I get requests from parents all the time asking how their child can become better at creative writing? The one secret about writing that most people don’t know is that while great writers are definitely born (those like Austen, Twain, Tolstoy to name a few), for the rest of us, it is an acquired art. What I mean by that is with sheer consistent practice, even the most mediocre writers can become better writers. But unless you know which aspects of writing to focus on, it can be quite a confusing and overwhelming landscape. So, to make things easier for your child, here are my top 4 strategies to become better and more accomplished at the art of creative writing:

1) Read. Read. And then read a little more I am amazed at how often people say they have no time to read and yet they aspire to become great writers. Let me be really blunt about this. The only way to become good at writing is by reading. A lot. There are no two ways about it. If you want your child to improve his/her writing skills, get them to become voracious readers. Join the local library. Read at least one book per week. No childhood is complete without having read Enid Blyton. So if you child is just beginning the magical journey of reading, introduce them to Famous Five, Naughtiest Girl series, Secret Seven and for the younger ones, there’s the Noddy Books and The Far-Away Tree series.

2) Improve vocabulary There’s nothing more boring than opening a random page in a dictionary and memorizing random words. The way I go about improving my own vocabulary (and which is just as applicable to children) is whenever I come across a new word in a novel I’m reading, I write it down in my notebook. Then I look up the meaning in the dictionary. Over the next few days, I will look for opportunities to insert that word into my day-to-day conversations. Just memorizing new words rarely helps in the long term. Actually IMPLEMENTING them in your interactions with other people ensures they’ll stay longer in your memory.

3) Adverbs! Reduce them considerably. I have read many articles and short stories where the writer seems to be in love with adverbs. An adverb in its simplest sense is a word that describes an ‘action’ word. For example, in the sentence ‘She said loudly’, the word ‘loudly’ is an adverb. In the sentence, ‘he ran fast’, the word ‘fast’ is an adverb. I avoid adverbs like the plague. Instead, I replace weak verbs (action words) with stronger verbs. For example, instead of using a weak verb like ‘said’ in ‘she said loudly’, I might say ‘She roared. Instead of ‘he RAN fast’, I might say ‘he sprinted.’

4) Show don’t tell. This is a technique most fiction writers swear by. The one significant way good writing is distinguished from poor writing is through the writer’s ability to show something to the reader rather than simply telling it. For example, instead of saying ‘Jane was angry’, I encourage my students to describe to the reader the different small ways in which Jane displayed her anger. They could write: ‘Jane stamped her feet and clenched her fists. With great difficulty, she tried to calm her wildly beating heart.’ See the difference?

Writing can be a simple and fun activity, if we go about it the right way.

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Happy writing. But more important, happy reading!

Nim xo