Some writing opportunities for young (or not so young) writers!

Start 360 are running a competition for 16-21 year olds. It’s for poems or stories, there are cash prizes, and it’s judged by Wendy Erskine. Wendy is a brilliant, published short story writer from Belfast, so this is a great opportunity to have her read your work! The closing date is 31st October.


And it’s that time of year again… NaNoWriMo is upon us! That’s National Novel Writing Month for the uninitiated, and it’s basically Holy Month for writers. The idea is that you write a whole novel (or whatever goal you want to set) during the month of November, and you can find out all about it here.

I love NaNo because:

  • It’s a great way to stay motivated for a whole month
  • They have a big website with loads of resources, writing advice, stats and graphs you can geek out over to log your progress, forums to chat to other NaNo-ers, prompt generators, writing sprint challenges, and other tools to help you reach your goal (there’s a link to the Young Writers NaNo on the main site for under 18s)
  • It’s a great way to learn the discipline of sitting down to write regularly
  • It’s a good way to get stuck into a big project you’ve been scared of starting
  • It’s all free and there’s a huge international community of people of all ages who do it every year
  • Because you have to focus on getting words on the page fast, there’s no room for your inner critic to start putting doubts in your head. You can’t stop to fix broken paragraphs, polish rough sentences, spend three days renaming your main character, mend plot holes or obsess over alliteration. No room for perfectionism, you have to be utterly ruthless. Keep moving, leave the dying behind, keep a picture of Katniss on your desk.

You don’t even have to get involved in the website and forums if that’s not your thing. I always just do it along with my own critique group. We each set a goal for November and then we check in on Facebook (because we’re old) every day to say how we’re getting on. It creates a nice feeling of solidarity in what can otherwise be a lonely activity.

This year I noticed that on the website there’s a planning workbook (download here: NaNo Prep 101 Course Editable 2021) to help you plan your novel in advance! It looks very thorough and contains loads of practical tips and useful information about things like character development, story structure and developing your ideas. I think it would be really useful to any writer or writing group even if you’re not doing NaNo. You could download it and use the exercises in it with your group at any time.

There’s also a ‘For Educators’ section full of resources. So do check out the website, there’s bound to be something your group can use.

In other news, one of my teen writers got sick of waiting for her school to set up a creative writing group so she’s only gone and started one herself! I am mega-impressed by this. Honestly, my young writers inspire me every single week in so many ways. I think I might change my title from ‘Teen Writing Group Leader’ to ‘Teen Writing Group Fangirl.’ They’re amazing!