If I’m ever visiting schools, or doing writing workshops, I do my very best to squeeze in as many tips on how to be a writer as I possibly can, because I know what it’s like to hear someone speak and wonder, wish, imagine I could do that too. (And I also remember very clearly what it was like to think I’d never be an author!).
So I thought I'd share a few of those writing tips here, in case you know a budding young author who needs them:
Tip #1 - Don’t worry about spelling (yet)!
I love the way kids eyes widen with relief when I admit I can’t spell or, when gripped by nerves presenting in front of their teachers, I forget how to spell important words as we brainstorm ideas as a group. It’s true, I’m not a very good speller. But the thing is, when it comes to writing, spelling can come later. First, we need the ideas and the action and the adventure of story. So, I always tell kids to get out that notebook and write to your heart’s content. Worry about spelling later!
Tip #2 - Read, write and read some more.
One of the best pieces of advice to give a budding author, is to encourage them to keep their nose in a book and their preferred writing equipment handy. Why? Because the best way to learn about language is to soak it in. The best way to learn about story is to ride the waves of one. And the best way to figure out how to write, is to… well… write.
Write lots of different stuff: letters to overseas cousins, letters to members of parliament, poetry (introduce them to free verse if rhyming is intimidating) and stories lots of stories. It doesn’t matter if the stories started don’t get finished. That’s totally fine. Just keep at it. The young author won’t notice their writing improve, but you will, and like I tell kids at schools, ‘You can’t practice being a brain surgeon during recess, but you can practice being a writer!’
Tip #3 - Don’t trust your first good idea.
This one’s a little funny, because when you are brewing ideas, often the first one you get seems fantastic! Marvelous! Unstoppable, even. But more often than not, first ideas we get are borrowed and the more creative ones take a little longer to appear. So, here’s what I suggest: when you get a brilliant first idea, write it down. And then think of a second and third idea. Work on the details, using questions like, ‘What if I changed where the story was set?’ or ‘How could I make this a little more surprising?’ or ‘What would make this character unique?’ Stretch it out, turn it upside down, think of the strangest possible outcome. Somewhere between the first idea and all of this imagining will be a story you’ll love to write that will keep your readers hooked.