"As a writer, I have grown to be productive and creative, yet have fun at the same time. I have improved my literature and I am more comfortable to write at any time. I have learned to create many ideas and learn the writing process." - 6th grader
Monday July 6
Monday: Developing ideas for writing
As Kandinsky says, "Everything starts with a dot." Sometimes the hardest thing in writing a story is where to start. You don't need to have a great idea, you just have to put pen to paper. Start with a bad idea, start with the wrong direction, start with a character you don't like, something positive will come out of it. – Marion Deuchars, illustrator and author of Let's Make Some Great Art
Create a list of ideas that you could write about. Maybe it is a book of poems about your favorite food, a dystopian novel about surviving a pandemic, or a personal essay about healing racial injustice. Take note of your top three ideas. Take FIVE minutes and freewrite about one of those ideas. Do the same for the other two.
If you are stuck, choose one of the prompts and see where it takes you.
Reflect on your own worst family vacation. Write about it as though you are a fly on the wall and describe what happened.
Write a poem about an imagined supernatural encounter. This could be anything—a ghost of a past coffee grinder, even.
Tuesday: Developing ideas for writing “Start writing, no matter what. The water does not flow until the faucet is turned on.” — Louis L’Amour
From the three pieces of writing that you wrote yesterday, choose your favorite. How can you develop this piece? If you are writing a story, this might mean plotting out the action and characters. If you are writing a poem, this might mean crafting some of the stanzas. If you are writing an essay, this might mean taking note of the main points you want to make. As you develop the piece, is it still your favorite? If not, try doing this with one of the other ideas you wrote on Monday. If you are stuck, choose one of the prompts and see where it takes you.
Choose a person from your life or imagination whom you think would make a vivid character. Write a scene that describes the kind of person they are, but don’t use a single adjective!
Write as many 6-word stories as you can. If you run out of ideas, try turning one of your 6-word stories into the first line of a longer story. Check out this website for inspiration.
And by the way, everything in life is writable about if you have the outgoing guts to do it, and the imagination to improvise. The worst enemy to creativity is self-doubt.” ― Sylvia Plath
Today is the day to commit to one writing idea that you’ve been working on so far. Make sure to clarify your goal. Are you planning to write a picture book about your favorite animal? Are you going to write ten poems in a book of poetry? Are you writing five chapters in your novel? Try to get as much written as possible, even if it isn’t your best writing. This might mean making a goal of writing for 4 15-minute segments throughout the day. Or, it might mean writing for one hour in the morning and one hour in the evening. Find a routine that works for you and write as many words and pages as you can.
If you are stuck, choose one of the prompts and see where it takes you.
Write a story using these 5 words: apple, train, elephant, paper, banjo.
This is an exercise in structure, imitation and seeing. Look up Wallace Steven’s poem “Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird.” Then write your own poem on looking at an object, animal or concept in 13 different ways.
“I’m writing a first draft and reminding myself that I’m simply shoveling sand into a box, so that later, I can build castles.” — Shannon Hale Reflect on what you wrote yesterday. Did your writing take you in another direction? If so, you may want to re-evaluate your goals. Maybe your book of poetry led you to a personal essay. Or maybe you want to turn your favorite animal book into a graphic novel or story. Once you are grounded again in your direction for the day, continue writing. Try to get as much written as possible, even if it isn’t your best writing. This might mean making a goal of writing for 4 15-minute segments throughout the day. Or, it might mean writing for one hour in the morning and one hour in the evening. Find a routine that works for you and write as many words and pages as you can. If you are stuck, choose one of the prompts and see where it takes you.
Write an ode to something. It can be anything. According to Poets.org, “ ‘Ode’ comes from the Greek aeidein, meaning to sing or chant, and belongs to the long and varied tradition of lyric poetry. Originally accompanied by music and dance, and later reserved by the Romantic poets to convey their strongest sentiments, the ode can be generalized as a formal address to an event, a person, or a thing not present.” Check out these amazing odes by kids.
Around the campfire. Click here to see a picture. Write about the picture in any way you choose. You can also dig deeper by following the prompts on the page and reading the essay.
“It doesn’t matter if it’s good right now, it just needs to exist.” — Austin Kleon
Now that you’ve had two days of writing, it’s time to share that writing with someone you trust for feedback. Don’t worry! You don’t have to share everything that you’ve written. Choose ONE section to share to a friend, parent, sibling, or teacher. This excerpt can be your favorite part of your draft OR your least favorite part. Ask them to read it or read it to them. What do they think? What do they like about it? What questions do they have? What suggestions do they have? The goal of sharing your writing is to receive validation from another person AND collect some new ideas to keep you going. After this discussion, write for at least another 30 minutes today. If you are stuck, choose one of the prompts and see where it takes you:
Which song would you choose to celebrate a milestone or resilience through a difficult period? Why would you choose that song? How would you choose to share it? What the video and check out some ideas here.
You find a doll by the side of the road, with a letter attached to it. Write the letter and, if you’re feeling particularly creative, what happens next (don’t forget you found the letter attached to a doll!).
“Books aren’t written- they’re rewritten. It is one of the hardest things to accept, especially after the seventh rewrite hasn’t quite done it.” Michael Crichton
Congratulations on completing the first week! You have a first draft! Revisit your goal for your final draft. Do you need to revise your goal? Ask a parent, friend, or sibling to listen to you as you read your draft out loud. When something does not make sense, take note of it. When you need to add something, take note of it. After you are done, ask them if you think that you’ve reached your goal for your final piece. What are you doing well? What more needs to be done? What specific suggestions do they have?
