Trying to find math inside everything else

Writing by Design

Though I’m a math teacher, I also consider myself to be a writer. Unfortunately, my more prolific days were pre-teaching, mostly because of the time. But as I was going to bed tonight, I realized that thinking like a teacher (in particular using the Understanding by Design framework) would help me get past a block I’ve been having.

Back when I was in undergrad I wrote a novella that, for the most part, was pretty good. But the story only really picked up from chapter 2 onwards: my prologue and first chapter were muddled, confusing, and needed a lot of work. I’ve opened it up every once and a while since then to try to fix them, but I just didn’t know where to start.

That’s where thinking like a teacher helps me. I just had to think, well, what exactly is my goal in having those chapters? (Establishing the main character’s relationship with his aunt, his tendency towards flights of fancy, etc.) With those goals clearly established, it becomes easier to envision what I need to do.

But there’s another part. I then asked myself, why was I only trying to change things in the prologue, instead of rewriting a new chapter that meets my goals? It’s because that prologue was originally a short story that then spawned the whole book. In teaching, that would be the same thing as already having a great activity and basing a whole lesson or unit around it. Everyone knows that is a terrible way to lesson plan. Turns out it’ll hold back your writing, too.

Now that I’ve realized these things, I’ll let them simmer in the back of my mind while I sleep, and maybe the morning will look brand new.

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