As I mentioned in a previous blog, there’s a short story-writing competition taking place in our town. To celebrate Congleton’s 700 years of having a mayor, children (and adults) are invited to write a short story about the mayor having an adventure.

As an author, I know how frustrating writer’s block can be. I know that it isn’t always easy to come up with the initial idea for a story, and even when you do get an idea, the words of the story don’t always come easily. So, in an effort to help my fellow Congletonians, I spoke to a few of my author friends and between us we’ve come up with some useful story-writing tips for kids!

Marion Adams, author of the children’s book Go To Sleep!, says that one of the best ways to improve your own writing is to read lots:

“Read lots of books. Even if you haven’t read many books, or think you don’t like reading, give it a go. Ask someone to read with you, if you prefer. Reading will always help your writing.”

I couldn’t agree more. Reading books by lots of different authors will improve your vocabulary and writing style no end. But what if you’re stuck for an idea of what to write about?

Children’s illustrator and author Zoe Saunders offered this as a starting point:

“Write what you love (rather than what’s ‘cool’).”

Let’s look at this idea in relation to the Congleton writing competition. The theme you’ve been asked to write about is the mayor having an adventure, but the adventure could be anything you like. So, if you love football, you might want to write about an adventure involving football. Write about what you love and your passion and imagination will shine through!

If you’re still stuck for ideas, a tip that I personally find useful is to ask yourself ‘What if?’ questions: ‘What if the mayor went to the moon?’ ‘What if the mayor found a time machine?’ ‘What if the mayor won the lottery?’ Asking yourself ‘What if?’ questions is a great way to spark your imagination!

Once you’ve thought of an idea that you feel you can work with, the best thing to do is just get started and don’t overthink it, as Congleton-born illustrator Steven Lenton (of Shifty McGifty fame!) explains:

“Don’t worry about writing or plan too much. Have a little think then just START writing something, anything! It could be a scribble or a character idea or a doodle – but that something might just lead to a bigger something and a bigger something until it blooms into a beautiful story!”

Once your story is underway, you need to make sure you keep your readers engaged. I spoke to Caroline James, another Congletonian author who will be alongside Steven and myself on the judges panel next month, and she offered these wise words:

“Hook your reader from the start. Look at books you enjoy and see how they begin.”

The word limit in this competition is just 700, so you need to make every word count. Starting off your story with an attention-grabbing sentence or paragraph will really get you off on the right foot!

So, now that you’ve got a good opening to your story, how are you going to keep your readers enthralled right through to the end? Romantic novelist Bella Osborne recommended the following:

“Try to imagine yourself as your main character – what can you hear, smell, touch, taste and see? And, very importantly, how do you feel?”

By thinking from your character’s perspective, your descriptive language is likely to be vivid and relatable. Of course, while all these tips are helpful and will help you perfect your story, the most important thing to do when writing is to HAVE FUN! As romantic author Rachel Dove suggests:

“Write the story you want to write, and don’t be afraid to make it wacky!”

That’s it! I hope you find this advice useful, and I look forward to reading all your entries after the competition deadline on the 16th! Happy writing, kids!

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