I was asked what advice I might give to a child thinking of entering a writing competition today, the day of the official BBC Radio 2 launch of its 500 Words competition. It’s one of the best writing competitions and, with over 90,000 entries last year – yes, 90,000 entries! –, its popularity shows just how much enthusiasm there is for writing out there. Wonderful!
I think if you are seriously considering putting in an entry, you will not need me to tell you that you should be reading loads in order to improve your own writing. If you enjoy writing, the chances are you are already a great and very busy reader.
So, here goes. Here are my top ten tips for helping you through your winning entry.
- Finding inspiration hard? Anniversaries are always popular. Look at what’s coming up in 2014. Is there anything you can write about that is maybe 100, 150 or 200 years old this year? It might give you a great idea and it will also be topical.
- Write about something you know – it’s much easier to write a convincing piece when you can look at an object and describe it, know how an experience feels, or how a special place ‘smells’.
- Remember KISS – in other words, keep it simple. Don’t make your story idea too complicated or the reader might not understand what you are getting at.
- Research – a must I’m afraid. Go back to last year’s winning entries. Read them. Go on to read the judges’ comments. Write down why you think the winning entries actually won – a few key words will be helpful here.
- Write about an emotion. People identify with all kinds of emotions; if you have something you want to say about losing a friend for example, or being bullied and you came through it okay, an emotive piece will be something many of us will identify with. Writing your thoughts down on paper may also help you to sort out your head if you haven’t already done so.
- Re-write a fairy tale with a modern twist. This is often a popular exercise carried out in school and again is something most of us will be able to relate to. Make it edgy and modern for extra appeal.
- Look at what’s happening in the news or your local community. Something from real life could inspire you.
- Get your family, friends and teachers to read what you have written and be open to what they have to say – good and bad. Change your work if you feel you should.
- Go to the BBC Radio 2 website and download the useful tips they have for story writing, reference: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p00rfvk1
- Finally, but by no means last, enjoy the piece that you write. Your enjoyment will show in your writing.
Good luck to you all.