How To Help Children Create Brilliant Stories

I’m feeling the Christmas spirit already – I’m busy planning a Christmas creative writing workshop for children. It’ll be my first in-person workshop in two years, so I’m very excited. I’m hoping the children will have tonnes of fun – I know I will.

But behind every fun activity is a real storytelling skill, which the children will learn without knowing it. They’ll create naughty elves, travel to faraway lands and discover who stole Rudolph’s red nose. Along the way, they’ll learn how to create characters, build real worlds and structure their stories. On top of that, they’ll learn valuable language skills.

Character Sketch

First of all, the children will create a naughty elf. This elf may or may not be the creature who stole Rudolph’s nose. They’ll create a character sketch of this elf, a profile of a character that helps you get to know them. Based on a picture I give them and some headings, they’ll come up with a name for their elf, an age, some biographical details – and a special power that the elf can put to good use. Knowing details like this about a character makes them real.

World-Building

We’ll then move on to a storytelling ingredient that children really love – setting. Your setting is the world your story happens in, and children get a great kick out of creating worlds. They’ll draw a map of their world, with mountains, rivers, valleys, streets and towns. And they’ll give their land a name. I sense this land will have a strong Christmas theme.

This pic shows a Christmas village full of red houses that have stripy cone-shaped roofs like circus tents. There’s snow on the ground but the sky is clear.

If you live near Tramore in Co. Waterford and you have a budding writer in your house aged 7-10, you’ll find out more about my workshop here.Creating Exciting Plots

We all love Rudolph’s red nose, but imagine if that nose was stolen. Who would do such a wicked thing? The children at the workshop will solve the mystery, and the Five Ws plot to help them structure their ideas. They’ll figure out who stole the red nose, when it was taken, where it was hidden – and above all, why it was stolen.

Other Fun Wordy Activities

Between story activities, we’ll have other word fun, to help the children enhance their language and writing skills. They’ll come up with words for my Christmas hat, play guessing games and create a disgusting Christmas dinner. It’ll be a packed two hours!

If you’d like your kids to join in the fun, or you want to find out about my workshops in general – I promise my workshops for adults are just as much fun – contact me on derbhile@writewordseditorial.ie.

How To Deliver One-To-One Writing Workshops For Children

Recently, I’ve been surprised to find myself delivering one-to-one creative writing workshops for children. I wouldn’t have thought of offering these workshops to parents, as a one-to-one session can be quite intense, and children thrive on being able to bounce ideas off each other and have fun with their friends.

What Happens in These Writing Workshops

But I was approached by a few parents after some online writing workshops I gave this year. Their children had greatly enjoyed my workshops and didn’t want to wait until my next session of writing workshops. It started during Ireland’s long lockdown at the start of 2021, with a young boy who was writing his own book.

In August and September, I worked with a lively brother and sister duo on a story about an alien crashlanding into their house. At the moment, I’m working with two cousins on a story about a family who must rescue a treasure from a faraway land. All of these children are aged twelve and under, and it’s amazing to witness their imagination, their spirit and the progress they’ve made.

How These Writing Workshops Work

Delivering one-to-one workshops gives me the opportunity to tailor the workshops to the children’s interests, and to write stories that truly express who they are. As the two girls I’m working with are related, I thought a story about family would resonate with them, and that has turned out to be the case. There’s a strong sense of family connection in the pieces they’re writing.

If children have already begun working on projects of their own, a one-to-one workshop gives them the space to develop that project further, to learn skills that will help them bring their projects over the finishing line. For example, I showed the young boy who was writing a book how to expand his scenes, structure his story and write convincing dialogue.

You can find out more about my writing workshops for children and adults by clicking on the Solutions for Writers page on my website.

Usually, children just need a couple of one-to-one workshops to help them complete a story or develop one they’re already working on. Because they’re not having to share my time with a bunch of others, they progress much faster. While hour-long sessions work for some children, I would recommend sessions lasting 30-45 minutes, to keep up momentum and hold their attention.

Atmosphere of Writing Workshops

The atmosphere in a one-to-one workshop is a little more serious. I’ll happily admit that when I have a group of children, I join in the fun and banter. But children who go for a one-to-one workshop are more serious about their writing, so I take them seriously. I talk to them in a more grown-up way. There are still plenty of laughs, but I treat them as writers, because that is what they are.

This picture shows a little girl with blonde curly hair, wearing a blue blouse. She has a white notebook in front of her face and she’s writing in it with fierce concentration.

One-to-one workshops are a great option for children who are serious about writing. The livewires can let off steam and they create a comfortable environment for quieter children to speak, knowing they don’t have to compete with a noisy crowd. If you have a child who likes writing but isn’t into group activities, or who is working on their own book, one-to-one writing workshops could be a perfect fit.

