Writing Tips from Writers

Recently, I had the pleasure of visiting schools to do writing workshops. As a former teacher, I loved having a chance to work with students again on their writing. As an author, I had a new perspective on it.

With my life now devoted to writing, I realized certain things about teaching writing I hadn’t before. So I thought it would be interesting to hear what tips authors of books for middle grade readers had for teaching writing to middle graders. Here are their tips, as well as some of my own.

Tip 1:
Have students get all of their needed writing materials ready before beginning the writing lesson. I found that, when I have an idea, if I need to stop to locate a pen and paper, I might lose my idea. If you’ve gotten your class excited about a topic, you don’t want them to lose that momentum sharpening a pencil or locating their writing folder.

Natalie Rompella
Cookie Cutters & Sled Runners (Sky Pony Press)
The World Never Sleeps (Tilbury House)

Tip 2:
Appeal to 5 senses to expand descriptive writing. Close eyes and bring in unidentified sounds or freshly popped popcorn or something sticky.

Carolyn Armstrong
Because of Khalid (Tiger Stripe Publishing)

Tip 3:
Encourage young writers to read, read, read.  What better way to learn what good–or bad–writing is, build vocabulary and sentence structure, and identify different genres?

Marlene Brill
Picture Girl, Golden (Alley Press)
Dolores Huerta Stands Strong (University of Ohio Press)

Tip 4:
The follow up to that would be to write, write, write.  Not formal writing but journals and diaries to freely get feelings–and words–out and for students to use their words to express themselves.

Marlene Brill
Picture Girl, Golden (Alley Press)
Dolores Huerta Stands Strong (University of Ohio Press)

Tip 5:
Word swap: make a game of swapping out boring words with better ones to enhance writing.

Carolyn Armstrong
Because of Khalid (Tiger Stripe Publishing)

Tip 6:
Teach not just writing but revision. Let students know that ALL the books on shelves went through multiple revisions before they became books, so students shouldn’t judge their own work based on the books they’re reading. But instead, teachers should build in revision techniques and time for classes — even for essays — so students can see how their work slowly improves.

Samantha Clark
The Boy, The Boat, and The Beast (Paula Wiseman Books/Simon & Schuster)

Tip 7:
I always try to impress upon kids the power of revision. Just because you wrote a “first draft” doesn’t mean your piece is done. Rather, you have a starting point for revision! Now you can take your time and choose just the right words to make what you have written stronger. They are shocked to hear that some of my poems may go through 15 different revisions!

I keep a paperweight on my desk that says:
The difference between ordinary and extraordinary is that little EXTRA.
Revision gives us that EXTRA!

Eileen Meyer
The Superlative A. Lincoln (Charlesbridge, Nov. 2019 release date)
Sweet Dreams, Wild Animals (Mountain Press)

Tip 8:
Five Ws and the H will always help in any type of writing. Who are you writing for, what does your character want more than anything else, when does the story take place, where does it take place, why does this story have to be written and how does your character overcome obstacles to reach his or her goal?

Catherine Ann Velasco
Behind the Scenes of Pro Basketball and Behind the Scenes of Pro Baseball (Capstone Press)

Tip 9:
Writing success for the day can be small: even one word. It’s okay to spend a writing session on one sentence or even trying to brainstorm that one perfect word—authors do it all the time! Quality over quantity.

Natalie Rompella
Cookie Cutters & Sled Runners (Sky Pony Press)
The World Never Sleeps (Tilbury House)

Do you have a writing tip for middle grade teachers? Share in the comments section.

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Natalie Rompella
Natalie is the author of more than sixty books and resources for kids, including THE WORLD NEVER SLEEPS (Tilbury House, 2018) and COOKIE CUTTERS & SLED RUNNERS (Sky Pony Press, 2017), her first middle grade novel. Visit her website at www.natalierompella.com
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  2. Get real! Whenever possible, put your hands on the real object you are writing about. It is amazing how that sensory involvement and direct observation improves the writing.

    • Absolutely! When I was researching sled dog racing, it was actually being in the presence of mushers and dogs and
      COLD that helped me form my scene. Thanks for commenting, Heather.