One Writing Project Per Month

One writing project per month

Brave Writer philosophy suggests that you only tackle one writing project per month, per kid. That’s right. One a month. I figure you’ll get sidetracked by Thanksgiving or surgery or a ski trip during a couple of those months meaning, you may not complete the project slated for that month. Therefore, if you have ten projects slated and get 6-7 of them through the revision process in a school year, be happy! You’ve done good work!

But wait, how does this work? you ask. I understand. It sounds like so little output. So let me give you some guidelines for why writing less equals more value.

Let’s look at the four week process for writing any piece (paragraph, letter, essay, poem, article, story).

Week One: Saturation

During the first week, you aren’t writing. You’re reading, talking, watching videos, looking stuff up on the Internet. You might also be doing the thing you will write about. If the topic is Native American basket weaving, perhaps you will even try to weave a basket! No writing comes forth without saturation in the topic/subject matter. This is why we always recommend that your kids write about what they know well. They’ll have richer vocabulary and a deeper grasp of the topic. If the topic is new-ish to your student, you need more time to absorb the material before becoming saturated. Might take two weeks or three. Don’t rush it. Writing is the result of an overflow of knowledge about a topic. You can’t read a paragraph about Columbus and then require your child write a paragraph about Columbus. The sane response from a child is: But didn’t we just read about Columbus?

Week Two: Freewriting

The second week is when you put pen to page. This is the time to get words from the guts upchucked onto paper. We do this in any way we can. We use freewriting to help catalyze that process. You can do several freewrites over a period of days. There’s no law in the writing world that says the first draft is the only draft. You can select parts of the topic to write about and do those over two or three days with breaks in between. During the freewriting (or drafting) week, the goal is to get as much raw writing to work with as possible. Think of a specific aspect of the topic (gathering materials for basket weaving) and write about it. Then on another day focus on another aspect (patterns in basket weaving). Break it up! Makes life so much happier.

Week Three: Revision

Revision is not the same thing as editing (when I use the term). Revision is injecting new vision into the raw writing. It’s re-imagining the piece so that it springs to life. During revision, you want to focus on content, not mechanics. That means you’ll read the freewrites and look at places you can narrow the focus and expand the writing. Perhaps your child wrote, “Basket weaving is hard work.” You can look at that sentence and ask for more! What does he mean by “hard work”? Can he describe the process? And so on. You might want to rewrite the opening line (I always recommend that). Make it pop, surprise, sizzle. Draw the reader right in. Revision can take many days or short bursts of energy tackling a little bit at a time. Don’t do it all in one day. Don’t fatigue your young writer. Revise two or three important content related items and leave the rest alone. (Psst. I promise anything you don’t correct in this piece will magically reappear in another for you to address at a later date.)

Week Four: Mechanics Mop-up

Now you edit. Editing is simply cleaning up all the stuff that makes the paper hard to read: misspellings, missing punctuation, grammar errors, typos, indentations. Have your child look over his or her work first. Let the student find as many errors as possible. You only make the additional changes once the child has taken a whack at it. Never complain about something he or she missed. Make a mental note that you need to address the semi-colon in copywork or dictation. Let what they miss be information to guide you in teaching; don’t use it as a way to shame your child. Print and share with readers.

Once you work through this process, you’ll have had a rich experience of how writing is supposed to work. Believe me, doing this 5-6 times in a year is a huge amount of teaching! Far superior to cranking out contrived paragraphs based on tedious writing prompts in a workbook. Give your kids the chance to experience what writers actually do. They saturate and incubate. They mess around with words, getting their ideas onto the page or computer screen however they might. They revise those words once they get a little distance to make them more compelling and interesting. Then they mop up the mistakes and share it with readers! Your kids get to do that too. For more information on how to do this process, see The Writer’s Jungle.

Freewriting Prompts

9 Responses to “One Writing Project Per Month”

  1. Kika says:

    My 13yo son adores video games, comics, cartooning and movies (his dream is to become a professional cartoonist). He likes freewriting as it allows him to write all about these passions of his. I would like to figure out how to incorporate more of his interest/passion in these areas into a more formal piece of writing or writing unit. Would anyone care to share specific ideas on how I could make this happen?

