Top Teacher Tips from Eileen Armstrong (Newcastle)
“If you’re going to get anywhere in life you have to read a lot of books”
If you’ve ever been lucky enough to have a published author visit your school I’ll bet that at some point during the event, that author was asked for their advice on becoming a writer. I’m equally sure that their first tip will have been “Read, read, read – and then read some more!”
It’s impossible to be a good writer if you’re not an enthusiastic reader. Imagine a film producer who never watches movies, a composer who never listens to music or a premier league footballer who never watches a match.
It was JK Rowling who wrote “I do believe something magical can happen when you read a good book.” When we read we pick up new and interesting words and phrases, we feed our imaginations, we become smarter about all sorts of topics, we start to understand more about other people and places.
If you want to be a good writer you need to read anything and everything. Reading isn’t just about fiction, it can be comics, news articles, magazines, labels, speeches, opinions, instructions. The important thing is that it’s something you’re interested in and care about. Reading helps you understand how writing works and how it can affect and influence your reader. Most importantly, always read for the fun of it and your writing will surprise you!
The second piece of advice from authors is often – write what you know.
You might want to write your Generation Lockdown entry in the style of your favourite genre – a diary entry maybe or a funny story. Re-read your favourites with a writer’s eye – how does the author capture your attention in the very first first sentence? What actually makes you laugh? If you prefer real-life books like Wonder – how does the author make you care about the character of Auggie? How does she make you feel what he is going through? If you prefer books about football how might Dan Freedman’s Jamie Johnson describe practising during lockdown? If you’re a fan of dystopian, Divergent-style fiction, set in a now very scarily real future, think about how the authors build their worlds, increase tension and threat and make the impossible seem real while still creating hope for the future. If you love poetry then pick up any of the brilliant books by Sarah Crossan or Jason Reynolds to discover how to make every single word work perfectly for you in bringing to life places and people.
Some authors like to use a real life news story to spark their writing. You can keep up with the news here https://live.firstnews.co.uk/ https://www.bbc.co.uk/newsround or https://theconversation.com/uk Don’t forget there is still a lot of good news around too https://thehappynewspaper.com/
Alternatively, you might decide to read an award-winning book and try to decide what makes it so special. https://www.booktrust.org.uk/what-we-do/awards-and-prizes/current-prizes/blue-peter-book-awards/
The last top writing tip from published authors is always – just get started… and then finish what you start. That’s excellent advice for Generation Lockdown writers too. What are you waiting for?