Editing your child's work for a writing contest? To what extent? - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 16 Old 08-21-2010, 09:05 PM - Thread Starter
 
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DD is 8 and wrote a story for a children's writing contest. She dictated it, and I typed it for her.

She asked me to be her editor. We read through her story together, and I mentioned which parts I found a bit incongruent, and we talked about the ways to fix them (and fixed them).

I'm not sure to what extent I can edit her. As an adult writer, I wouldn't dream of submitting to a contest without several friends giving me feedback, and maybe even hiring an editor, if it was a very important contest I wanted professional feedback. I also edit for other writers routinely. Obviously I don't consider this as being unfair. Yet for this contest, I feel maybe I'm giving her some unfair advantage? To what extent can I edit? I want to switch some sentences around, cut a couple of sentence, ad a clarification...the usual In a way, nothing major. I'm not changing her voice, her choice of words, or her plot. But the editing choices I have in mind are not something she would be able to do by herself.

And, of course, since I typed it, the spelling is all perfect, as per me and my dear Microsoft Word

What is fair? The contest is for children 7-9.

My kids are 8, 5 and 2!
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#2 of 16 Old 08-21-2010, 10:53 PM
 
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She asked me to be her editor. We read through her story together, and I mentioned which parts I found a bit incongruent, and we talked about the ways to fix them (and fixed them).
I think what's fair is whatever assistance other children are likely getting. My guess is that with taking dictation and perfecting the spelling plus what you describe here, you have already given at least that much help. Personally I would give less help than that, but I tend to err on the conservative side with these things.

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#3 of 16 Old 08-21-2010, 11:18 PM
 
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DD is 8 and wrote a story for a children's writing contest. She dictated it, and I typed it for her.

She asked me to be her editor. We read through her story together, and I mentioned which parts I found a bit incongruent, and we talked about the ways to fix them (and fixed them).

I'm not sure to what extent I can edit her. As an adult writer, I wouldn't dream of submitting to a contest without several friends giving me feedback, and maybe even hiring an editor, if it was a very important contest I wanted professional feedback. I also edit for other writers routinely. Obviously I don't consider this as being unfair. Yet for this contest, I feel maybe I'm giving her some unfair advantage? To what extent can I edit? I want to switch some sentences around, cut a couple of sentence, ad a clarification...the usual In a way, nothing major. I'm not changing her voice, her choice of words, or her plot. But the editing choices I have in mind are not something she would be able to do by herself.

And, of course, since I typed it, the spelling is all perfect, as per me and my dear Microsoft Word

What is fair? The contest is for children 7-9.
(said gently, honest...)

In the context of a contest, I think she's already been given an unfair advantage. This is a writing contest not a narration contest. I'll venture a guess that the punctuation is also nearly perfect, or at least much better than a typical 7 year old child.

The most editing help I would give would be helping use the spell checker. I might suggest a paragraph break to help with clarity and remind her to check and double check punctuation and capitalization. If she had a specific question about a specific trouble spot, I'd answer her question. But, I'd be mostly hands-off. The final product would reflect her ability and she could feel proud of her work, regardless of whether or not she won the contest.

Is there a reason she didn't write it herself? I'm imagining a situation where her ideas exceed her ability to write them down. In that case, the final product - even submitted as is - doesn't reflect her true ability.

Writing is more than just coming up with great ideas. The ability to write them down using proper spelling and punctuation is very important. It's totally unfair to have a grown-up do this part for her. In fact, if my DD were participating in this contest, I'd be pretty ticked off to hear that your DD had only done half the work.
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#4 of 16 Old 08-21-2010, 11:46 PM
 
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If my child were entering a contest like that, I would proofread spelling, grammar, and sentence structure (maybe that's part of grammar?), but that would be all.

I think the kind of editing you're considering would be too much for a 7-9 year old's writing contest, and actually more than I would ever do to the writing of a child that young-- it seems like it's taking the project over, and reminds me of when my mom would "fix" domestic projects of mine when I was a kid. The message I took away from her fixing my work was that I wasn't good enough, and it discouraged me from trying the activity again. Adult writing contests are an entirely different thing.
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#5 of 16 Old 08-22-2010, 02:01 PM
 
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"What is fair?"

I think I would check with the people running the contest, and reread the competition rules. It is an interesting philosophical question beyond the competition. Is a writing contest a contest of one's mechanical writing skill as well as one's ability to create story? And where are the lines for 7-9 year olds and other age groups? When college students buy essays or have a professional editor check over their essays are they "cheating" or using all the tools available? Might be an interesting discussion to have.

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#6 of 16 Old 08-22-2010, 02:04 PM
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My ds is 8 and just entered a writing contest. I typed what he said. I spelled the words correctly. I asked a few "leading" questions, such as, "Are you sure you want that sentence there? Or should we put it over by this other sentence?"

But ultimately he had completely control and I didn't "fix" anything for him.

(I disagree with a pp that typing for your child is too much help at 8. It depends on the child--some of them still don't have the mechanical skill for sustained writing/typing and it can be very frustrating for them to not be able to get ideas out because they are so busy with the mechanics.)

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#7 of 16 Old 08-22-2010, 02:09 PM
 
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When my dd1 was 7 or 8 she did a writing contest. She wrote it herself, I told her how to spell a word if she asked, gave her some generic direction if she got stuck, and checked to make sure there was no obvious punctuation and spelling mistakes (like a missing period or capital).
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#8 of 16 Old 08-22-2010, 05:14 PM
 
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Originally Posted by midnightwriter View Post
DD is 8 and wrote a story for a children's writing contest. She dictated it, and I typed it for her.

She asked me to be her editor. We read through her story together, and I mentioned which parts I found a bit incongruent, and we talked about the ways to fix them (and fixed them).

