Review: Writing Fiction [in High School]
Despite my love of reading, my memories of [public] high school English are not all that… memorable. We spent a great deal more time talking about what other people had written – and what it “meant” – than we ever did writing… and writing fiction wasn’t even on the schedule unless you had time to fit an extra English class in your schedule. (Bor-ing!) If I’d had access to a book like the one we’re using now, Writing Fiction [in High School], I’m certain I’d be much more confident in my fiction writing skills as an adult.
That’s one of the neat things about Writing Fiction [in High School] from Writing With Sharon Watson; this isn’t a curriculum that you have to leave to the kids. It’s written in a friendly – at times funny – conversational style, and there’s no “dumbing down” for the high school student whatsoever. This text would be effective for an adult who writes (or desires to write) fiction as well. Think of it as a writing reference book – but with daily assignments and a teacher’s guide. (And if you’re an adult who collects writing reference books like I do, this might be a set to consider adding to your collection.)
Sharon Watson is a veteran homeschooler who has taught both her own children and others in co-op and workshop groups. As a result, Writing Fiction [in High School] is excellent for both individual and group learning. (A parent with a student working individually would want to adapt this to their situation, rather than skip it – the skills learned and practiced in these sections are valuable to the student. It’s relatively easy for the parent to stand in as a [light] discussion partner as needed on these, especially with the help available in the teacher’s guide as to what the student should be getting out of it – or the parent could work through the book along with the student, which would lead to even richer discussions.)
Writing Fiction [in High School] is a full-year creative writing course for high school students. It’s helpful if the student already has an interest in fiction writing, but it’s also a high-interest way to take care of a high school English credit. Writing Fiction [in High School] is approximately 275 pages long, in a black & white perfect-bound text. The text is not consumable, so it can be used again for other children in the family.
There are a handful of additional resources that the student would need access to during the course, including:
- a newspaper for each student (just used in one chapter)
- a copious supply of paper and writing utensils, or
- a computer with word processing software
- You Know Me Al by Ring Lardner (optional)
- Pamela:Virtue Rewarded by Samuel Richardson (optional)
- The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis (optional)
- Marjorie Draw by Thomas Bailey Aldritch (optional)
- The Last Book in the Universe by Rodman Philbrick
- “A Good Man is Hard to Find” by Flanner O’Conner (available online, link provided in text)
- “The Tell-Tale Heart” by Edgar Allan Poe (available online, link provided in text)
- The Princess Bride (1987)
- Iron Man (2008)
- The Italian Job (2003)
- Wall-E (Disney/Pixar)
- The Island (with Ewan McGregor and Scarlett Johansson, PG 13)
- Cast Away (with Tom Hanks, PG 13)
- Up (Disney/Pixar – need either Up or Tangled)
- Tangled (Disney/Pixar – need either Up or Tangled)
- The Fugitive (with Harrison Ford, just the pat-the-dog scene)
- Sense and Sensibility (1995, just the two “carrying” mirror scenes
- Inkhart (2008)
- Monk (just the two ladder scenes in the pilot)
How we’ve used Writing Fiction [in High School] in our household
Michael (my 11th grader) and I have been working our way through the early chapters of Writing Fiction; 3-5 lessons per week are recommended. There’s a wide variation in the amount of time some activities take, so expect to build a bit of flexibility into the schedule. There are also “optional” writing activities at the end of each chapter – in my opinion, these should just be used as part of the course, perhaps making the “option” be which one is chosen. (The choices are so different from each other, that you might well find yourself wanting to schedule time for each of them.)
It’s entirely possible that a very motivated student would complete the main portion of the book in less than a year; a student could go back and do some of those optional assignments at this time, too.
Also, Writing Fiction [in High School] has both a “main” track that everyone using the curriculum completes, and an extra “manuscript” track that budding authors may use if they already have a short story or novel written. We weren’t able to use it, as neither of us have complete manuscripts at this time, but the option is there if we’d like to work through that portion of the book in the future.
My son was surprised at just how comprehensive Writing Fiction [in High School] is. Rather than the typical discouraging student text patter about how hard it is to get published, and that only a few ever do – Writing Fiction [in High School] gives students the tools they need to succeed at writing fiction, from idea to complete draft, and *then* teaches them what to do with it next! From revision to submission formats, from reasons to use a pen name to a discussion of rejection letters – and why they’re not all that bad – Writing Fiction [in High School] covers it all.
I’m impressed. Something I really appreciate about the curriculum is that the activities vary – in length, in complexity, in learning mode – there really is a little bit of everything here, and many of the ideas are adaptable to a more hands-on approach if needed.
Writing Fiction [in High School] has two parts; a student text, priced at $25.05, and a teacher’s guide – a valuable resource for the parent or teacher – for just $9.95.
Other Schoolhouse Crew reviewers received The Power in Your Hands: Writing Non-Fiction in High School. The Power in Your Hands is similar in style and structure to Writing Fiction [in High School]. Their reviews are available at the Schoolhouse Review Crew blog – check out these and many more homeschool reviews from real homeschool parents and kids!