Writing skills are essential for succeeding in high school, college, and at a job. If essays and papers stress you out, keep in mind, writing is not just an end result, but also a process that helps you develop your ideas and think logically.

Getting Started

Begin by brainstorming topics, collecting information, taking a lot of notes, and asking a lot of questions. Keep your notes and sources organized as you go.

When developing your topic, look for patterns and relationships. See what conclusions you can draw. Try discussing your ideas with classmates or your teacher. A new perspective can help shake up your thinking, and keep your momentum going.

Organize Your Writing

Develop an outline to help you stay on track as you write, identifying your main points and what you want to conclude. Keep in mind basic essay and paper structure:

  • The introduction should give your reader an idea of the essay's intent, including a basic statement of what the essay will discuss.
  • The body presents the evidence that supports your idea. Use concrete examples whenever and avoid generalities.
  • The conclusion should summarize and make sense of the evidence you presented in the body.

The Rough Draft

You may find as you write that you end up with a different idea than the one you began with. If your first topic or conclusion doesn't hold water, be open to changing it. If necessary, re-write your outline to get yourself back on track.

Other important writing tips:

  • Keep your audience in mind.
    Write for the general reader, unless your teacher tells you otherwise. "The general reader" refers to anyone of average intelligence with a fairly sound, basic education.
  • Get acquainted with the vocabulary.
    Become familiar with the vocabulary of your subject. For example, when writing about fiction, drama, and poetry, critical writers use words such as: syntax, tone, attitude, voice, speaker, and thesis.

Refine and Proofread

When you're done, take a break so you can come back to your writing with fresh eyes. Ask yourself:

  • Is the writing clear?
  • Do the ideas make sense?
  • Are all of my requirements fulfilled?
  • Did I avoid repetition?
  • Have I used proper grammar and spelling?
  • How does it sound read out loud?

Leave enough time to show your draft to others -- use your school's writing center, if possible. A fresh perspective can help you polish your paper, and catch inconsistencies and mistakes.

Read More

What you read influences how you write and can become your teacher without you being aware of it. For example, if you read Great Expectations before writing a paper your writing will probably start to sound similar to Charles Dickens'. Of course the same goes if you read "Teen People."

Note sure what to read? If you liked a book you read in class, ask your teachers to recommend others like it, or read more by the same author. For ideas on great reading check out our 101 Great Books list.

Reading is also a great way to conquer writers' block. Reading helps exercise your mind and get your ideas moving again. Of course, a great way to prevent writers' block is to write more.

Write More

You've heard it before, but this advice never gets old: practice makes perfect. The more writing you do, the better you'll get. And as your skills improve, so will your enjoyment. Here are a few ways some students write outside the classroom that you might want to consider:

  • Keep a journal of your thoughts and the events of the day
  • Start a zine with your friends on topics important to you
  • Write letters to the editor of the magazines and newspapers you read

When you're in the habit of writing -- no matter what kind of writing it is -- papers and essays won't seem as difficult.

Four Tips to Improve Your Writing Skills

And How to Avoid Common Mistakes

Below are some basic writing "rules," along with an example of the rule being broken. Learn how to avoid these common mistakes.

1. Be Consistent
Sequence of Tenses After he broke his arm, he is home for two weeks.
Shift of Pronoun If one is tense, they should try to relax.
Parallelism She skis, plays tennis, and flying hang gliders.
Noun Agreement Eric and James want to be a pilot.
Pronoun Reference Several people wanted the job, and he or she filled out the required applications.
Subject-Verb Agreement There is eight people on the shore.
2. Express Ideas Logically
Coordination and Subordination Jen has a rash, and she is probably allergic to something.
Logical Comparison Joey grew more vegetables than his neighbor's garden.
Modification and Word Order Barking loudly, the tree had the dog's leash wrapped around it.
3. Be Clear and Precise
Ambiguous and Vague Pronouns In the newspaper they say that few people voted.
Diction He circumvented the globe on his trip.
Wordiness There are many problems in the contemporary world in which we live.
Improper Modification If your car is parked here while not eating in the restaurant, it will be towed away.
4. Follow Conventions
Pronoun Case He sat between you and I at the stadium.
Idiom Jack had a different opinion towards him.
Comparison of Modifiers Of the sixteen executives, Gretchen makes more money.
Sentence Fragment Abby having to go home early.
Double Negative Andie has scarcely no free time.

If you're not sure whether you're following the rules of writing correctly, be sure to ask your teachers or parents for help.

