“By Failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.” – Benjamin Franklin.
It seems that people have been writing about planning for as long as people have been writing. so it’s no wonder that children should learn to use planning in their writing, but this simple key to successfully writing a good story is often over looking. We want our kids to succeed and feel the joy of accomplishment, and I’ve learn the hard way that not planning either leads to failure or at least a whole lot of frustration and the long zig zagging path. The quote written so long ago by good old Ben sums it up well!
As an author I believe that one of the great keys to help your child unlock their creativity in story writing is by teaching them the valuable skill planning all aspects of their story before writing it. It’s like having a map for your story, so you know where your going and can relax and have fun on the journey.
I have to confess this is a lesson I learnt the hard way. When I wrote my first book I didn’t plan much, I had an idea but no plan I just let the ideas flow, and I do believe this has a place in creative writing (see my other blogs), it was wonderful until I came to editing it for print. I ended up spending months jiggling things around, moving chapters from the middle to the front, ditching whole chapters and writing new ones, whilst I still loved every moment of it, it was a challenge and hugely time consuming and could have been avoided.
After my first book was published I was invited into schools to talk and give workshops on story writing. I noticed again and again that teachers wanted their pupils to learn the skills of planning their story before writing it. I was often put on the spot when teachers said ‘I’m sure Beth can tell you all about how important it is to plan a story before writing’. Gradually I began to realised I had somehow managed to skip this part in my story writing and could offer little advice from my own experience. However, this nugget of information became a great help to me when I came to writing my next book; ‘Escape from Paradise’, the sequel to my first. To my frustration I found that it just did not flow spontaneously the same way my first book did. It was then that the art of a seemingly boring task that I thought at first squashed creativity, in fact served me well and actually allowed my creativity to flourish, and saved me from a whole lot of major editing before the publisher sent it to print.
Now I’m not saying that a book or a story cannot be written without first planning it, and I believe as we develop skills in story writing our stories can flow out of us with little or no planning (expect extra editing though), once we have learnt the art of a story arch, naturally allowing the story to build to a climax and down to a conclusion. However, for many of us this doesn’t come naturally and often causes the writer to heading off in various direction and eventually become lost, or with multiple paths to take the story down, and unable to bring the story to the ending it deserves, and in my experience of tutoring young pupils in creative writing, this often causes them grow frustrated and giving up on their story, and believing that they are not good at story writing.
Encouraging children to plan their story plot, characters, story writing ingredient, 5 W’s and much more will help them succeed and feel a sense of achievement. This will allow them to grow in confidence in story writing and other forms of writing.
Here are 4 steps to get you started:
Come up with an idea, use games, suggestions and other ideas to help, my plot cards for a great way to come up with an idea.
Write a basic plot, opening to ending, just one simple sentence is enough, this will become you story map.
Decide on the 5 W’s ‘What, when, where, who and why’, you may find you’ve already covered this in the plot plan.
Decide which story tools/ingredients you will need in each section of the story, see my ingredients cards to help navigate this task.
Use planning sheets to record all the above and to work out each different elements of your story, then refer back to them once you start writing.
Planning a story before writing it is a great skill for children to learn, especially for those not naturally gifted in creative writing and allows for greater creativity and more success in writing a complete readable story. The task of planning can be more complex than simply planning the opening, build up, problem, solution and ending, especially for those really wanting to write a well written story, therefore, you may find it helpful to use teaching resources and supporting worksheets to helps kids navigate this often tricky skill.
For a resource to support all elements of planning using worksheets, tips and checks lists see my Complete Bumper Story Planning Pack. The Pack includes Worksheets on the 4 above points plus much much more that has not been covered in this blog entry from finding that awesome idea which in itself can be extremely difficult, to planning characters, details and choosing writing ingredients they want to include in their story.
My Story Planning Pack is a colourful 17 page downloadable pdf, which you can download and print from home and supports the planning process in a fun way. Print all the pages or just the ones needed for what you want to teach in any particular lesson.
Give your kids a head start to succeed and help them learn by their own experience that planning is a key to victory!!