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Turn pupils into published authors in five days

The process of writing and publishing a novel improves pupils' skills and raises self-esteem, Kate Parker discovers

White Water Writers

The process of writing and publishing a novel improves pupils' skills and raises self-esteem, Kate Parker discovers

Writing a novel is a lengthy process. 

Once you've thought of a best-selling idea, there's the drafting, redrafting and, of course, editing before it even gets sent to a publisher. It takes enormous self-discipline, determination and the patience of a saint. 

But for some secondary pupils, this whole process happens in days. 

At the White Water Writers' camp, small groups of pupils between the ages of 11 and 18 start a normal school week with an idea for a book. And by Friday, they are all published authors.  

Run by volunteers, the camp involves a group of 10 pupils spendiing four and a half days developing an idea for a book, drafting it, refining it, proofing it and polishing it. At the end of the process, the book is published as a paperback and sold on Amazon.

“This week, we wrote a novel. A 300-page novel. A 31,507-word novel. This is something I never would have imagined. Let me repeat that: we, 10 students, have written a novel. This has honestly been the best week ever in school,” says one Year 10 pupil.

'Publishing a book is a dream come true'

His classmate adds: "To publish a book truly is a dream come true. This project has enlightened me in many ways and will be a memory I will treasure.” 

The scheme has been developed by academics at Royal Holloway, University of London and Keele University, with the aim of improving pupils' self-esteem, while also helping them to become better writers. 

Dr Yvonne Skipper, a lecturer in psychology at Keele University, who helped to develop the programme, says: “We have now written more than 100 books with primary and secondary school-aged children, as well as looked-after children, young offenders and children with SEND.

“We have groups running at Keele and in London, and our goal is that every young person in the UK will have a book on their bookshelf that they have written."

For Carmel Martin, head of English at Blackfriars Academy in Staffordshire, the experience of taking part in the programme has been enlightening for staff as well as students.

“As the week progressed, there was a growing dynamic in the classroom that kept the pupils on task during the research and writing processes – a dynamic which became more and more self-directed and self-managed by the pupils,” she says.

All the books written by pupils who attended the camps can be found on Amazon, under the author Tim Cooks – a code name for "too many cooks". 

Schools interested in taking part can find out more by visiting the White Water Writers' website.

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