Today I was up at our kids’ highschool introducing a group of young writers to the stimulus material for a writing competition. It was fantastic to see so many year 7-10’s getting excited about writing creatively.
I tried to get the most boring bits out of the way (the rules) as fast as possible, and then we talked about how they might choose to go about writing something great.
They had such great ideas, and a multitude of different approaches that they might take. We discussed point of view, third person versus first person (and briefly second person!), past tense versus present tense, and making sure that you have a beginning and an end with stuff that helps you get there in the middle.
We also talked about grammar and spelling, and why you shouldn’t trust spellcheckers. One of the most important things we talked about was drafting and editing. We discussed the fact that every writer needs a brutally honest test reader/editor/mentor. The English teacher with us said that she tells her older students that she will be “Simon Cowell” for them. I loved that analogy.
I’ve read heaps of stuff, and written a fair few things over the years, and the most valuable thing I learnt when having my own book edited by the publisher, was that I am too close to my own work to see all of the flaws and weaknesses that I, as a writer, have. I also need readers who are not frightened to tell me when stuff isn’t working, or my writing is rubbish.
That “flawless” manuscript that I submitted to the publisher wasn’t actually flawless. In some spots my writing was poor, and in other places there were unnecessary bits of prose that didn’t need to be there at all. I learnt that I can (quite often) be an excessive user of adjectives. Hopefully my writing has improved as a result. No doubt I’ll find out when I submit the next manuscript.
As the teacher quite rightly pointed out, when a young writer submits their work to a competition, they are allowing, and expecting it to be judged, which is why they need to have honest test readers to help them hone their craft.
When an author’s book is published, it’s out there in the world for anyone to read and form an opinion of. We shouldn’t be surprised when people do and don’t like it – we’re all individuals, and I would be fooling myself if I thought that everyone will love everything I write. As an author, I need to be prepared to cope with poor reviews as well as wonderful ones, or I need to avoid reading them!
Hearing a kid say something like “I can’t wait to start writing!” as they left the room today was fabulous. I’m so looking forward to reading all their works.