Writing is something I have always wanted to do. When I was little and mummy asked me what I wanted to do with my life I answered I wanted to be an author (I also wanted to be a pop star and model on the side but let’s face it, no one is that talented).
I admit I wasn’t much of a reader when I was at school. I liked books but they took me such a long time to get through I got frustrated with them. I even struggled to read the Harry Potter series – although let’s face it, JK Rowling doesn’t exactly write manageable stories for child readers, as original and fantastical as they are. I didn’t start reading until out of the blue I decided I wanted to study English Literature at A level – when I was already in my second year, may I add, and had to do it at double the speed. A Level English Literature isn’t exactly heavy going when it comes to reading, but it gave me a good start. During the whole course I only read Jane Eyre, The Great Gatsby, Measure For Measure, Macbeth, Atonement, Lord of the Flies and Never Let Me Go, alongside a handful of metaphysical poetry and the dreaded Carol Anne Duffy. (Someone take over as Poet Laureate PLEASE).
Then I chose to study English Literature and Creative Writing at University. In 2013 I found myself at UEA, the home of creative writing in ‘the city of Literature’, as Norwich is known. With Angela Carter, Ian McEwan and Kazuo Ishiguro all alumni how could I fail?
The journey I have been on over the last three years has been quite remarkable. My writing in my first year showed all the typical beginners mistakes, but then, in my second year, I had an amazing teacher. That was the pivotal point where everything changed. I got vital criticism on my work. In Creative Writing class we ‘workshop’, we read each other’s work and pluck it to pieces. People ask ‘why’ not just about your characters, their motives and reasoning, your plot points and overall structure, but about your specific word choices, syntax, grammar and punctuation – the whole shebang. The pieces I turned in as coursework weren’t groundbreaking but I was growing as a writer, I was learning, and that’s more important than anything. This year, what with my dissertation and the arrangement of my modules, I haven’t had a lot of Creative Writing classes, but still I have learnt a lot about my personal writing process.
Necessary to good writing is copious amounts of reading. Obviously my degree had me reading approximately 50 novels a year, but even that isn’t enough. Doing a Literature Degree also has your reading specific ‘types’. You find you’re suddenly an expert on Tolstoy, Austen and the Brontës, but what about contemporary fiction? This is what I’m now ploughing my efforts into in my spare time. Hopefully with this bank of knowledge within me my writing will grow every day.
The next thing is practice. Not a day goes by that I don’t write something, even if it’s rubbish. Sometimes that rubbish will trigger a better idea, sometimes it can be edited into something worthy, and sometimes it needs to go in the waste paper basket, but it’s all good practice.
My degree is over in just two months and I can’t wait to get started on what life has to offer. Hopefully I will have just as much time for writing when it’s all done as I do now, but I somehow doubt it. Nevertheless I will continue to make an effort and I will continue to learn and to grow. Hopefully within a year or two I will be ready to send something to an agent. We’ll see.