For most of us, November means turkey, pumpkins, and coming winter; but for a small portion of the population it spells National Novel Writing Month (fondly shortened to NaNoWriMo). These certifiably artistic people commit to writing 50,000 words in 30 days.
Hats off to them! This year I’m in an auxiliary role with three younger siblings signed up for the Young Writers Program.
This offshoot of the regular NaNoWriMo event is specifically geared towards writers aged 17 and under. How does it differ from the 50k phenomenon?
- Writers set their own challenging goal. Whether that be 30 words or thirty thousand words, it’s up to you!
- Kid-friendly site. All forums are monitored with children in mind, and the layout and graphics are perfect for young computer users.
In my family the word count goals and writing skills vary with age but excitement and drive are very high. Here are just a few ideas to help you and your mini-novelist get ready…
- Set up an easy username/password. If your young writer is going to be signing themselves in and out at least once a day, this should be memorable and easy to type. Make it fun! Include a variant of their name or favorite thing to make it personalized.
- Brainstorm together! This is as simple as looking at pictures and imagining what is happening in them. Older young writers may enjoy creating an inspiration board for their story on Pinterest (though pictures should not be used outside of the site due to copyright concerns).
- With my youngest writers, I asked them simple questions such as “what is the character’s problem?” and “how will they solve it?” to help them plan out the story. Encourage slightly older ones to learn from good materials including Writer to Writer: From Think to Ink by Gail Carson Levine, 5 Secrets of Story Structure by K.M. Weiland, and the blog Helping Writers Become Authors.
- When they are ready to announce their “novel”, make a special cover by uploading a free Pixabay image or by ordering a premade cover from Perry Elisabeth Design.
- Next decorate a notebook together with happy scrapbooking paper and amazing stickers to make the daily writing/planning grind more interesting. You can find instructions to make your own on my blog.
- Set up a whiteboard or chalkboard in their special “writing spot” to set daily writing goals and record triumphs. Another option is Perry Elisabeth Design’s word-tracking calendar.
- Spur them on with special snacks (popcorn, anyone?) and cool prizes whenever they hit a goal. The YWP website also awards them with adorable badges, which I think is pretty awesome.
- When November ends and the writing is done, celebrate by publishing the “book”. One copy for your budding author to keep and another for Grammy and Grandpa’s Christmas present. You can always print and staple or even publish a “real” copy through Createspace.
The memories are worth the time and effort, and who knows—maybe you’ve just discovered the next Charles Dickens or Suzanne Collins.
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