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Author Topic: Supporting and encouraging young writers  (Read 1646 times)

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March 26, 2013, 08:35:07 PM

ss19

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I am very proud to have a daughter who loves to write, but I'm not quite sure what I should be doing to support and encourage her in her writing endeavors and would love to get suggestions from experienced writers and/or parents/educators.  I thought this might be a good thread to start for not just me but anyone who wants to ask or share advice on how best to support young writers.

My daughter is 8 years old and loves to read and write, and to a lesser degree, draw.  She's almost always carrying either a book, a journal, or a sketch book with her so she can do one of those 3 things.  Some of her "writing" she does on a computer.  For about a year or so, maybe a bit longer, she's been saying that she wants to be an author when she grows up.  One of her best friends in school wants to be an illustrator, and my daughter already has it all figured out that the friend will illustrate her books.

About 6 months ago she told me that she was writing a series of fanfiction books.  Earlier this month she told me that she has finished book one and is starting book two in the series.  I don't know what exactly she's written nor how much she's written, however, because she doesn't want me to read her writing.  My gut instinct is that I should not pressure her into showing me or others her writing if she's not ready for that.  Is it "normal" for writers not to want their writing read by others?  It sort of seems counterintuitive to me because as an author you'd want your books or articles or whatever type of writing you have published read by as many people as possible, wouldn't you?

I think part of the problem might be that my daughter is a bit of a perfectionist.  She'll show me her drawings, but only ones that she's happy with.  Some of them she doesn't feel like she's done a good job and will not let me see those.  Her writing she guards much more than she does her drawings.  She asked for one of those journals with a key not too long ago, which I did buy for her, to keep some of her writing locked.  I would never look into her journals or sketch books that do not have a lock without her permission anyway. (I think that's a Hufflepuff trait?)

It seems to me like it should help her improve her writing if we can read it and give her feedback and/or confirmation.  Or maybe at this age it doesn't really matter how well she's writing, as long as she loves doing it and is getting lots of practice?


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March 27, 2013, 08:27:20 AM
Reply #1

Maraudingdon

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Or maybe at this age it doesn't really matter how well she's writing, as long as she loves doing it and is getting lots of practice?

This. In a nutshell. It is awesome that she loves reading and writing, but she is only eight. Let her have fun, explore her imagination in the way she wants to, and then when she gets older, if the interest is still there, encourage her to start a book club, or perhaps a writing club.

The best way for you to encourage her is to supply her with books to read. She will learn more about plot and world building, as well as the technical side such as grammar and punctuation, by reading.
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March 27, 2013, 09:07:30 PM
Reply #2

HeleneB

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I ditto, Maraudingdon--who totally rocks on so many levels anyway.  :hedwig:

The last thing you want to do is kill the joy by trying to get too technical at her age.
Author of the Safe Harbors series and "Second Chances 101", a Ripple Effect Romance.
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March 28, 2013, 09:05:27 AM
Reply #3

marsdenar

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Your daughter is likely going through the subconscious-fantasy phase of fiction writing. Basically, a person with an active imagination and a penchant for self-expression through words uses language to explore the world of her subconscious. Worlds, characters and events are typically idealized. The writing at this stage can be surprisingly good, because it is unconsciously informed by an instinctive grasp of structure and uninhibited by concern for conventions, but worlds, characters and events tend to be imitative. Constant rewriting of beginnings is normal and the writing can become increasingly awkward as the focus shifts from writing for herself to writing for an audience.

At this point, your daughter is writing because she needs to and because it feels right to. The effort and its results are personal and you are absolutely right to give her full privacy. However, if you express interest in what she's creating, she will probably ask you to look over her more finished work. This is your opportunity to become a valued beta reader. The trick is to display a sense of story without suggesting how she improve. Tell her what you like about a given piece and share any questions you have, but do not interfere in the process of creation and do not tell her it's all good if you don't feel it actually is. Genuine writers can smell fraudulent readers like fish guts in a perfume shop.

These lectures by fantasy author Brandon Sanderson will be too much for your daughter at this stage, but can be a big help to you in understanding what she's up to and in responding appropriately when she shows you her work: https://www.youtube.com/user/WriteAboutDragons/videos?flow=grid&view=1. Somewhere in there Sanderson discusses alpha and beta readers.

