These school holidays I got booked in to teach 10 creative writing classes to young writers aged from 5 to 18 years old, at a plethora of Northern Beaches Council libraries and at Mosman Community College, where I usually teach adults. The classes ranged from 1½ hours to full day workshops, and every session had its own rhythm and atmosphere, depending on the personalities and writing skills present – I had to keep my teachings flexible and adapt to the needs of up to 30 young writers at a time. Doing so many sessions back-to-back was also fascinating, as I got to compare and contrast the best ways to keep everyone engaged and on task.
I thought some parents out there might be interested in my findings (please share them around!), so here are my top 10 tips to get kids writing in their spare time:
1: When & Where
Give them the power – choice is powerful. So ask them:
- when they’d like to try some story writing,
- for how long do they want to write, and
- what do they want to write about?
The choice is theirs!
2: Talk It Through
Talk their story ideas through with them before they start writing, and ask questions about how their story will unfold. This will help ensure their plot is clear in their mind before writing.
3: Reference Characters
As you talk, think of characters you’ve both read or watched who might be similar to the characters in their story. How are the characters similar, how are they different? Finding points of reference will help ensure they have a clear idea of who to write about.
Help them think of events in their own lives that may form the basis of a story. A personal angle will bring depth to their work.
5: Don’t Problem-Solve
Don’t solve story problems for them, as this won’t help them grow as communicators. Instead, if something in their story doesn’t make sense, point this out and leave it to them to find the answer.
6: Well Done!
Praise them! Give them encouragement and show delight!
7: Move On
If they get stuck on a particular section tell them to come back to it later: write another section for now, or finish up for the day and re-think that section after a break.
8: Ongoing Discussion
Continue to read or watch movies together, and talk about those stories as you go. Talk about what’s most likely to happen next and why they think that.
Those new to writing often grow by emulating their favourite writers. So keep them reading, both what they already like and new writers / writers they haven’t read before. Their next book might be a new favourite and a strong influence on their developing writing style.
10: Write More
Of course the more they write the better they’ll become, and the better they become, the more they’ll enjoy what they do!
I hope this helps more kids to get writing! Good luck!