Writer Meets Teacher: Grading Your Manuscript

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When Hubby is around while I’m writing, the poor guy gets subjected to some of my thinking out loud. Like today: “Is there a check mark symbol on Microsoft Word? I can’t find one. Oh, or I could use an X. Just need to check off which scenes I’ve revised on my outline.”

Two minutes later: “I need a code. X isn’t enough. I need to mark which scenes need the most fixing. If I use ABC like a priority list, then A would be the highest priority, which means a scene in the worst shape. But that would totally confuse me because the best scenes would get a C grade, which is average, not best.”

“Um, aren’t you wasting more time creating a code rather than just fixing the scenes?” he finally asked.

Ha ha. Yes. But . . .

If only revising were as simple as opening the document and fixing what needs to be fixed. Unfortunately, almost every sentence needs to be fixed on some level, and it’s definitely a matter of priorities. I need to fix the big stuff first before I waste time on little sentence issues. I’ve revised most of the scenes in chapters 1–4, and today I wanted to see a clear picture of what I’ve fixed, where each scene’s at, and what I should concentrate on the most.

And suddenly I realized the solution was obvious. I’m a teacher, aren’t I? What could make more sense than to give an A to the best scenes, B to those that need a little improvement, C to the mediocre ones, D to those in bad shape, and F to the segments I might as well cut and redo from scratch?

Ah, simplicity is wonderful.

(Yes, the outline itself looks complicated, because I have lots of info there, but the left-most column is simply ABCDF, with an X above once I’ve made significant revisions this draft.)

It took less than five minutes to go through my outline and assign grades based on my gut reactions (if only I could do that with student papers!), and now I can see at a glance where I’m at and what needs the most help.

Hooray for a great new strategy!

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4 responses »

  1. Ahh, a strategy, what a blessing they can be.

    I began last week with my usual Monday morning prayer, laying out to the Lord what I wanted to accomplish and seeking his guidance on how best to do it. One quandry was my family’s financial needs. I had been given permission at work to do overtime, but my church calling doesn’t provide much time to do that. I made my best suggestions that morning to the Lord and waited for his guidance.

    I am a lead writer in a huge commercial curriculum project that is in its third year. As a lead I am primarily responsible for reading and editing my construction team’s work for grammar, clearity and for content. Very few leads have been able to make time for writing curriculum themselves, only a lesson or two per week. Such is the demand of the lead position. It is not a sacrifice since leads are paid hourly, while writer’s receive payments based on the number of lessons they produce. The writers (not leads) finish about a lesson per day, or 20 or so for the duration of each summer’s program. Leads might finish with 4 or 5 completed lessons throught the summer.

    I finished my 55th lesson Thursday (with a week to go) because I have a system for reviewing my writers’ work that is extrememly efficient and I have detailed formats for my own lessons that allow me to plug in a curriculum unit very quickly. I spend a day putting together detailed student plans and instructions for large projects (like a model of a home, a dog house or a storage shed) that might fill 5-7 units of curriculum. Those plans and instructions then plug in directly to my systemic lesson plans and Viola! lessons are complete.

    My boss pulled me aside last week to thank me for my contributions. He also gave me a 50% raise! He insisted that my hourly wage as a lead was punishing me based on my lesson output ($100 per plan for the writers). I graciously accepted the raise and ran into the bathroom to thank the Lord for his gifts.

    I had planned on turning over my church work to others for a couple weeks so I could earn money much needed for my family. I couldn’t make enough time even with that plan to come close to the raise I was given.

    Brother Brigham said no matter what we do, do it with the Lord.His inspiration is beyond our comprehension until it isn’t. You never know whether that system you came up with–with His help–will produce a great novel, or teach great writers, or make a book on writing marketable. But systems do payoff greatly–remind Dave of the many systems he uses as an accountant to speed up and ensure quality in his work.

    Keep up the writing and please send me the details of how to use your system!

    Love,
    Dad

    • Haha, I think your comment is longer than my post! But I love it. Such a great example of how some things that we think are absolutes, like hourly wages times potential hours in a week, or the time to write one lesson, can actually be changed by approaching the whole situation from a new angle, like with your lesson plan system and the energy-gathering effects of prayer (I believe just the energy itself of looking for a solution through prayer can attract the answer). Thanks for sharing!

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