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Kids & Aliens

Ted’s Ten Writing Tips for Kids

Here are ten tips for writing poems (or anything important) that I find handy. Maybe you will too.

1. Read!

This may sound like a funny tip for writing, but it’s my most important tip of all. Gobble up every book you can. Every successful writer I know reads a lot–both poetry and stories. I get totally inspired by other writers, including you! Sadly, I didn’t read a whole lot as a kid, so I got a slow start. But I do read now.

2. Write down all your ideas, quickly, before they escape!

I keep an idea notebook. It doesn’t have to be neat. It’s a private place. I add 5-6 new ideas to my idea notebook each day. Do they all become poems or stories? No, but someday, somewhere I’ll use them. When I’m stuck some days, or need a little inspiration, I love to take an idea notebook journey, and read through my collections of ideas.

3. Try to write as often as you can.

Everyday would be great. Keep a separate writing journal. Writing leads to more writing, and better ideas. Everyday you get better. Sometimes I’ll try to write in a style of some other writer, just for fun. It’s fun to experiment.

4. Write about things you feel strongly about and know well

Write not only things you love, but also things you don’t like too much. Poems (and all writing) are strongest if the writer really knows what she/he is talking about, or has experienced it first-hand.

5. Develop a “first draft checklist” for revising.

When I write a poem and finish the first draft, here are some things I try to do.

a. Read my poem over several times quietly (or sometimes loudly).
b. Take out the words that don’t have power, or change them.
c. Look at every word, especially the verbs (those powerful action words).
(“The old man trudged, or limped, or slouched, or crawled up the hill” sounds so much better than, “The old man walked slowly up the hill,” don’t you think?
d. I ask myself, “does my poem say what I want it to say? Did I leave anything out?”
e. I ask, “does it look like I want it to? Does it have the right shape?”
f. I ask, “does it sound right?” A poem has to be read out loud—first to yourself, and then to a thoughtful audience.

How many drafts do I do? Good question. At least ten, usually more. Sometimes changing one word can change an entire poem—especially changing verbs!

6. Don’t worry about rhyming.

Searching for just the right rhyming words can really slow you down, and very often is not as powerful as writing non-rhyming, free verse poems. I find it’s often harder to convey true, honest feelings in a rhyming poem. Having a smooth, powerful flow of words is more important.

7. Read your poem out loud, to yourself or to a friend.

Sometimes I read my poem first to my dog. When she wags her tail, I learn nothing, except that she wants to go out, or eat, or be patted. But I can tell if it sounded good to me. You have to hear, and like, your own words, in your own ears, before anyone else does.

8. Have someone read your poem to you!

When your poem is just the way you like it, be courageous and give your poem to a friend to read to you. This is the ultimate test. It’s fun to hear your words rolling off of someone else’s tongue.

9. Don’t give up until your poem is just the way you like it.

Put your poem away for a while, maybe even several days or weeks. When you come back to it later, you’ll see and hear your poem with new eyes and fresh ears.

10. Share your poem with the world.

Publish it. Send it to friends and family. It feels so great to have others enjoying your hard work and creativity. You can also send your poem to me so I can share it with the world on this website. Read all the cool kid-poems here, and also find out just how to send me one of yours. I’m waiting… What’s taking you so long…