Ten Ways to Raise Writers by Julie Falatko

We are a family of writers.

This is a new thing.

Last year was the year I started to take myself seriously as a writer. And, somehow, that has rubbed off on my kids.

The other day my 10-year-old was grinning when he came home from school. “I came up with a great idea for a historical fiction book!” he said. And then he told us all the story, and it was, in the eyes of this completely unbiased mom, a fantastic idea. He’s also working on a fantasy novel. Which, I can tell you, as an impartial observer, is brilliant.

But you know what else is brilliant? How energized he is about writing. This is a new thing for him. He’s always been a reader, but this is the first year that he’s really gotten excited about writing.

Why are my kids (especially my older kids) suddenly so interested in writing, when previously it was all about reading? Maybe it’s that we’re all taking writing seriously. At any rate, here are my top ten ways to get your kids excited about writing.

  1. Read. As always. Reading a lot shows the value of a good story, and helps people figure out what they like to read. And once you figure out what you like to read, you’ll have a much better idea of what you’ll like to write.

  2. Tell stories. Stories can happen anywhere. And it can make a “you’re torturing me!” hike go a lot faster if you pretend the trees are sentient or the squirrels have an evil plan. Plus, when you’re too little to write quickly or clearly, you can tell your story out loud.

  3. Let your kids see you writing. Let them see you working hard at it. Talk to them about what you’re doing.

  4. Let your kids see you get inspired. The sight of me, running toward my notebook, shouting, “NOBODY TALK!” is a familiar one. They know to get out of the way.

  5. Let your kids see you revise. By now, my kids understand that writing is work. They have seen typed-up sheets with scribbles all over them. They know that first drafts aren’t supposed to be good, but are just for getting your ideas down, and that you’ll always be able to change things later. (Which isn’t something I really understood until I was maybe 30.)

  6. Booktalk. I’ve been getting better about writing pitches and synopses for my own stories, and in the process, I’ve gotten kind of obsessed with what makes other books sound like something I want to read. When I read the flap copy for What We Found in the Sofa and How it Saved the World by Henry Clark, I got to the sentence, “With the help of an eccentric neighbor, an artificially intelligent domino, a DNA-analyzing tray, two hot air balloons, and a cat named Mucus…” and my 10-year-old burst out laughing and grabbed the book from me. Based on the title and the description, he knew it’d be a funny adventure. I’ve started writing pitches and synopses very early in the writing process, and he has too. It helps you figure out the essence of your story. As long as you keep writing after that, it can be like a mission statement for your book, that you can come back to when you need to remember what you’re writing.

  7. Talk about what books you like, and what ones you don’t. If my kids don’t like a book, that’s fine. We’ve had a lot of interesting conversations about writing and good storytelling when they try to break apart what exactly they didn’t like about a book.

  8. Don’t ask your kids what they’re writing. Let them be quiet. Let them stare into space. Staring into space is an important part of writing.

  9. Forget about writing rules, unless your kid specifically asks for help. Come to think of it, keep your fingers out of their writing entirely. Grownup writers just need to get in the chair and write. I would sure resent it if someone started telling me how to write while I was doing it. Just convince your budding writer to sit in the chair, and to keep going.

  10. Buy good pencils in bulk. I prefer writing with pencils, and if we’re going to be writers, we should be serious enough to use pencils with smooth graphite and good strong tips. And make sure there are five in every drawer and ten on every desk.

Julie Falatko wrote 10 Ways to Raise Readers for Nerdy Book Club (and also confessed that she writes for herself first). Her debut picture book Snappsy the Alligator (Did Not Ask to Be in This Book) will be published by Viking in 2015. She blogs at worldofjulie.com, is on Twitter @JulieFalatko, and buys her pencils from Pencils.com.