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For Kids and Teens

Do you want to be a writer?

I always wanted to be a writer. My first article was published when my third grade teacher put together a classroom newspaper. I knew from that moment on that I wanted to be a professional writer when I grew up.

I've loved reading mysteries since I first read The Boxcar Children. It was my favorite book. If you love reading, you also might love writing. If you think you might want to be a writer of any kind, get started now.

How do I get started with my own writing?

Most students have to write in school, but writing for yourself and for fun can be done in your spare time. After school or on weekends, find a quiet place to sit and brainstorm. Some writers like to outline their work with formal outlines or diagrams. Other just start writing. It's all up to you!

Where can I find ideas?

Professional writers find ideas from their everyday lives and you can, too! Reading the newspaper may give you lots of ideas. Many authors use old family stories in their writing. Ask your family members, especially grandparents, about their life experiences. The best way to do this is to write a list of fantastic questions. You could ask them about how they spent their summers, their favorite holidays, or what they remember about their grandparents. Write down their answers or record them. Consider writing their stories as memoirs or part of a family history. You could also use your imagination to make up completely new stories with different people.

If you are interested in writing mysteries, start looking for seemingly ordinary activities that you could create a mystery around. What if you and some friends were studying in the public library and saw a woman look around and then slip a sheet of paper into her briefcase? A few days later you hear a news report about the theft of a valuable document You could work these two events into an exciting mystery. The key is to be always thinking about how everyday events could be part of the plot of your next story.

What do I do if I get stuck?

All professional writers occasionally suffer from "writer's block," but with a tiny bit of determination, you won't let this stop you from writing. The best thing to do is to step away for a little while (a few hours or a day). Then, return to your writing with a fresh outlook and start to brainstorm about new ideas. You don't have to give up on your original ideas -- just think of new ways to link all of your ideas together. The important thing is to get your thoughts on paper. You can always revise later.

How can my writing improve?

All writers struggle to improve their writing. I think of all my writing as work in progress that can always be improved. I improve my writing by revising and editing and by getting suggestions from the people around me, including other writers, friends, and my children. Anyone can do this and you can, too! Ask your friends, parents, and teachers to look over your writing. There are so many ways to improve your writing, no matter what level you are working at. Your readers may be able to help you to improve your grammar and spelling and even the plot of your story.

The next step:

After you start to feel confident about your writing, you might want to think about submitting it for publication or to writing contests. Ask your teachers, your school writing specialist, or librarian for suggestions for magazines that accept student writing or writing contests geared to your age group. The internet offers contests and publishing opportunities, but always check with your parents or teachers before submitting anything on-line.

In middle and high school, make sure to write for the school newspaper. Working for a school newspaper is one of the best avenues for students seriously interested in pursuing a professional career in all kinds of writing.

Good luck!