How To Encourage Young Writers

Written by Chantelle Atkins

When I was a child my fondness for writing was often met with smiles and praise, but rarely with helpful or genuine encouragement. In fact, when I announced that I wanted to be a writer when I grew up, most people tried to talk me out of it. There’s no money in it, they would say. You can do it as a hobby, but you need a proper job. Luckily for me, their words never discouraged me. I carried on writing with a vengeance, but I do think the reactions we have to potential young writers can be incredibly damaging, and I am sure that many promising and talented writers have been put off at an early age, perhaps putting writing to the back of their head for good. So, if you have a young writer in your life, here are some tips to encourage their love of the written word.

  1. Allow them time. We live in a busy, hectic world, and education is an increasingly pressurized place for young people. Writing allows them the chance to slow down and breathe. To take stock of their thoughts and emotions and experiences. To examine what they truly think and feel. To reflect and absorb. Any kind of writing is beneficial to mental health, so allow young people the time to write freely. It is important!
  2. Remind them that practice makes perfect. Or at least, help them to remember that writing is one of the things in life that you get better at the more you do it. That you are always improving and learning. That you should not give up when it’s difficult, because being difficult is what makes it worth it.
  3. Encourage journaling. Writing a journal is extremely beneficial to young people. They can write about anything and everything. They can draw, sketch and doodle. They can scribble down song lyrics, or quotes from books or films. They can stick in mementos from days out, photographs, postcards and tickets. Sitting down to write or draw in a journal allows time to reflect on their live and the world they live in. Journaling can also help improve communication and literacy skills.
  4. Suggest comic book writing. Many children have huge imaginations, but are put off writing long narratives, perhaps because of lack of concentration or perhaps for fear of ‘getting it wrong’. You can print comic book pages off from the Internet and allow them to get creative without pressure. Give them some pens and talk about what ideas they have, what characters they want to invent. Comic book writing is a great way to harness storytelling and encourage young people to put pen to paper to express themselves.
  5. Try list poems. Poetry is a fantastic form of expression, allowing us short (or long) bursts of expression, ridding ourselves of emotions and frustrations and allowing us to say what we want to say. Poetry can be intimidating for young people though, so suggest list poems as a way into poetry writing. You can give them post-it notes or just plain paper. Get them to list anything, the contents of their school bag, what happened to them during the day, what their hopes and dreams are, what their favorite menu would consist of. It’s fun, easy and the results can be encouraging.
  6. Try wild writing. Wild writing is writing without rules. This can be a great way to encourage a reluctant writer or one who has lost confidence. Just tell them to break the rules. Forget about grammar and spelling. Write from the wrong side of the page or from the bottom to the top. Write a stream of consciousness without stopping for breath. Write whatever comes into your head. Remind them that the more they write, the more words will flow.
  7. Suggest FanFiction. Writers are often inspired by books, films and TV shows that they love. At a young age, a writer’s love for an existing character or story line can often be what compels them to put pen to paper in the first place. Tell them that there is nothing wrong with being a ‘magpie’ and borrowing ideas from work they love. Writing FanFiction can be a positive way for a young writer to discover their own voice by writing within a world that already exists. They could write an episode of their favorite TV show or add to the adventures in their favorite book. The possibilities are endless.
  8. Remind them that writing can be a real job. It’s fine to be realistic. If they want to be a famous novel writer and live off the royalties, you might want to keep them grounded from time to time. But there are plenty of writing-based careers out there. Journalism, copy-writing, ghost-writing and content writing are just a few. Websites need content, as do newspapers, magazines and blogs. With the rise of the internet the options are increasing all the time. They could get into teaching or tutoring creative writing, or start their own writing-based business, offering writing clubs, workshops and events. As long as they stay focused, work hard and learn from others, there are plenty of ways they can make a living from writing.

Chantelle Atkins lives in Dorset, England. Her debut YA novel, The Mess Of Me, deals with eating disorders and self-harm. The Boy With The Thorn In His Side series is an ongoing coming-of-age crime thriller. Also available; This Is Nowhere, Bird People and Other Stories, and the award-winning dystopian, The Tree Of Rebels. In 2018, Elliot Pie’s Guide To Human Nature was released through Pict Publishing. Connect with her on Facebook.

 

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