  2. Elizabeth says:

    Thank you so much for putting this all into one blog. From the yahoo group I’ve understood the idea of one writing project per month, but I’ve needed an explanation of the process.

    As to Kika’s question above … my oldest daughter loves ballet and has read a tremendous amount of books on the subject just because she loves it so much. It recently occurred to me that I could suggest to her to write about ballet. Although she has done a few freewrites on ballet, she’s really ready for the challenge of writing all the way through the writing process as outlined above. So, I think having ballet as her subject all year long will inspire her and be interesting to her. I even wonder if she could write about a different aspect of ballet each month and even end up with a longer piece of writing by the end of the school year. Having the year to complete this would be a lot less daunting for both of us 🙂

  3. […] never happen!!  For a more detailed look at the concept of one writing project a month read  Julie’s blog.  You might just find yourself embracing a whole new writing […]

  4. Cindy K. says:

    Like Kika, I would love to hear about how to incorporate my sons’ interests and passions of video games and comics into more formal writing or a writing unit. My boys are 11 years old (fraternal twins), and they focus much of their free time into the fantasy world. I would love to intertwine those interests into some kind of unit that encompasses skills/topics I need them to cover as well.

  5. Julie Bogart says:

    I can help out a bit here. My son, who was also into video gaming, created a notebook where he made up an imaginary island chain. Each island had different special powers and properties, flags, military and weapons, religions, topographical features (like they find on their gaming maps) and so on. We worked on this project over a two year period, probably once a month or less even. But when we did work on it, it would sometimes absorb a day or two of writing and imagining. He did drawings, colored stuff in, designed flags, drew weapons and then would narrate what each island represented in his overall “world.” He did some of the writing, I did some of the transcribing. It was a joint task.

    I’ve also used video gaming as the source of material for an expository essay for my then 14 year old, Noah. We had him argue that video games don’t produce violent children. He did research etc. to support that contention.

    Other ways to get interests into more formal writing: Participation on discussion forums, blogging, also creative writing assignments.

    So for instance, once you have your child freewrite, then think about what kind of writing to turn this into. Could it be a review? A “how to” piece? A description? An evaluation of one game against another (compare and contrast)?

    During the revision stage, you determine what kind of piece and revise with that vision in mind. Does that help?

  6. Dawn says:


    I have a 10-year-old daughter who loves to write, but I’m not sure what to do with her. I am currently working on incorporating the different activities suggested in the Bravewriter Lifestyle. We started dictation a few months ago and recently added Tuesday Teatime. My dd has been doing copywork for awhile. I have been reading aloud daily and requiring oral narrations for the past 4 years or so. My dd is also a voracious reader. She journals on her own (has been for several years) and writes stories with chapters in her free time, in addition to written narrations, letters to friends and family members, and “reports” on topics she is interested in. She produces tons of writing without me requiring it. Do I need to require writing projects if she does her own? For right now, my plan is to work on incorporating the various Bravewriter Lifestyle activities one at a time. Is it okay if she doesn’t do assigned writing projects for a few more months, or maybe even another year?

  7. Julie Bogart says:

    I like your thinking. Let her write, value what she offers and incorporate the BWL activities. She’s young. This is a perfect time to let her enjoy writing. What I might do is simply find interesting writing prompts, games to play with her to stimulate her. Spinergy is a great game for that kind of thing.

    Take her on experiences that stimulate writing too so that she has a rich source for her efforts. Sounds like a dream child for this season of life. Enjoy it. 🙂

  8. Kika says:

    Thanks for the ideas on integrating my son’s principal interests into his writing – I look forward to using some of these. In the past, his formal writing usually centered around whatever we were learning about in science or history. He was never terribly excited about this. This year I feel so much more freedom to explore writing in a more “natural way”; to let his interests lead the way.

  9. Kika says:

    A follow up comment: I asked my son to write a comparison essay of two video games or gaming systems and he lit up! I don’t know what the final product will look like and must say that will be secondary compared with the experience of seeing him so motivated to write. Why, why, why did I not allow him more freedom of choice in writing topics before? Yikes.