5 Ways to Nurture Your Child’s Love of Creative Writing
There’s a giant box in my parents basement that’s overflowing with my childhood writing. Countless notebooks full of stories and little bound “books” made with cardboard wrapped in wallpaper. I caught the writing bug early and it stayed with me my whole life until I finally sold my first novel and became a published author in my late twenties.
Now, I’m an author of several books for kids and teens, including a bestselling series published by Disney Press, based on the hit Disney Channel original movie, Descendants.
I travel all around the world on book tours and school visits and I absolutely love meeting young writers who have caught that same writing bug. Their passion for creative writing and storytelling fuels me and reminds me of why I chose this job and how much I love it. And they always have the best questions.
The three questions I hear the most from young writers are:
- How do I figure out where my story is going?
- How do I finish the stories that I start?
- What do I do when I’m stuck?
Between homework, extracurricular activities, sports, social commitments, and the constant lure of TV and social media, it’s often hard for even the most passionate young writers to stay focused on their writing. And sadly schools are teaching less and less creative writing these days, which means young writers often don’t find the encouragement and nurturing they need to keep that love of writing alive.
So if you have or know a child who loves to write, here are five simple things you can do to keep encouraging their passion, spark their imagination, and help them get “unstuck.”
1. Suggest Free Writing
Just like any successful, published authors, young writers can get writer’s block too. They run out of ideas. They worry about whether their story will be “good enough.” They can’t imagine how they will ever be able to finish the story they’re working on. And that’s when they might slink away, pick up their cell phones or turn on the TV, and just give up.
This is where something called “free writing” can really make a difference. Free writing is exactly what it sounds like. Writing freely!
If your young writer is “stuck,” or low on ideas, suggest they take a break from the story they’re working on and try “free writing” instead.
The best thing about free writing is you can write about anything. Thoughts, sounds, smells, ideas, chocolate bars, cute elephants, puppies, what the rain looks like on the window.
The key is to keep going and not worry about spelling or grammar or whether the writing is good or bad or leading anywhere. Sometimes it helps to put on a timer (for 10 minutes or so), and just write and write until the bell rings.
Ten minutes of free writing can liberate all kinds of ideas. And even if it doesn’t, that’s perfectly okay. Free writing is great practice. And the more you practice, the more likely your words and ideas will begin to flow again.
2. Encourage them to try Bad Writing!
What? Bad writing? Why on earth would I encourage my young writer to write badly?
Well, here’s a secret. Sometimes in order to learn how to write well, you must first learn how to write badly. And more importantly, bad writing can be a lot of fun! It also relieves the pressure of writing perfectly which can instantly free up the writer’s mind and unblock their creativity.
Plus, it’s often hilarious.
Here are some examples of Bad Writing that your young writer can try.
Bad Dialogue — Any writing teacher will tell you that good dialogue in fiction should be nothing like real conversations. No reader wants to read this:
“Hi…” he said
“Hey” she replied.
“Ummm…how are you?”
“Fine, and you?”
This is way too realistic. Even though it’s commonly how we talk in real life, it’s not always fun to read. However, writing way too realistic dialogue like this can actually be a really fun exercise. Your young writer can either try to copy down a conversation they’ve heard or make up their own. Maybe some good ideas will spring from their bad writing and they will learn how not to write dialogue in the future! Either way, they’ll get a good laugh out of it.
Bad Description — Another thing writing teachers will tell you is that when you describe a person, setting, or a even piece of furniture, a writer must be careful to pick important details and not over describe.
Could you imagine this in a novel?
“His bedroom was 8 and half foot by 10 and ¾ feet. It had 3 white walls and one wall of azure blue. There were eleven electrical sockets, four lamps, one trash can, and he had fourteen posters on the wall. The first poster was a Star Wars poster, the second was an Empire Strikes back poster, the third….”
Snore! This is definitely way too much detail! Suggest to your young writer that they might want to try over describing their character’s bedroom or their character’s house or town or spaceship or castle. Or maybe they could give way too much detail about their character’s physical appearance. The beauty of bad writing is that you oftentimes come up with really great ideas in the process!
