Writing strategies can help boost young writers’ and students’ confidence and writing skills. Creative writing strategies taught to elementary students as part of writing instruction can help children develop strong writing abilities and learn the writing process in a fun way.
They will think they are simply writing fun stories when learning to become confident and skilled writers. This article will give ideas and suggestions so that you will be ready when a writing strategy is needed for something like collecting ideas or organizing elements of a story.
What Are Strategies for Writing?
Be mindful that even professional writers suffer from writer’s block and issues with selecting the right words, characters, plot, and sentence structure. Having a writing strategy to fall back on helps everyone, from school students to James Patterson.
Creative writing is a skill that you can continually improve with practice. Having writing strategies at your disposal will give both published authors and elementary students the little boost of confidence to forge ahead, even when the writing gets complicated.
A writing strategy is a trick, shortcut, game, or exercise that can be employed by students, writers, or anyone needing help with the writing process. When learned from a young age as students, children usually incorporate these strategies for writing into their regular writing practice without even thinking about it.
Writing Strategies for Young Students
When teaching writing strategies to young students at the elementary or middle school (junior high school) level, it is often best to start with the basics. The following are some tried and tested writing strategies that teachers and students enjoy.
1. Fill In the Blank Writing
A blank page can be scary for any writer. Often, getting going is the most challenging part, which pertains to far more than just writing. This is where a fill-in-the-blank type structure works well for students to get them thinking creatively and make the thought of getting started an easier one to process.
How It Works?
In this exercise, the instructor supplies students with a partial story. There are blank lines that the students have to fill in. You can either leave it entirely up to students whether or not they need to fill in specific types of words in those blanks, or they can get creative and put anything in the blanks they can come up with that makes sense.
As time goes on, students familiarize themselves with this writing exercise and improve their writing skills. You can then graduate them to more complex fill-in-the-blank work. You can give them the body of a story and ask them to supply the opening paragraph, or you can give them the opening paragraph and have them come up with the rest of the story.
This writing exercise lightens the load of pressure a new writer feels when faced with producing something creative. This can even turn into two or three-sentence writing prompts as the student’s skill level and confidence grows. Even published and professional authors enjoy writing prompts to get their creative juices flowing.
2. Split Students Into Small Groups
When students engage in group work, it often inspires them to think of new ideas more freely because they have more resources to draw from. Putting your students in groups and asking them to build a word hamburger (more on this in a moment) or come up with the initial drafts of a story are great ways to encourage creativity, communication, confidence, and thinking skills.
3. The Word Hamburger
When you think of the components of a hamburger, you think of the buns, the meat, and the burger’s toppings. This structure works well to teach students to write stories in the correct order and structure and lends a visual aid in doing so.
The buns are your introduction and conclusion. Your meat is the body of the story, and the toppings are all of the details that are not necessary but make the burger (story) more appetizing to the person who will be eating (reading) the burger (story). You can employ this strategy individually or in groups.
Writing Strategies for Older Students
Hopefully, by the time students reach high school and college, they already have a solid writing skills foundation. This will enable students and teachers to focus on more involved and intricate writing strategies to aid in the process and build a skill set for writing creatively.
The main point of writing strategies is to get you writing using more resources than simply diving into the work or the story assigned so that you can produce the best work you or your students are capable of.
Pre-writing is a fantastic way to organize thoughts and grow the idea into what could become a well-written assignment, essay, or story. There are many ways to pre-write, and we will cover some of them. But really, anything that can encourage you to write is a helpful strategy.
Before you ever type or write the first sentence of your assignment or story, you should create some type of outline. While some writers snub outlines, every author, at some stage, creates an outline. In this article, we will discuss outlining before the story is written.
To create an outline, you can either organize it in a way that includes your first paragraph and then builds off of it, either with bullet points, index cards, or some other organizational layout. All of the necessary elements of the story are there.
Once you have the big pieces laid out, all you are left with is putting all the pieces of your story together. Outlines can be as involved as the individual wants them to be. You can do a standard outline with just the key elements mapped out, or you can do an involved and extensive outline that even includes outlines of each character and setting. There is also mind mapping for those who are more visual in their creative work.
2. Mind Mapping
Mind mapping involves writing the story’s main idea in the center of the page and drawing a circle around it. From there, you build a story.