Try these specific revision strategies for improving your piece:
Add more details, such as imagery, emotions, dialogue, and voice in your draft. Read through your draft and highlight FIVE sentences that lack detail. Rewrite them and add more details. Do you like it better? Do the details add a visual for the reader? Here is an example: “She was so tired,” to “Her eyelids drooped as she dragged her tired feet behind her.”
Delete the unnecessary. It can be hard to delete things that you’ve written, but it’s necessary. You want your writing to be concise because it makes your message more powerful. Go through your draft and take note of any sentences that are repetitive. Do you need them? Also, take note of any words that are repetitive. Find synonyms for words are repeated frequently. If you don’t want to delete sentences forever, paste them in a document for future writing projects.
I would write a book, or a short story, at least three times–once to understand it, the second time to improve the prose, and a third to compel it to say what it still must say. ~Bernard Malamud
Read your story out loud and record it. Play it back and listen to it. As you listen, take notes about the following: What needs to be clarified? What needs more details? What could be taken out? What is your favorite part? Are there places that need some guidance from another person. If so, ask someone for help.
Try these specific revision strategies for improving your piece:
The first line of your piece is important because it can hook or bore a reader. Rewrite the first line of your draft five times. Which one do you like better? Is it worth changing? For inspiration, take a look at these 100 best first lines from novels.
Now review the ending of your draft. Rewrite the last line at least five times. Is there one that you like better? Read and watch about how to end a story.
For inspiration, watch this author talk (older) with RJ Palacio. OR watch this author talk (younger) with Yuyi Morales.
Wednesday July 15
Wednesday: Editing your draft
“Learn to enjoy this tidying process. I don't like to write; I like to have written. But I love to rewrite. I especially like to cut: to press the DELETE key and see an unnecessary word or phrase or sentence vanish into the electricity. I like to replace a humdrum word with one that has more precision or color. I like to strengthen the transition between one sentence and another. I like to rephrase a drab sentence to give it a more pleasing rhythm or a more graceful musical line. With every small refinement I feel that I'm coming nearer to where I would like to arrive, and when I finally get there I know it was the rewriting, not the writing, that won the game.” -William Zinsser, On Writing Well: The Classic Guide to Writing Nonfiction
It’s time to edit! That means you want to take a close look at your draft to correct errors and make words and sentences clearer, more precise, and as effective as possible. This can be a tedious process. Do this in chunks. For example, you might read one paragraph closely and then take a break. In an hour, return to the next paragraph. Depending on how long your draft is, you may want to read pages rather than paragraphs. Remember, you want your piece to flow for the reader, so this is important work.
Try these specific revision strategies for editing your piece:
Check your tenses. As you read, make sure that your tenses are consistent. Is everything in past tense? Present tense? When your tenses change, does it make sense? For example, you character might be remembering something that happened to them several years ago which would require past tense. Checkthisout for help.
Strengthen your verbs: Go through your piece and take note of verbs that are not specific or dynamic. For example, in the following sentence: How to make your draft better reads different than How to strengthen your draft. Strengthen is more specific and it helps to make the sentence more concise.
Cut long sentences in two: I’m not talking about run-on sentences. Many long sentences are grammatically correct. But long sentences often contain several ideas, so they can easily lose the reader’s focus because they don’t provide a break, leading readers to get stuck or lose interest, and perhaps the reader might get bored and go watch TV instead. See what I mean? If you spot a comma-heavy sentence, try to give each idea its own sentence.
Axe the adverbs (a.k.a. -ly words): Adverbs weaken your copy because these excess words are not truly descriptive. Rather than saying the girl runs quickly, say she sprints. Instead of describing the cat as walking slowly, say he creeps or tiptoes. The screen door didn’t shut noisily, it banged shut. Find a more powerful verb to replace the weak verb + weak -ly adverb combo.
When authors share their work, they typically read a brief excerpt to an audience and then talk about how/why they wrote that excerpt in the way that they did. Create a 2-5 minute video or audio of yourself reading a portion of your piece out loud. Why did you choose this excerpt? What were your goals in writing it? Make sure to leave us wanting more so that we will read your entire piece when it is published. Here are some tips on reading out loud.
To prepare for your reading, do the following:
Choose an excerpt that hooks readers.
Practice what you want to say about the excerpt. Give listeners just enough insight to peak their interest. Don’t say too much, though, because they won’t be driven to read your piece.
Slow down! When we are nervous, we tend to read fast so we can get done sooner. Slow down so that listeners can hang on to the words you carefully wrote.
Practice! Read it to yourself in the mirror. Record yourself and watch/listen to it. Figure out what is most powerful and go for it.
“Publishing a book is like stuffing a note into a bottle and hurling it into the sea. Some bottles drown, some come safe to land, where the notes are read and then possibly cherished, or else misinterpreted, or else understood all too well by those who hate the message. You never know who your readers might be.” ― Margaret Atwood
Congratulations! You made it through the final week. Now you have a final piece that you are proud of and it’s time to share it with others. There are many ways to publish your final piece. You can create a website that showcases your work (e.g., weebly is free). You can use Wattpad, Storybird, Storyboard, or Storyjumper. You can also use a simple word document. Take a look at how campers have published in the past by looking through our past publications. Once you get it online in the format of your choice, send it to us (firstname.lastname@example.org) and we will publish it on our website.
What advice would you give to people about writing? We will post this advice on our website for future campers.
Make your own author talk! We would love to publish a short video (1-2 minutes) of you talking about your final piece. Use the videos that you’ve watched all week as a model.