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Susan Stephenson is passionate about reading and writing and she blogs at www.thebookchook.com where she has lots of great resources for people who love to read and write.

We are so lucky to have her sharing her wisdom here at Writing Classes For Kids. Here are her tips and prompts to get your story off to a flying start.


by Susan Stephenson

Writers all have days when they want to write, or need to write, but just can’t get started. Here are some prompts and tips for when that happens to you.

Start with a problem. What is it? Who has it? What is your character going to do about it? What problems does the character encounter?

Try those two magic words, what and if. Ask yourself questions like:

  • what if your greatest wish came true?
  • what if you found a baby dragon or unicorn?
  • what if you were invisible?
  • what if school were banned?
  • what if you found a secret door to another world?

Does one of those questions spark an idea? Start writing!

Play a game. Get together with some friends. Write down a list of heroes, villains, settings and problems. Cut each list up to make four piles. Have each person take one from each pile and that is the outline of their story. If it doesn’t work, try again. Have fun with it!

Try Scholastic’s online Story Starter.  You spin four wheels to create your prompt. I ended up with “Describe the house of a devious dentist who tries to get into the Guinness Book of World Records.” Choose a format for your story and start typing.

If you’re stuck for ideas, often a picture can help. Look through some magazines, at art work, or online, and see if a picture might start an idea for a story. In Becoming a Story Detective  by author Sandy Fussell, she gives ideas you can use to tease out your writing once you’ve found a picture you like.

Have you tried Storybird? It’s an online place where you can make a free digital book using the wonderful illustrations provided. I love the range of pictures and often browse there, looking for story ideas.

Here’s an example of a book I made for you to check out.
At my blog, I’ve written a series of articles that give prompts for creativity. Perhaps one of those might spark a writing idea for you.

Sometimes not thinking can unblock your writing. At One Word.com, you have sixty seconds to respond to a one-word prompt above your screen. Don’t think, just write!

When I have a particular problem in a story, and need to think my way through it, I often try the Dreamlines website. Here you simply enter keywords, and then you’re presented with a sequence of dream-like images. When one of my characters was feeling lonely, I believed I wasn’t entering into her feelings enough. I typed “loneliness” into Dreamlines, and somehow that helped me find the emotions of an earlier time I’d been lonely myself, and relate better to my character.

Creating stories is huge fun, but every writer gets blocked once in a while. A complete change of pace can also work – go for a walk, hide under the dining table and listen to music, lie on the grass and watch clouds. Whatever you do, don’t give up. Take a break, but then get back to it. Writers write!

Bio: Susan Stephenson is a writer who lives about as far east as you can go on Australia without falling off. She loves reading, writing and pretending to be a chicken. Susan writes a blog about children’s literature and literacy at The Book Chook



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NaNoWriMo for Kids – a Month of Writing Fun

November is National Novel Writing Month and writers of all ages can join in the fun. It’s called NaNoWriMo for short and if you meet your writing goal for the month you get a winner’s certificate to celebrate your achievement.

But for me, NaNoWriMo is all about the journey – the awesome time you have along the way.

Last November I took on the NaNoWriMo challenge and wrote the first draft of my MG survival novel, Game On.

I joined a NaNoWriMo Facebook group and met writers from all over the world. We had word races, and encouraged and supported each other to achieve our goals. It was so much fun. I learned heaps. Click on this post at my DeeScribe Writing blog if you want to know more about my NaNoWriMo experience.

NaNoWriMo has its own Young Writers Program

As well as a Young Writer Workbook which you can buy from their blog, they have all sorts of Helpful links 

With Young Writers’ Nano, you can set your own word goal for the month of November and if you achieve it, you win.

Goal setting is great, so is writing regularly. NaNoWriMo can help you get into the writing groove.

Recently, Alphabet Soup magazine interviewed a 12 year-old novelist about good writing habits. Here are his tips.


I’m the kind of person who likes to be prepared so I’m going into NaNoWriMo with a pretty good idea of what my story will be about. Here’s what I’ve done/am doing to prepare:

  1. Decided on my main characters
  2. Found pictures of people who look like my characters do in my head
  3. Drawn a picture of a main character just for fun and to help me focus on her.
  4. Interviewed my main characters to find out the kind of people they are, what they want and what could stop them from getting it
  5. Done a brief plot outline and written my main plot points on system cards. I find that if I know where I’m going with my story I don’t tend to get wrier’s block, so I always like to have an event or plot point ahead that I’m working towards.
  6. Created the world of my story with information about how it works, systems of government, schools etc and what this world looks like, and who is in it.
  7. Tidied my workspace so that there’s nothing else to distract me from the writing project I’m working on for NaNoWriMo

If you decide to do NaNoWriMo, “Good Luck!” If you don’t have time at the moment, don’t stress…there’s always next year:)

If you have any tips about how you write or how you might prepare for NaNoWriMo, feel free to share them in the comments section of this post.

Happy writing:)


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