Alpha readers are usually fellow writers, often members of a writing group who critique each other's work. Alpha reader critiques are heavily informed by expertise as writers. Beta readers are not usually writers. They are avid readers who can articulate their reading experience and point to specific places where the narrative lost their interest or confused them or failed in any other way that matters to the consumer of a story. Both alpha and beta readers come complete with their own tastes and prejudices. A good writer understands this and takes all criticism with a grain of salt. The key as a reader is tell the writer how you experience the story and not to suggest how the story could be improved. "It's a little bland" is more helpful to the creative mind than "It needs more salt" because the creative mind needs to solve its own problems in its own way, not someone else's.
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March 30, 2013, 04:52:53 AM
Reply #4

ss19

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This. In a nutshell. It is awesome that she loves reading and writing, but she is only eight. Let her have fun, explore her imagination in the way she wants to, and then when she gets older, if the interest is still there, encourage her to start a book club, or perhaps a writing club.
Thank you, Maraudingdon. :) That's a great idea and I'll suggest it to her when she gets a little older.  She already did start a different kind of club in school with her three best friends last fall, a Kirby club, but I don't think she currently has any friends who are also interested in writing or are big readers, so a writing club or a book club will have to wait.  And like you said, she's a bit young for that anyway.

The best way for you to encourage her is to supply her with books to read. She will learn more about plot and world building, as well as the technical side such as grammar and punctuation, by reading.
This makes a lot of sense, thank you.  This could be one reason I'm doomed as a writer myself, since I'm not a reader.  My daughter does love to read as well as write, though she tends to stick with similar books and not branch out, and could do with some encouragement there, which I'll work on.


I ditto, Maraudingdon--who totally rocks on so many levels anyway.  :hedwig:

The last thing you want to do is kill the joy by trying to get too technical at her age.
Thank you, Eleni, for confirming what Maraudingdon said, and for the reminder not to get too technical at my daughter's age.  And I agree that Maraudingdon totally rocks!


Your daughter is likely going through the subconscious-fantasy phase of fiction writing. Basically, a person with an active imagination and a penchant for self-expression through words uses language to explore the world of her subconscious. ...
Wow, thank you, marsdenar!  And welcome to the Discussion Station!

None of the things you wrote have occurred to me, but your explanations made perfect sense.  Thank you very much for taking the time to explain all that.  It's incredibly helpful and now I feel like I have a much better sense of what I should or shouldn't do, and understand better why she doesn't want others to read her writing.

Thank you for the link to Brandon Sanderson's lectures also.  I've taken a quick look but haven't had a chance to watch all the videos yet.  I've bookmarked the page and will go back to watch them when I can, hopefully soon.
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March 30, 2013, 03:49:32 PM
Reply #5

HealerOne

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I just want to say that I second Maraudingdon's idea about providing lots of books and encouraging your young writer to READ! One just cannot say enough about reading as a huge basic in learning to write. As she gets a bit older see if you can encourage her to read a  variety of genre's i.e. fantasy, autobiographies, mysteries, adventures, etc. Relying on the school or local librarian, or her teachers to make suggestions is helpful (and she may take more kindly to their suggestions that yours!). One cannot write great literature without first reading it.

One more suggestion. Kids imitate their parents. My parents always had something they were reading - even if it was the newspaper, a magazine, or a cereal box. Having all types of reading materials lying about the house, peaks their interest in reading too. I'm sure you do more reading than you think you do - on the internet for instance? Consider upping your reading menu to encourage her reading.  :) (My two knuts!)
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April 01, 2013, 07:33:12 AM
Reply #6

varza

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My nephew is really creative. He wants to grow up and start his own comic book company and before he ever read a comic book created his own. I encourage him by buying him books and talking to him about it. I took him to a comic book convention and talked to him about the comics. He is incredibly unsure of himself so I just be supportive. This past birthday we bought him a pad so he could draw right into the computer since he had been scanning his stuff in for the past year.

About 6 months ago she told me that she was writing a series of fanfiction books.  Earlier this month she told me that she has finished book one and is starting book two in the series.  I don't know what exactly she's written nor how much she's written, however, because she doesn't want me to read her writing.  My gut instinct is that I should not pressure her into showing me or others her writing if she's not ready for that.  Is it "normal" for writers not to want their writing read by others?  It sort of seems counterintuitive to me because as an author you'd want your books or articles or whatever type of writing you have published read by as many people as possible, wouldn't you?

I am very wary about letting people read my writing. I actually shared my novel with two people last November and neither one of them responded at all. Hell, even my husband asked and I gave it to him and he didn't read it. It hurt more then I realized because I feel like they hated it and just didn't want to say anything. It took a ton out of me to hand my writings over to be read esp since they are just first draft. I would just let her know that when she is ready to share you would love to read it...

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I think part of the problem might be that my daughter is a bit of a perfectionist.  She'll show me her drawings, but only ones that she's happy with.  Some of them she doesn't feel like she's done a good job and will not let me see those.  Her writing she guards much more than she does her drawings.  She asked for one of those journals with a key not too long ago, which I did buy for her, to keep some of her writing locked.  I would never look into her journals or sketch books that do not have a lock without her permission anyway. (I think that's a Hufflepuff trait?)

It seems to me like it should help her improve her writing if we can read it and give her feedback and/or confirmation.  Or maybe at this age it doesn't really matter how well she's writing, as long as she loves doing it and is getting lots of practice?
Just let her write and keep supplying her with support, paper and pens. In time, she will most likely let you read it.

