Cultivating Writing In High School
- C.J. Darlington Author
- 2011 12 Jul
I’ve wanted to be a writer since I was twelve years old. Being homeschooled gave me the freedom to pursue my dreams, but there were many practical ways I cultivated my desire to become a published author. Here are five tips on how to cultivate your writing and the writing of your children:
A big part of my writing education in high school came from reading, especially books like those I wanted to write. As I read, I soaked in the proper structure of stories without even realizing it. The more I read, the more I learned what worked and didn’t work. If you aspire to write it’s important to read widely, and as a homeschooler my parents always encouraged me to read outside our curriculum.
*Regularly spend the day at a library perusing the shelves. Don’t be afraid to try something new.
*Parents, encourage your kids to read by always having a wide variety of books on hand. Let them pick what interests them. Allow your kids to start a book without pressuring them to finish. (Trust me, if it’s a good story, they will.) If they don’t like something, don’t force them to read it, but be sure to suggest they try another!
Seek Out How-to Books on the Craft
I’ve never taken a class on writing, but I feel like I have. There are so many wonderful writing how-to books available that can teach the fine points. A few I recommend for homeschoolers are A Novel Idea by ChiLibris (Tyndale House), Plot & Structure by James Scott Bell (Writer’s Digest Books) and Writing for the Soul by Jerry B. Jenkins (Writer’s Digest Books). All three are written by Christian authors, so you don’t have to worry about racy examples or questionable language. When I was in high school I read every how-to book on the craft of writing I could get my hands on, and I still have many of them on my shelves today.
*Money tight? A trip to the library is in order! If the selection of writing books is limited, interlibrary loans are especially helpful. Most libraries carry back issues of periodicals like The Writer and Writer’s Digest too.
Learn How to Type Correctly
This is the number one thing I learned in high school that I’ve been able to use every single day of my adult life. At first I didn’t understand why typing with the right fingers was important, but I can now type almost as fast as I can think. Typing correctly is one of those “must learn” things for a writer. Learning how can save you a huge amount of time.
*There are many programs available for your computer that will teach you how to type. With daily practice, you can master typing in a couple weeks.
Write Every Day You Can
When I was a teen I tacked up on the wall above my desk a list called The Writers Ten Commandments. It’s still there. The number one commandment is “Thou Shalt Write”. All through my high school years I was writing something. Sometimes it was a short story. Other times it was an article for the newspaper my sister and I started. When I was fifteen I started the story that would become my first novel Thicker than Blood. I remember my Mom telling me that even if it was just fifteen minutes a day it was important to keep my pen on the paper. Moms are always right!
*If you miss a day, don’t beat yourself up. Every day is new. Start fresh tomorrow and don’t feel you have to make up.
*Sometimes a word quota is helpful. Try writing 300 words a day and see if you can keep it up for a week. You can always raise your quota.
Don’t Be Afraid to Submit Your Work
Fear of rejection paralyzes many writers, but submitting your work doesn’t have to be a scary thing. It can be exciting. My first short story was accepted for publication when I was eighteen, but it never would’ve been if I hadn’t submitted the story. Take a leap and send out your work, but be patient if an acceptance doesn’t come immediately. I have a whole stash of rejection slips. The key is to not let rejection keep you down. Keep submitting!
*Pick up a copy of the Christian Writers Market Guide to learn how to format your manuscript and find out what periodicals and publishers are accepting. Study magazines at Barnes & Noble or your local bookstore.
Writing is an exciting endeavor that has the potential to touch many lives. I encourage you to commit your writing to the Lord and wait and see what good things happen!
C.J. Darlington was homeschooled from kindergarten through grade 12 and is now the published author of two novels, Thicker Than Blood and most recently, Bound by Guilt.