Assisting Writers To Enact Their Writing Plan

Assisting young writers to stay 'on track' is a major goal for all of us who teach writing. Alerting developing writers to the way in which planning provides a ‘roadmap’ for the writing to follow, is part of the essential scaffolding they need to be successful.

This need for planning is equally true for the writing students undertake when participating in the test writing genre section of such high stakes tests such as NAPLAN (National Assessment Project for Literacy and Numeracy). Under such test situations crucial time elapses while the writer considers what shape the writing will take. This of course assumes that they actually devote time to planning their response.

As concerned educators, we invest teaching time alerting students to the value of planning a writing piece. We naturally assume (and hope) that they will execute that plan.

A closer examination of what actually happens to the writer under pressure is that often a disconnect takes place between that planning and what actually emerges on the page. Under the pressure of time constraints and driven by a strong inner desire to get to the finish, many students lose sight of the planning they have undertaken. This planning becomes largely irrelevant to the outcome. It somehow gets lost in the pressure of producing ‘something.’

This is a phenomenon we need to examine more closely. I suggest the attention of the student writer needs to be drawn to this common problem. Encouraging students to look for the connection between their planning and the actual writing outcome seems to be a logical focus for reflective learning. Questions such as ‘How did your planning assist your writing? provide a starting point for closer examination of this common obstacle to producing an effective writing piece.


  1. Really interesting what you tell about this method of writing you teach. I am not a teacher (nothing similar, in fact) but I have notice of methods used by two of my favourite writers:

    Peruvian writer Mario Vargas Llosa seems to follow yours and, when he is about to begin a new novel, he writes a very short version planning characters, relationships and situations. Afterwards he works on this version until he completes the whole novel.

    On the other hand, Spanish writer Javier Marías uses another method: he doesn’t work with maps but with compass. He means that he knows where he wants to reach but he doesn’t know exactly the path, he has a very general idea of the future content of the novel he is working on but not of the details, so he writes discovering them. There is another peculiarity: he only begins a new sheet when he considers totally finished the previous one; and he never changes a word of previous finished sheets. It sounds (and it is) a strange way of writing but I like very much the results.


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