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Getting Started
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Writing is a process with several steps to follow. This workshop allows you to work through all the steps in the writing process with online resources. You can start at step one and work through the rest of the steps in order, or you can jump in to the workshop at any step where you would like some help or ideas.

This is what you can find in each section:

1. Ideas:
Search the Internet for inspiration! Links to many pages on topics of interest to kids.
2. Writing:
Links to tips on writing and interactive writing projects
3. Revising:
Use these links to hook up with keypals or network with other young writers on the Internet. Exchanging ideas is a great way to take another look at and add to your story.
4. Editing:
Once the content of your story is set, follow these links to online references to check facts, spelling, and other details.
5. Publishing:
Find online magazines and other places to share your finished story!
6. Teacher resource page:
Includes pages that can fit into several of the above categories, links to online writing projects, places to find strategies for teaching writing and more.

Finding Ideas

Sometimes, finding an idea is the hardest part of writing a story. Most writers say you should write about what interests you or about what you know. The Internet is a fantastic place to go looking for inspiration! Spend some time checking out these pages that link to hundreds of sites of interest to kids. When you find a site you like, start imagining yourself or another character in the place you are visiting. A great way to start is by asking the question, "What if...?"

HINT: If you are serious about writing a story, try to focus your exploration on finding an idea. There is so much to see and do here that you might never get beyond these pages unless you keep your goal in mind.

Search for information on your topic.


BEST SEARCH ENGINES...JUST CLICK AND SEARCH!
Google  yahoo  

Make Dogpile Your Homepage
 

Revising

This is not the part where you run the spellchecker! In fact, revising a story has nothing to do with correcting spelling mistakes. The word "revise" really means to take another look at something. If you are not satisfied with your story, this is the step where you add details, dialogue or action to make the story more interesting. Sometimes it means cutting out parts of the story that don't work. You will make a second or third draft of the story--sometimes more! Most writers say they spend more time revising than writing the first draft.

One of the best ways to take another look at your story is to get someone else's opinion. On the Internet, you can find keypals or other ways to meet kids who can read your stories and tell you what they think.

KidsNet
This club is a place on the net to meet other 8 to 15 year olds. Find key pals, or meet and talk in chat rooms. Discuss popular topics or your stories. You must register online to participiate.
KidsCom
If you register in this communications playground for kids ages 4 to 15, you can find keypals, submit ideas for a weekly interactive story and vote for the story ideas you like best.
www.thekids.com
This site could help with many steps of the young authors workshop. A visit to the discussion rooms or a look at some of the stories and fables from around the world might help you take another look at your story. (This sounds like the site listed above, but it's not!)
The Young Writers Club
This club encourages young writers to share their work and improve their writing skills. The club also has places to publish your work, including the Global Wave magazine and interactive stories.
The Quill Society
This Writer's Forum is for young authors ages 12 to 24 who write poetry, literature and screenplays. Discuss your writing with peers, post your stories to the bulletin board for exposure and suggestions, receive constructive criticisim from the Board

Publishing Your Work

Stories, Articles, and Poems

One of the greatest things about the Internet for young authors is that you can really publish and share your finished stories with an audience from around the world. Here you will find links to online magazines that accept stories, poems, or articles by young writers. In most cases, your writing will be sent as an e-mail attachment.

If you follow the online manuscript guidelines, you can submit stories or poems to this page by and for kids.
This site is part of the Internet Classroom Young Authors Magazine. Type your 8 to 12 line poem directly into this site.
This site is another part of the Internet Classroom Young Authors Magazine named above.
A literary magazine to publish the writings of Grade 4 to 6 students.
A great place to publish your stories online AND link up with keypals.
Links to many online magazines and journals that publish stories and articles by children.
Submit news, features, reviews, creative writing or sports articles to this online newspaper for kids. This site also has a place for kids to meet and talk.
This site encourages kids creativity in music, art, and writing. You can hook up with keypals and also publish your writing here.
An online magazine by and for middle school students age 10 to 15. This magazine is published four times a year, has interactive sites, and accepts submissions from young writers.
This Seattle, Washington-based online magazine features writing by students and will also link you up with pen friends.
This slick online magazine features writing by middle school students in many genres including fiction, horror, fantasy, historical fiction, sports, movie reviews and profiles.
Submit your story by e-mail, and read other stories by kids.
 

Other types of Writing

This site lets you make your own newspaper and return here to read it online.

Writing Contests

Children's author Hazel Hutchins hosts this monthly short story writing contest.
Lists several ongoing writing contests for short stories and poetry. of Critics, and participate in weekly IRC chats.