Every story can be written with the help of a mind map. You can write out entire ideas and connect them to the theme—simply write down connective words or even cite specific examples of interactions and plots and attach them to the theme.
You write out all of the small pieces, circle them, and draw lines to what they connect to. It literally looks like a map of words when finished. With all of this helpful information at the students’ disposal, they can craft their own stories.
The research phase of the writing process can be tedious, but once students have employed good research skills with examples of what makes up good research, they will get a feel for it, and it will not seem so daunting.
Credibility and Relevance
The key component to doing any research on an idea a student has for writing is finding credible and relevant sources. Credible sources are those data supported by expert research, facts, and studies verified as good information.
Websites that include .gov or .edu in the site link are often the most credible sources. Blog posts, editorials, and even some feature articles need to be verified and are often not good sources. Relevance is also an important part of the research. Here is an example:
If you are looking online for safe sleep positions and practices for newborns and infants, the date of the information and publication of the article are of utmost importance. This is because the data and medical opinions of experts frequently change. An adult’s mother was likely instructed to put her child on their stomach to sleep to avoid issues such as choking, aspiration, and SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome). Practices have since changed, and mothers are now being told to place infants on their backs to sleep to aid breathing and dispel obstruction.
Writing, Revision, and Feedback
Once the pre-writing and research are completed, it is time to write the actual story, essay, or paper. Bring your ideas to life by following your visual organizer or outline. The first sentence is often the scariest but quickly follows it with the second sentence, and before you know it, you are halfway through the process. Just be sure to follow your outline, and it should be pretty smooth sailing.
Revising Your Work and Getting Feedback
After your first draft is completed, give your story to someone else to read. Ask them for ideas to strengthen the writing or give you suggestions on anything they feel could use additional work. Try not to take suggestions or help personally, as most of your peers and classmates want to give good feedback. Employ the examples of improvements they give you if you think it works best. Replace words that do not fit in your story, and then revise.
Revision is more than proofreading—look not only for misspelled words and grammar mistakes but also for plot holes, continuity issues, and examples of your work where a sentence could have been more substantial if it were structured differently. Make these changes, and read it again. Often, you will not have to write more than twice if you have done a good job revising.
Writing Strategies for Professionals
Suppose you are an author by trade and are already well-versed in the strategies for writing that are taught to younger and more inexperienced students. In that case, there is likely still a writing strategy or two that you could learn to help you to further your career and improve your writing abilities.
1. Hook the Reader
Grabbing the reader’s attention with a strong opening is a classic strategy used by the best authors. If you can hook the reader from the start and keep the pacing of your story steady, you will end up with a reader who does not want to put your story down. Examples of strong hooks appear in all genres of fiction. Look up examples of strong hooks in fiction writing to get an idea or inspiration for your own story.
2. Understand Who You’re Writing For
Write as though you know the person who will be reading your work. Each sentence should appeal to that ideal reader you are writing for. For example, if you are writing a young adult novel, picture that teenager, and imagine what they want to read. This will help you stay in your target audience’s mind frame when you write.
3. Get the Reader Involved
Immersing an audience in your work or story often means catering to that audience. How can an author do that? There are so many ways. Here are some examples:
- Provide a map if you have a long or fantasy story where the setting is unfamiliar.
- Provide drawings or pictures for the reader, especially in nonfiction settings.
- Speak directly to the audience, if possible. Make them feel as though you are talking to them. This creates an intimacy that an audience adores and craves.
- Assume that your audience is intelligent. Do not over-explain everything to the point that your audience feels insulted.
4. Keep It Simple
You may be a genius, but do not write like one. Keep your words simple and clear unless you are writing an academic paper. No reader wants to have to whip out a dictionary to get through the first page of your book.
5. Keep It Short
Rambling on in endless sentences bores the reader and can push them to put the book or paper down. If you cannot say the sentence aloud without stopping to take a breath, it is too long. Keep your sentences short, but do not let them get choppy or incomplete.
6. Use Quotes and Data for Research Papers
Back up what you state when writing research and academic papers using quotes and direct data. Providing this information will make your audience believe that you are dedicated to your message and stand behind your work—that you spent time researching the topic and that you are not the only person who thinks what you have written.
Just be sure that you cite them correctly when using quotes and data. Not giving credit where it is due for something that you did not personally say, create, or write is plagiarism and not worth getting into legal trouble over when citing your work is so simple.