One of the things that sparked in my head was a writers conference I went to last year. I was a bit shocked but there was a 8 year old girl there with her grandfather. She wants to be a mystery writer so he brought her to the conference. It was amazing - she asked more questions then anyone else in the audience. Keep an eye out for such events - or local conventions - and let her know about them. If she wants to go take her. Its the same reason I took my nephew to the comic book convention... if he wants to write comics he needs to read comics. I also directed him to some korean comic book artists (his mom is korean) as well.

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This makes a lot of sense, thank you.  This could be one reason I'm doomed as a writer myself, since I'm not a reader.  My daughter does love to read as well as write, though she tends to stick with similar books and not branch out, and could do with some encouragement there, which I'll work on.
I think we all do that in time - I did it a lot but my reading opened up with books I received as gifts from other people. I am a big fan of books for kids. Maybe we can give some suggestions. What does she read now? There are some great lists out there of books for different age groups. One way to up your reading as well is read the books she reads and talk to her about them. Is she reading at her age level or higher? Maybe start a book club for the two of you? Couple times a year pick out a book, read and discuss (you can find book club info on almost any book online). That would have been awesome if my mom had done that with me growing up. I was an avid reader and she wasn't so much and she didn't like to get into indepth discussions.
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April 01, 2013, 08:27:51 PM
Reply #7

Evreka

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Maybe start a book club for the two of you? Couple times a year pick out a book, read and discuss (you can find book club info on almost any book online). That would have been awesome if my mom had done that with me growing up. I was an avid reader and she wasn't so much and she didn't like to get into indepth discussions.
This reminded me of a great memory from growing up. I was sick for a long time (about a month or so) when I was in approximately 5th grade (about 11 years old). During this time my class in school was going through all about the Vikings (in history) and I missed all of it, including the test. Mum and Dad decided they needed to help me get through this period on my own and came up with the idea where the three of us read the exact same pages about this era in a couple of books, school literature as well as fact books that I owned. Each of us constructed a sort of quiz with a decided amount of questions based on this literature that we had all read, and then we all answered (or tried to) the questions that we hadn't written ourselves and compared the results. It was a LOT of fun, and the Viking era became the one I knew most about for a long time. It was a fun and challenging way to learn that really inspired me.  :hermioneread:

Eight might be a bit young though,.... but I don't know.
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April 03, 2013, 09:52:50 PM
Reply #8

varza

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My brother... well, my sister in law has been making my nephew write a report on every book he reads since he started writing (she is a Tiger Mom). My brother reads each book he reads and they talk about it as they go along. He is 9 now. I think it depends on the kid.

And Evreka - that is awesome! My dad would talk about movies with me but my mom hates getting too into books or movies. She doesn't understand why I love discussing them so much.
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April 03, 2013, 10:27:28 PM
Reply #9

HeleneB

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I am very wary about letting people read my writing. I actually shared my novel with two people last November and neither one of them responded at all. Hell, even my husband asked and I gave it to him and he didn't read it. It hurt more then I realized because I feel like they hated it and just didn't want to say anything. It took a ton out of me to hand my writings over to be read esp since they are just first draft. I would just let her know that when she is ready to share you would love to read it...
Oh, don't even assume they hated it. There are many challenges that come from having friends and family be your beta readers. For one, they're damned if they do and they're damned if they don't as far input goes. And it worries them.

Those first critiques are tough anyway. It's like putting your child out for view by the world and the people turn into rabid dogs and rip your darling apart. In our writing, we share a bit of our souls with people. Reject my writing, reject me. But we can't look at it like that.

My daughter, the first time she read my first book, said she had a hard time separating the main character's voice from my voice. It's first person and, yeah, she sounds a lot like me. That's not going to be an issue for people who don't know you well or just as a writer.

And bear in mind that reading and writing is very subjective. If the person you've asked to read it doesn't normally read your genre, you're already fighting against a bias.

What genre do you write?
Author of the Safe Harbors series and "Second Chances 101", a Ripple Effect Romance.
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April 04, 2013, 05:31:37 AM
Reply #10

varza

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What genre do you write?
Haven't really found a particular genre... my writings are a bit here and there. This one particular piece was more of a non-fiction piece but I changed all the names (mostly because I forgot them).
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April 04, 2013, 12:10:21 PM
Reply #11

HeleneB

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I'm hearing more and more people are doing "based on real events" kind of fictional memoirs. There's a name for it, but I can't bring it to mind.

I got into writing with the idea of learning so I could write my personal history. The funnest stories are the ones written like novels. And even if I wrote things my brother or sister did or said, they might disagree about my memory of how things played out. So if I can it fiction, maybe I can get away with it. lol
Author of the Safe Harbors series and "Second Chances 101", a Ripple Effect Romance.
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