Multi-Genre Writing

Monday, May 01, 2017

Recently, while visiting my younger daughter at college, I met one of her friends who is dealing with a group famous for their writer's block: eleven year old students. I can empathize with her dilemma because I have a fourteen year old who seems to zero in on the minimum word count in writing assignments and how much each sentence chips away at in, never mind how much his sentences make sense. My daughter's friend is an elementary education major and was doing a research project on ways to encourage writing in elementary students. She approached her students with multi-genre writing.

Instead of writing the 200 word report we're all familiar with after reading a book, students are required to submit five different multi-genre pieces connected to the book. These can be anything that includes words and that can be tied to the book: poems, songs, newspaper articles or editorials, journal excerpts, letters, advertisements, lists, maps, social media posts and yes, the predictable 200 word "this is what happened" book report. According to this future teacher, her students writing blossomed and they often submitted more than required as their imagination overflowed with ideas.

Why are we writers not using this as a tool to avoid writer's block? After all, so many book recently have been written including or made up entirely of something besides paragraphs: letters, tweets, blog posts. Besides giving a writer a change from the same old, same old of paragraph writing multi-genre writing gives us the opportunity to explore different aspects of the story. I've always used letters between characters to help me develop their distinct voices but never thought of it as a way to explore where my plot is (or might possibly) go.Using various types of writing you can explore how minor characters are feeling about the events in your WIP, how history will judge the events in your WIP, how past events influence the characters, misunderstandings, romanticizing, even choices that might have happened.

After branching out into this world beyond the world you've created, you will find yourself eager to return to your writing with new insight into your story and new ideas.


Angela Mackintosh said...

What a great idea! I love this, Jodi. It sounds like a fun way to think outside the box and write something really creative on another work.

I just read a short memoir (around 84 pages) that deals with depression and suicide and wanted to review it but felt it wouldn't be enough for the topic. Perhaps a letter to the author, now deceased, would be more meaningful and also be a complete work in itself.

Sioux Roslawski said...

Jodi--My students (8th graders) created multi genre pieces this year, and they were really powerful. The best ones I've seen have a thread that connects the pieces together... a tough thing to craft.

Yes, they're refreshing, after reading many tired and traditional essays.

Mary Horner said...

Love this idea for any writer! Thanks for sharing, I may use it for some of my communications students who don't like speaking or writing!

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