When I first approached my homeschooling friend Kathy about having our kids write their own novels, she nearly fell over laughing. I admit, it does seem like a reach. But after I researched novel writing resources online, I discovered a whole community of writers and a thing called NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month that falls in November). The site helps kids of all ages write a novel in one month!
Kathy and I weren’t going to be that ambitious, considering we discovered it a little late, but we did decide my novel writing idea would be fun and challenging. Our kids vary in age from elementary to highschool, so we set out to find as many resources and writing tips as possible. Once we finished, we decided to get our kids together twice a week to help them with the process. We’ve only been at it for a couple weeks now, but it’s been a blast so far. If you think your kids would enjoy the challenge, check out these tips.
No one just sits down and starts writing a novel. First you must think about the story you want to tell, the characters, setting, plot, etc. And it doesn’t matter if you have one child or are in a group like we are, there’s always that warm up/brainstorming period before the writing begins. Here are some entertaining things you can do with your kids.
- Brainstorm. Allow your kids to voice their ideas and share their thoughts.
- Write preliminary sketches, draw pictures of the characters, and name the characters.
- Create a comic strip with a few characters and some dialogue.
- Talk about different genres, such as romance, action/adventure, and suspense. This helps your kids think about the nature of their novel.
- Have your kids act out the dialogue they wrote. They can do this themselves or ask for help from the group.
- Have your kids share what books and stories they enjoy.
Choosing the Right Tool for Writing a Novel
When I first thought about this idea, I pictured my two kids writing their novels in a notebook. Boy was I wrong. They both felt more comfortable using their computers for the novel writing and notebooks for scribbling out notes and ideas. My friend’s kids felt the same way, which presented us with another challenge — what writing program would we use? My friend chose Google Docs and we chose Microsoft Word because they are the programs we were already using.
Choosing the right tools for writing a novel is important. For instance, if I made my kids use pencils and notebooks, I’m certain this project would not go smoothly. Using the tools they’re comfortable with promotes enthusiasm and inspiration.
Turn Off the “Inner Editor”
While I was investigating tips online, I noticed that many professional writers suggested that aspiring writers ignore typos and grammar as they’re writing their first draft. I thought that was interesting. Most say that if you start editing as your writing, the editing gets in the way. With that in mind, here are some tricks for turning off your inner editor.
- If you’re using a program like Word, turn off the spell check. This will prevent those red lines from showing up.
- Tell your kids to send their inner editor on vacation, or in time out. This is fun and gives them freedom to write without worrying.
- Ask your kids not to look at what they’ve been writing until it’s time to edit
- Block out time to write, say 30 or 40 minute intervals and use that time only for writing the novel.
Turning off the inner editor may be easier for your kids than it is for you, it has driven my friend crazy because she’s a perfectionist. She’s getting better because she understands that revision and editing will have their time and place, but for now all our kids should be doing is writing. As novelist Katherine Paterson’s said: “I love revision. Where else can you turn spilled milk into ice cream?”
Keep Up the Momentum
Keeping up the momentum is key, especially during such a long and challenging process. I found some great resources and tips for helping you to motivate your kids in case they start losing interest or run out of ideas.
- Find writing prompts online at places such as DailyWritingTips to help your kids get started.
- Download writing workbooks that help with the whole writing process.
- Use specialized online writing curriculum such as Time4Writing to boost your child’s skills.
- Make sure your kids have plenty of healthy snacks and are well rested.
- Reward your kids when they reach certain milestones.
Writing a novel is demanding but it’s certainly not impossible. There are hundreds of thousands of kids doing it each year. We’re excited about joining this educational movement. If you’re thinking about jumping on board, I hope these tips and resources make your writing experience easier and more enjoyable. They certainly helped us!
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