THE FCE BLOG by Claudia Ceraso

Tuesday, October 20, 2009


Last week I asked my students this:
If you were writers, what would you write about?
I got some puzzled faces for an answer. At least, I got them to wonder.

Perhaps the word writer has an aura of profession that a few gifted people can pursue. This post aims at demystifying writing and -perhaps- bring it to your door.

Today 20th October is the 1st edition of the National Day on Writing. Clicking around their tips for writers, I came across this guideline called Determining What to Write About (pdf).
The guide is short and worth reading through. Here are three samples.
1) I find this advice very useful for writing stories for the exam. Some students focus a lot on big events worth telling, which only lead them to writer's block or the impossibility of doing so in roughly 140 words.
"Think about 'small moments' of life to expand and explore rather than creating large, involved stories"

2) The other complaint I hear from students and teachers who correct compositions is the predictability of the ending. When the story is too fantastic, we know the cliché closing line: abrupt waking up from a nightmare. You needn't try to be that original anyway.

"[...] Most of the time authors decide what to write about from examining their personal lives and interests or by examining the work of other authors and making parts of existing material into something new and different."

Notice that it must be new and different. That is what leaves plagiarism out.

3) The number one obstacle when learning to write for an exam is probably losing the pleasure of writing. You have to find a way to get into your writing. It's a personal road.
My favourite quote from the guide is definitely this one:
"Choosing topics or experiences that you care about will develop a sense of 'you' which only you can create."

So before I end this post, let me share new options for reframing my original question...
I should think of asking you:
What reading topics are so interesting that they make you lose track of time?
What are you keen on? What would you like to know more about?
What is your passion?

If you could share a bit of the learning you've made reading something you love, what would that be?

For more inspiration on pre-writing:
Developing Ideas for Writing from the State University of New York.
Study Guides and Strategies for more than just a pre-writing stage.
The guide at Purdue University for writing at advanced levels.

New questions for you (because I am curious):
Writing on paper or at the keyboard? Do you know that there are electronic versions of the exam? OK. That's for another post.
Do you identify with the opinion of the blog picture author?

"Call it brainstorming, prewriting, or jotting, this is what I usually do before I start writing. I think a lot better and faster with a pencil and a notebook than I do at the keyboard. Sometimes it's specific thoughts, other times it's free ideas. A lot of times I take a conversational tone with myself while taking notes."

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