I'm not sure to what extent I can edit her. As an adult writer, I wouldn't dream of submitting to a contest without several friends giving me feedback, and maybe even hiring an editor, if it was a very important contest I wanted professional feedback. I also edit for other writers routinely. Obviously I don't consider this as being unfair. Yet for this contest, I feel maybe I'm giving her some unfair advantage? To what extent can I edit? I want to switch some sentences around, cut a couple of sentence, ad a clarification...the usual In a way, nothing major. I'm not changing her voice, her choice of words, or her plot. But the editing choices I have in mind are not something she would be able to do by herself.

And, of course, since I typed it, the spelling is all perfect, as per me and my dear Microsoft Word

What is fair? The contest is for children 7-9.
Yes, I'd view the totality of this as beyond an unfair advantage and not the work of the child. It's a writing contest, so the child needs to do the actual writing not just dictate it to you with you doing all the spelling, punctuation and grammar for her. What are the rules of the contest? What is the child going to take away from the experience if she wins? If I was judging, I'd disqualify the entry unless the rules state that it's ok ( which I doubt).
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#9 of 16 Old 08-22-2010, 05:34 PM
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My dd is in a before-school morning care program that has had the kids do several writing contests each year (the local bookstore runs them pretty constantly, and for kids who are interested, it's a very easy activity to supervise.) In her experience, kids are handed a piece of paper and given a choice between writing a story or a book report, and then left to it. No adult touches the paper. Sometimes, an adult helper will listen to a child read their work and then ask a leading question like, "what happens next?" But that's really it.

Based on this experience, I would say that yes, you have done too much with this story, especially as you have done things she is not capable of doing herself.
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#10 of 16 Old 08-22-2010, 07:11 PM
 
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Well in "school" most kids who win science fairs, win because their parents help them. Often a lot. So whether or not it is fair or you think it is fair, it sounds like it is in the realm of typical.
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#11 of 16 Old 08-22-2010, 07:55 PM
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I don't really care what all the other parents are doing. I judge OM competitions, and we work very hard to ensure that student work is student work - we penalize heavily for outside help. I know that the science fair in my area works hard to do the same thing - their materials encourage parents to help their kids identify workable projects and to make a plan, but to let the child do the work. I think it damages children's self-esteem horribly when they aren't permitted to work independently. So regardless of what is typical, I think it's important to follow the rules of the contest.
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#12 of 16 Old 08-22-2010, 08:11 PM
 
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Well in "school" most kids who win science fairs, win because their parents help them. Often a lot. So whether or not it is fair or you think it is fair, it sounds like it is in the realm of typical.
I think this is probably true. So, OP, if I were you I would consider what I wanted my child to get out of the competition, and act in a way that supported that.

To me, I would prefer my child lose than win in a questionable way. I assume you feel the same way, and that's why you're asking.
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#13 of 16 Old 08-22-2010, 10:03 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Thank you for the replies!

I don't care if she wins, so it is not like I'm taking over the project. I've actually done less than she asked for. But she's witness me edit others, and witnessed what kind of support I give and receive when I write. She knows that when one writes a story, it is not just typing it out--there's feedback, revisions, more feedback and more revisions. She is emulating what she's seen. But yes, I was wondering whether this kind of writing / process is what is expected for such a contest--probably not.

The rules do not specify anything like that, but say it could be an original story or retelling of a known story, and that it has to be typed. There's no length specification either.

The reason she didn't write it herself is because yes, she didn't feel like being slowed down by her own typing.

So what would you do at this point? I do feel more and more that the way she wrote this story is unfair. She's very excited about it, though, and proud. All ideas were hers, I wrote word for word what she said.

I guess since retelling is allowed, if she were to sit down and type it all herself, that would be fair. I might suggest just that.

If she does type it herself, it seems that the consensus here is that I can help her to spell correctly? Break it into paragraphs?

My kids are 8, 5 and 2!
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#14 of 16 Old 08-22-2010, 10:06 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Originally Posted by zeldamomma View Post
I think this is probably true. So, OP, if I were you I would consider what I wanted my child to get out of the competition, and act in a way that supported that.

To me, I would prefer my child lose than win in a questionable way. I assume you feel the same way, and that's why you're asking.
I want her to love the writing process and not to be scared to submit her work for judgement. For me writing process is loving revisions and editing, it is not just sitting down and typing a story. When I discuss my work at my writing group, we all brainstorm and share, and help each other to clarify our ideas, for example. It doesn't have to be solitary and isolating.

I want her to experience this kind of writing process. But if she were to win, I'd be worried that the way she wrote it was unfair. So I'd rather she lost, for sure!

My kids are 8, 5 and 2!
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#15 of 16 Old 08-22-2010, 10:12 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Adult writing contests are an entirely different thing.
Could you elaborate re why? I do have a feeling that they might be a different kind of animal, but I can't come up with anything. Is it because when I submit to a writing contest I have beta readers who are my peers, and I'm not her peer developmentally? Like if she were to get feedback from other 8 year olds, would that be fair?

My kids are 8, 5 and 2!
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#16 of 16 Old 08-23-2010, 12:12 AM
 
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Could you elaborate re why? I do have a feeling that they might be a different kind of animal, but I can't come up with anything. Is it because when I submit to a writing contest I have beta readers who are my peers, and I'm not her peer developmentally? Like if she were to get feedback from other 8 year olds, would that be fair?
I think it is because adult writing contests are designed to find the very best writer, and therefore following a professional approach to the process makes sense, while children's writing contests are intended to encourage kids to write, and so the winning result should be something a child with talent could do without needing access to an experienced adult editor.

I think getting feedback from peers would be more fair, because the result would be something within reasonable reach of another talented child.
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