November is National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo for the abbreviation-lovers out there. Every November, writers all over the world take on the challenge of writing a 50,000-word draft of a novel. Yes, you read that right: 50,000 words in 30 days. Crazy, I know, but last year, nearly 170,000 people participated in the event, writing a total of more than 2.4 billion words.

Your students or children might not be to the novel-writing stage yet, but this is a wonderful time to introduce them to the joys of creative writing. After all, each one of those 170,000 people had to start somewhere. For me, my start was in the second grade when I wrote the book pictured here. It wasn’t exactly a best-seller, trust me. But no matter how rough their first efforts are, it’s never too early to get your young learners ready to become the next great novelist. Here are some tips and starting points for getting them writing.

All about me
One of the easiest ways to get kids writing is to have them write about something they know—themselves! Have your students write a personal description. This could include a physical description, likes and dislikes, hobbies, or similar topics. Ask them to make the descriptions as detailed as possible. If you’re working with a group of students, you could play a game in which you read the descriptions and then have the other children guess who the description belongs to.

My first . . .
This is another opportunity for children to write about themselves. Have your students write about a time when they did something for the first time. It could be the first time riding a bike, the first time going to school, the first time going camping—whatever comes to their minds.

Reading response
After your students read a story, ask them to write about a similar event that happened in their own lives. This not only gives students a starting point for creative writing but also helps them make a connection to what they have read.

Picture prompt
Show your students a picture. It could be a photograph or a picture in a magazine, newspaper, or book. Ask them to write a story to go along with the picture. This is a lot of fun when more than one student is writing a story about the same picture. You’ll be amazed by how different their stories will be.

What happens next?
This is similar to the picture prompt activity, but it uses words as the launching pad instead of a picture. Give your students a starting point for their stories. For example, you could write the first two lines of a story and ask them to write what happens next.

Story with a twist
Read your students a story or have them read it on their own. Ask them to retell the story with a twist. Maybe they could retell it in a new setting or with the villain as the hero. Who wouldn’t want to read a story about Cinderella in space?

I’m sure there are hundreds of other ideas out there. Just think about what inspires you to create. Chances are, your students or children will be inspired by some of those same things. And maybe someday you’ll see one of their books on the shelf at the bookstore. Then you can tell your friends, “I remember when . . .”