Tuesday, October 7, 2008

250 words

My son is writing college application essays. Some are 250 words or less. Ouch. Short is hard.

Which brings up an interesting question: should writers help their kids with writing assignments? Around here, it goes like this:
  • They always, always, always do the rough draft with no input from me.
  • They get to decide when to ask me for advice, if at all. Sometimes, they share work just because they like what they've written and are proud of it. I'm not lying when I say that both of them are far better writers than I was at their age.
  • The most common thing I ask to see is more detail. Personal, vivid detail. No "I participated in outdoor activities" when "I chased an armadillo" is the colorful truth.*
  • I encourage them to go at it again. They usually do.
  • They can bring any piece of writing back to me as often as they want. I'll read it. We can talk about it. But the work's all theirs.

One more thing. They know how many times writers---all writers---rewrite their work. I tell them. Repeatedly. My husband recently backed me up, telling my son that he re-wrote an important briefing nine times. Nobody in this house ever gets it right the first time. Except the dog. She's brilliant.

*I'm not sure if an armadillo pursuit belongs on a college application, but it's 100% true and one of my son's favorite memories of our time in Mississippi.

P.S. This blog post is exactly 250 words.


  1. You're as good a mama as you are a writer.

    PS -- My dog always gets it right the first time, too...

  2. Ha! You're so clever.

    You know, even when I was in college I didn't really realize that writers re-wrote as much as they do. My kids already know that and I think it helps ease the pain of them not getting it "right" in their first drafts. It makes them more willing to try again and again and as a result, they don't really need me as much. I only jump in near the end to double check.

  3. Exactly 250? Excellent. How'd you do that?

    I wish we had a smart pet. We have entirely too many mentally-challenged felines.

    I think your writing-assistance policies are spot-on.

  4. Man, that took me back. I worked harder on my college essay than anything I'd ever written for school. But I must admit, I live in a word count world. Radio scripts should be about 175-185 for a 60 second spot. Just a little FYI for ya.

  5. that really is a challenge. but what an exciting time, too!


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