3. Create/Join a Writing Group or Club
There’s nothing like having a group of friends and acquaintances who like the same things we do. This is true for almost all hobbies and passions. And especially true for us writers, who often work alone. I have many, many writer friends who I share my writing with, brainstorm ideas with, and sometimes just share my frustrations with.
A nice way to encourage your young writer to keep writing is to help them find some writer friends. Is there a group at school they can join? Or perhaps a few other kids in their girl scout troop, sports team, or in the neighborhood who like to write? It doesn’t hurt to ask! Also, your child’s teacher might be able to help identify the “writers” in their class.
Once you find a few kids who’d like to join a writing group or club, I recommend them meeting once a week or month at a local library, park, or at someone’s house. They can share work and discuss ideas and maybe even try free writing and bad writing together. One thing to remind them is to be kind to each other when giving feedback on each other’s work.
4. Help Set Up a Daily Writing Routine
In the past 10 years, I’ve written over 15 novels. And the only way I’ve managed to stay productive is by having a daily writing routine. Every morning, I get up, walk my dogs, eat breakfast, and then I write for 2 hours. I make sure to turn off all my devices, TV, and the internet so I don’t get distracted.
Now, your young writer might not be able to this every morning, especially if they have to get to school or classes or soccer practice. But maybe there is a time every day (even just for 5 or 10 minutes) that they could devote to writing. Maybe it’s just before dinner or in the quiet time before bed. Help them find this time and stick to it. Just as you would practice a musical instrument, practicing writing is equally important. Before long, they won’t need reminding and will probably be eager to get to their writing time every day.
If they’re feeling uninspired on some days, see the next tip on how to spark their imagination with fun writing prompts.
5. Make a List of Fun Writing Prompts
Sometimes when we’re in need of a good story idea, or stuck on the idea we’re already writing, it can be fun to change things up a bit and write something new. But what? This is when fun “writing prompts” come in handy.
A writing prompt is like a creative jump-start. It’s a idea, concept, or sentence that’s designed to prompt you to write. You can find tons of great writing prompts online if you search for “creative writing prompts” or “creative writing prompts for kids”. But here are some of my favorites that I often use to jump start my own creativity when it’s feeling a little sluggish.
- Everyone in your family has a superpower. Which family member has which super power and how does each one work?
- What kind of character (person or animal) would never belong in your school classroom? Write a scene of that character entering the classroom for the first time. [You can decide how he/she got there.]
- Your phone beeps with a text message. It’s from your best friend and it says, “Whatever you do, don’t turn on the TV.” What happens next?
- You find a strange shiny stone on the street. You pick it up and suddenly find you’re able to read minds. What do you do?
- Pick your young writer’s favorite book or movie. Choose a secondary character (not the main character) from the story and prompt them to write a scene from the book or movie from that character’s point of view.
Writing prompts can be so much fun and oftentimes the quickest way to get unstuck and get creative juices flowing!
Because sometimes the best way to improve your writing and become a better writer…is to write.
If you’d like more fun writing prompts and more ways to nurture your child’s love of writing, check out my new online creative writing workshop for kids: Fiction for Young Writers.
I created this workshop with author, writing teacher, and literature PhD, Joanne Rendell, to help young writers spark their imaginations, improve their writing and storytelling skills, and remind them of why they love to write.
This unique course is on-demand and completely self-paced. Once you enroll, you have unlimited, lifetime access to all the video lectures and course materials. So your child and their siblings can take this course as many times as they want.
If you want to check out the course, click on the link below to get an exclusive 75% off discount.
Also, through this link, you can watch a free preview, to learn more about what this fun, interactive course is all about.
Jessica Brody is the author of more than 15 books for teens, tweens, and adults including Boys of Summer, 52 Reasons to Hate My Father, A Week of Mondays, The Karma Club, and the Unremembered trilogy, as well as a new series for Disney Press, based on the hit Disney Channel Original Movie, Descendants. Her books have been translated and published in over 23 countries and Unremembered and 52 Reasons to Hate My Father are currently in development as a major motion pictures. Visit her online at JessicaBrody.com