Here are a few ideas which might help with your writing. One of the things you need is raw material. Jokes, little stories, places, people and the sorts of words we use. You also need feelings. You know - sadness, joy, anger, fear, embarrassment and worry. Where do you find this raw material? In your own life, that's where. People say to me "You must have an interesting life, Paul Jennings". Well, yes I do, but so do you. Everyone has something worth writing about. If you think hard, you'll find there are countless stories in your life. What your dog did. The time you ran away from home. How adults don't understand what it's like to be a kid sometimes. How you hated speaking in front of the class.All your experiences are fantastic raw material. Remember, if it made you cry it will make someone else cry. If you are embarrassed, other people will be too. You take these feelings and exaggerate them a bit - make them larger than they really were. Once, I was embarrassed because I forgot to change out of my old painty trousers into clean ones when I went to a posh dinner. Embarrassing - but not good enough for a story. I changed it to a boy who is embarrassed because his head got stuck in a toilet seat and he can't get it off. That would make people in the restaurant sit up and look.
I am nearly always the main character in my stories. Lots of the events are straight from my own childhood and others are things that I wish could happen. Like, being able to fly or read people's thoughts.
Before you write the first line, think. Is it interesting? I never start my stories with ‘It was a sunny day and the sun peeped out from behind the clouds’. That's no good. The reader has already closed the book or fallen asleep. Go for an unusual start. How about ‘I did not eat your jeans. Well, not on purpose anyway’. Or ‘My cat laughs every time I sneeze’. Or maybe ‘Is this the way to the Hell's Angels Flower Show?’. You can probably do better. Why not try?
Another very important thing is the title. It may be the best story ever, but if the title is so boring that people don't even start to read it, they will never know. So a lot of thought has to go into the title. I don't usually choose a title until my story or book is finished.
My first stories were terrible. I can't bear to read them any more. If you keep practising you get better. Read, read, read. If you're not a reader you won't be a writer.
Don't let anyone tell you that you are just a kid - your life is as important as anyone else's. When you tell your own stories they are real. Add a bit of fantasy and you have MAGIC!!
I always knew deep down that what I really wanted was to be a writer - right from when I was young. When I was 16, I wrote a story and sent it to a magazine. When they rejected my story I was so upset that I didn’t write again for years. I always tell people now ‘never be hurt by being rejected. Just keep on trying and most of all don’t give up’. Many years later I decided to write again - the sort of stories which I thought would make reading fun for children. This time I decided not to give up and Penguin Books liked my stories and published Unreal! in 1985.
The question that every writer is asked the most is 'where do you get your ideas from' and I think the best answer to this is 'everywhere'. Everything that happens to you and the people around you can give you an idea for a story. That's not to say it's easy. Thinking up ideas can be very hard work and for me it's the hardest part of writing a story. It takes about a year to write my collections of short stories and the part that takes the longest is actually thinking up the ideas. It's great when I eventually think of a plot that I know is good.
I have to write down any new ideas straight away, because if I don't I might forget it. I keep an 'ideas book' and I always write my story plans in it. I only type it up when I know exactly how the story ends and what I want to write. Not all writers work in this way - some just start writing and see where it leads them. It's a good job that we're not all the same. That would be boring.
When I finish a story I send it to my editor. I read it through several times first to make sure there are no mistakes (I don't like doing that very much). It's a nice feeling when she rings and tells me she likes the story (she mostly does).
After that it has to be edited and then there may be more work for me to do - parts of the story might need changing to make it sound better, or I might change the names in the story. All those sorts of things. This part of the process is very important. It's the part I like the least of all, because once I've finished a story I hate to keep going back through it all again. I just want to move on to the next story.
While all these things are going on, someone like Bob Lea, Keith McEwan, Peter Gouldthorpe or Craig Smith have been working on the illustrations. I really look forward to seeing their first sketches for the covers.
Then there's the title! How did I choose my book titles? Well, unreal is a word my children often used, so that's how my first book got its name. Then I realised how many 'UN' words there are and thought it would be fun to use them for all my collections of short stories (apart from Quirky Tails and Tongue Tied).
When it's all finished there is one more thing - the dedication. I usually dedicate my books to members of my family and very special friends.
And then, there's the best bit of all - picking up the very first copy of the book. When I get that first copy I just can't put it down for ages. It's a very special sort of feeling.
We are always pleased to see young people's writing, however most writers work for years and years before they have had enough practice to make their work suitable for publication, and there are so many good children's writers around that new people's work does have to be absolutely exceptional in order to compete.
Should you find your age a drawback to having your work accepted for publication, please don't stop writing! Keep at it and make the best of chances at school to share your work with teachers, classmates, family and friends.
Many young writers submit their work to magazines, particularly those with a children's section like the two listed at the bottom of this page.
Good luck and have fun with your writing.
All the best