Language Arts

Writer’s Block

Everyone faces writer’s block from time to time. Sometimes the easiest way to overcome it is by changing your approach. Try suggesting the following tips to your students:

Don’t start at the beginning
It’s often difficult to introduce or describe your topic when it hasn’t been written yet. Try beginning with the second paragraph rather than the first and writing your introduction last.

Talk it out
Try telling someone what you’re writing or perhaps have a little conversation with yourself!

Keep writing
Maintain drafting flow by leaving blanks if you can’t think of a word. Don’t worry about spelling or grammar now. Underline words you’re not sure about. If you’re stuck, re-read what you’ve written and ask, what’s next?

Prepare to edit
Write on every other line to make revisions easier. If you’re using a word processor, save often.

Be exciting
When it comes to introductory paragraphs dull openings are common such as, “The purpose of this essay is to explain the important aspects of life in Newfoundland.”

Draw a conclusion
“The end” should not be a substitute for a genuine conclusion.

Suggestions for interesting opening paragraphs:

Explanations

Ask a question
Do you feel inadequate when you speak in public?

State a startling fact
Few people would know how to survive if they became lost in the wilderness.

State a foolish or incorrect view
Many people believe that the Internet is just for technical experts. Nothing could be more ridiculous; everybody can benefit from using the Internet.

Use an effective quotation
“We are our brother’s keeper.” Because we are at our best when we care for one another, all of us should learn first aid so that we can help in emergencies.

Stories

Present a brief dialogue related to conflict
“Dad, the water’s too high!” My father yelled back, “Quick! Paddle to shore!”

Plunge the reader into the conflict or the dramatic event
Mr. Thorkild was the new neighbour of Sue and Tim Johnson. Late on a moonlit night, Sue and Tim noticed him burying a box in his backyard. Sue inched over to her brother and asked, “I wonder what could be in the box?”

Describe a setting with a focus on movement or action related to the story’s conflict
Over 200 spectators sat in the school gym waiting for the junior boys team to appear. We hunched at the entrance doors peeking at Mr. Lumbey, our coach, for a signal. Our task—to enter without tripping and to sink a basket on our way to the players’ bench. I was complete petrified. As the crowd roared in response to the perky cheerleaders, I convinced myself that if I didn’t fall on my face, I’d miss the shot.

Suggestions that often work for narrative and explanatory conclusions:

Narratives

  • Show the character’s reaction to the resolution of the story’s conflict. Include an action that shows a change of attitude of perspective.
  • Present a surprising twist.
  • Show a final emotional response that hints at something learned from an experience.

Explanations

  • Answer a question posed in the introduction.
  • Make a surprising or powerful final point.
  • Warn the reader.
  • Offer a prediction.


The preceding was adapted from Seven Steps to Successful Writing by Graham Foster, published by Pembroke Publishers

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