Fear of the blank page haunts every writer, young or old. Writing this blog began with a long period of staring at an empty white space until inspiration struck and I was brave enough to set down some words, that grew to a paragraph, until finally becoming this finished blog. The key is to start writing!
But how? Writing is hard. Even for professional authors the task of putting words to the page is a daily struggle. So how do you make it easy? Or at least easier, so that young aspiring authors feel the confidence to put pen to paper and produce a story.
Every story begins with an idea. Jake and Jen in the Tomb of Ice was inspired by my two children playing in the garden, imagining they were explorers on a mission. I watched how they invented obstacles, wild animals and dangers out of the garden furniture, scattered toys and trampoline. This became the central concept for the book and its ultimate twist.
But what if no idea immediately comes to mind? Then three useful sources for inspiring stories are:
- Book covers – ask your students to choose a book they haven’t read before and imagine what the story is about using only the cover and title as a guide. The concept for my new trilogy, The Soul Prophecy, was triggered by an eye-catching book cover – my idea turned out to be completely different from the actual story within!
- Historical lives – select a person in history, e.g. Neil Armstrong the first man on the moon, and write about them as a child or doing what made them famous from the perspective of a child. My Young Samurai series is partly inspired by William Adams, the first foreign samurai. I simply wondered what his life would have been like if he’d arrived in Japan as a child rather than a man.
- The news – have your students read or listen to the news. Ask them to choose a story that interests them and write about it as if they were there and had experienced it first hand. Or it might be just a phrase that sparks an idea. My BODYGUARD series was born from a single line I heard on the radio about security: “The best bodyguards are the ones nobody notices.”
Once you have an the idea, where do you start? The best advice is from screenwriter William Goldman who suggests to arrive as late as possible to the scene and leave as soon as possible! So begin in the right middle of the action. Let the explanations come later.
Now we have an idea and a starting point. But there’s still a blank page to fill!
The most effective way to stimulate writing is to set a target and a deadline. For me, I set myself the goal of writing a chapter each day – between 1000-1500 words in 8 hours. So give your students a target of perhaps two paragraphs in ten minutes or 50 words in 15 minutes. The pressure to produce means you can’t over-think what you’re writing and therefore the writing should flow more naturally. (Remember, this is a first draft so it doesn’t have to be perfect!).
Then it’s simply a matter of daily practice. The more practice you have writing, the braver you become until the courage to write is simply a matter of picking up a pen. Or in my case, a samurai sword!
Chris Bradford is the bestselling author of the Young Samurai, Ninja and Bodyguard Series. He is renowned for his inspiring author events and ‘method writing’ style. His books have been published in more than 25 languages and been nominated for over 30 book awards. Jake and Jen in the Tomb of Ice is his first book with illustrator Korky Paul in the Collins Big Cat Phonics for Letters and Sounds programme. Discover more about Chris or book an author visit.