Write your own graded reader: Getting started

Illustration by Agilulfo Russo from our Level 4 reader, Dracula by Bram Stoker.

Illustration by Agilulfo Russo from our Level 4 reader, Dracula by Bram Stoker.

Do you feel like sharing your own stories with your students? Would you like to just get creative and write in English? Get busy during the holidays and write a story, short or long, traditional or modern – it will help you stay creative and practise your English in an entertaining way.

We have collected some steps to follow, advice from famous authors and some apps you can use to help you get started.

1 Prewriting
Before you get to writing, you have to understand the level, the age and the interests of your audience and do some research about the topic. Writing for the classroom is slightly different from writing for native speakers so make sure that you are using the right language structures and vocabulary sets for the level of your audience.

You can find some information about the levels and structures we use for Helbling Readers in Reading Matters, our Guide to Using Graded Readers.

2 Free writing
When you start writing, you can begin with free writing. Choose a calm and quiet time of the day, relax, concentrate. Set 10 minutes for putting all your ideas on paper without worrying about using the right words or paying attention to grammar rules. Just write. If you can stay focussed for a longer period, do a double session. If you feel uncomfortable or you cannot concentrate, take a break and go back to writing whenever you feel ready. When you have finished, go back to the beginning and highlight ideas you find useful or inspirational and work from that.

3 The first sentence
We often read only the first sentence or paragraph to decide whether we like a book. Successful stories are famous for their first sentences. As Hemingway recommends, take time to ‘write one true sentence’ and go from that.

4 Create a good writing environment
Writing can be a relaxing activity during the holidays. Find a quiet corner with lots of light, set up a table and a comfy chair. If you write on a computer, try to block everything that can distract you. Check out this article about conscious computing and learn about some apps like OmmWriter, a computer program that helps you concentrate.

5 Take advice from famous authors
Here is a collection of tips from Elmore Leonard, Margaret Atwood, Jonathan Franzen, Anne Enright and other contemporary authors: Ten rules for writing fiction.

Need more ideas? Check out our two resource book for teachers:

What’s next?

You have done your research, written the first draft, and you have the first sentence. You have to keep writing, checking and editing your story. Next week we will look at ways to boost your writing process, improve your writing style and edit your text.

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