If you’d like to find out more about my one to one writing workshops, give me a call or a WhatsApp on 0876959799.

Announcing the WriteWords Online Children’s Writing Course

Every summer, I run a creative writing course for children. And I don’t see why this summer should be any different. Last week, I told you about my online writing courses for adults. Now, I’m going to do an the same for children. I’m going to run an online children’s writing course for children aged between seven and ten.

Inspiration for Writing Course

It was actually two boys I know who inspired me to take my writing courses online. Their mother asked me to give them some writing classes over WhatsApp during the height of lockdown, and they went really well. At first, it was strange speaking into a screen, but the boys took it in their stride, and given that I wasn’t in the room with them, they concentrated really well.

I’m going to run five one-hour sessions. The first four sessions will each cover a different creative writing skill. The final day will be a feast for the senses, as we let ourselves be inspired by what we hear, what we see and what we taste. The sessions will be highly interactive, with lots of laughter and chat, and they will feel like real-world writing classes.

What Will Happen During the Camp

On the first day, we’ll concentrate on language. The children will make up their own words, play with the alphabet and write about summer without using the word summer. The second day will be all about creating characters, both real and imagined.

On the third day, the children will create worlds. This is always a popular session. They create their own countries, name them and draw a map of them. They’ll also travel back in time, to imagine what their house might have looked like in the 1920s. This class will teach them about the value of setting, the place and time in which a story takes place.

Photo illustrates that the online children’s writing course will be just as enriching as a real-world course

Children writing at a big table during one of my previous writing courses. The walls behind them are white and there are paintings on them.

The fourth day is all about what happens in stories: in other words, the plot. The children will devise their own newspaper, filled with exciting stories. On the final day, as the children explore their senses, they’ll create their own disgusting recipes and list and make their favourite sounds.

If I’ve managed to whet your appetite, my online children’s writing course will run from 13-17 July, from 10-11am each day. The price of the camp will be €40 per child, with concessions for two children or more.

If you’d like to book a place for your child, call me on 087 6959799 or email derbhile@writewordseditorial.ie.

What You’ll Learn in an Online Writing Course

I was delighted at the response I got when I announced to my social media networks that I was giving online writing courses. I had written a blog post telling people what sorts of online courses I was offering for adults and children, Now I’m writing another one to tell you exactly what you can expect when you sign up for these online courses.

A question will naturally come up in your mind. What will an online writing course be like?

Answer: the same as a real-world class. Or at least as close to a real-world class as I can get it. That’s why I’m delivering interactive classes via videoconferencing rather than posting a series of videos and notes. That’s the way courses are organised on an online educational portal such as Udemy or Coursera.

I want my online writing courses to feel like the real thing. You’ll do the activities in real time and I’ll give you feedback in real time.

I will write a separate blog post about what my children’s writing camp will be like, but for now, I’ll talk about my adult writing course. You’ll have six two-hour writing sessions and each one will focus on a different writing technique. Then I’ll ask you to write your own piece, based on what you’ve learned during the course.

Getting Started

I’ll ease you in gently with lots of icebreaking activities aimed at helping you break free of your inhibitions. You’ll learn that your writing is not as crap as you thought it was. You’ll also discover that when your mind is set free, it comes up with amazing ideas. We’ll also do language activities that aim to help you describe your world in fresh ways.

Three Pillars of Storytelling

The next three sessions will be devoted to each of the three pillars of storytelling: character, setting and plot. Character will come up first. You’ll learn how to create a character and make them come alive.

In the character class, you’ll create a profile for this crazy creature. Photo Description: He’s an old man with a long, pointy bears and a thin face.

Setting refers to the world where your story happens, in terms of both place and time. In the session about setting, you’ll learn how to create believable worlds for your characters. And the plot session will help you structure your story and decide what happens next.

Other Creative Writing Skills

After that, we’ll have a session that’s a feast for the senses – literally, as you’ll be learning how to weave all five of your senses into your writing. We’ll explore how our senses can evoke emotions and unlock memories, which will give you inspiration for your writing. Our final class will deal with point of view, as in the point of view we choose to tell our story from. The viewpoint we choose will shape how your reader experiences the story and what opinion they form of the characters.

The Final Bit

After the six sessions are over, I’ll ask you to create a piece of writing of your own. You may have been inspired by one of the activities on the course, or you may have a piece of writing you were already working on. You send it to me and I will give you feedback that will help you develop it further, if you wish.

If you’d like to chat to me directly about how these classes work, call me on 087 6959799 or email derbhile@writewordseditorial.ie.