of an ark and your country has been ripped apart by an earthquake is some feat! I’m touched.
      I hope the ending I chose is more optimistic. I think I continue to make decisions for change throughout life. I’ve still much learning to do. 🙂

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  11. Annecdotist

    Ha, I don’t think it’s only children whose creative ideas are bigger than their skills in execution. But I wonder if children actually mind less than adult writers if they are properly encouraged for their efforts? And while I liked your flash, on the subject of execution, I much preferred the second version. And I wonder if perhaps some deep and unconscious level your choice of topic (although obviously something that would interest children) pertains to another female in our minds this week prevented from escaping the constraints of what’s acceptable for women and being given the job for which she was the most qualified candidate.

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    1. Norah Post author

      Thank you for seeing through my “innocent” story to its intended message. While I wasn’t thinking of the one to whom you refer specifically, I was thinking about the ways in which we stereotype gender roles with our expectations. It is good that some see past what they are given and challenge the status quo. I thought the second version was more acceptable and optimistic in that way. Violence should never be seen as an acceptable way out.
      I wonder at what age it is that we stop providing writers with encouragement and why. I guess with blogging and indie publishing now, anyone who wants to “be a writer” can. Look at me. I’m proof!

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      1. Annecdotist

        No, indeed, we should never condone violence as a solution (although I doubt the chump who got Hillary’s job will agree – and she was a bit of a warmonger also) but sometimes it is necessary for children to metaphorically kill the parents to become themselves. So your Flash works on many levels.

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  12. Steven

    You have given me the giggles again – twice. I very much enjoyed the abruptness of your first fiction and “The end” just adds to the humour, capping it off nicely. Then I looked at your second version and had a second round of giggles. I find the second version very skillful in that while it is somewhat gruesome, those last few words skip over all that mess and get right to the point – I find that very clever. I am honestly not sure which one is my favourite.

    The topic “The end” Is something I have had some amount of exposure to recently.

    I happen to be a part of a collaboratively written chapter of a book about computer games (in the format of questions and answers from one contributor to another) and it happened to be my turn a few days ago. The question I received was in relation to the feeling of realism of historically-based games. As a supportive argument, I made a comment that all that really matters to the player was whether they felt the game they were playing was worthwhile and that they should not only get satisfaction from making it to the end of the game, but also by reflecting on the journey and storyline.

    Then coincidentally the day after I submitted my answer/question, I happened to view a YouTube video about the current lack of linear video games (those without a well defined beginning, middle and end). It is a topic I have/had not explicitly thought about before, but did have some vague gut feelings about. The current trend in video games is to make them never-ending so that it is possible to play them indefinitely (such as Minecraft or showing my ignorance now, whatever that Pokemon thing is that everyone plays). I found it interesting that the narrator had made some statements (although expressed much better than what I had) about obtaining satisfaction from completing a video game – getting to the end. Although there is not right and wrong answer, it was also reassuring to me that the narrators views seemed to align with aspects of my response on the previous day.

    And that’s it from me. The end.

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    1. Norah Post author

      Thank you, Steven. I’m so pleased I gave you the giggles. I like that thought. I did prefer my original ending. It thought it was fitting for her to arrange things, since everything was usually arranged for her. However I didn’t think parricide was all that suitable for my blog’s focus on education and positive child-raising! 🙂
      Please let me know when the book about computer games, to which you are contributing, is published. It sounds interesting. While I don’t play computer games much any more (I won’t tell you I play Candy Crush. Shh!) I think I used to feel about some of the adventure-type games the way I feel about novels: always wanting to get to the end, to see how it ends, but wanting the enjoyment to never end. I didn’t (don’t) like it when levels become too difficult to solve or complete.
      There are obviously different trends in or types of video games. It would be interesting to do some research of gamers to see how they view the different structures. My son played the Ultima series when he was young (I think we’ve discussed this before). He and his son now enjoy playing (I think it’s called) Blood Bowl, and a few others. It looks and sounds horrible to me, but they enjoy it. I’m sure they’d be as keen as you to give their opinions about the games.
      I love the way you concluded your comment. Thanks. 🙂

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