The London Book Fair

On Tuesday 14th March, 2017, I was fortunate enough to go to the London Book Fair.

My experience was incredibly interesting and I enjoyed every minute of it! So, as per,

Being a B.A. Creative and Professional Writing student, I aspire to get into the publishing industry. Whether as a writer, editor or sales assistant – who knows? I’m just fascinated by the whole process of publishing books.

However, this was my last week of lectures and I knew an opportunity like this would most likely never come up again, so I decided to go.

After arriving at London Victoria nearly two hours before I was due to meet my lecturer and my classmates, I decided to kill time by visiting the City of Westminster. Seeing the Houses of Parliament, Big Ben and the Eye once again reminded me of how much I love this city.

After two Tube journeys and a bus journey, I finally arrived at Olympia London 10 minutes before we were due to meet. After mistakenly thinking I was outside the main entrance, I was informed by my lecturer (thanks, Emily!) that the main entrance was, in fact, opposite the train station. Can you tell I had never been to this area of London before?

Once I entered the venue, it was huge. At least hundreds of publishing houses from around the world had arrived at this fair. You could see authors making deals with publishers and agents. It was overwhelming. As me, my lecturer and one of my classmates tried to find a seat, we ran into Sam Missingham. She works for HarperCollins, and it was an interesting chat about what we wanted to do in the industry. She gave us a few tips which will come in handy! It was inspiring to meet someone in such a popular company who was enthusiastic, passionate and energetic about what they do!

After 10 minutes of scurrying around the place, we eventually found a table and discussed what stalls or talks we were going to attend. We were joined by the others, and after a quick tea and coffee break, we went to all the different various publishing houses including Bloomsbury, Gardners (a book wholesaler company), Penguin Random House and Nosy Crow. The representatives were generous enough to spare a few minutes of their time to talk to us about all the different aspects of publishing, and I was even more impressed. They gave us a few pointers on where to start, who to go to, and what to do to ensure that we start a career in publishing if we so wished.

I won’t go into detail about every piece of advice we received from these successful people, but I absolutely cherished every single moment of my time there, and I couldn’t be more grateful to our lecturer for making it happen! Thanks to the LBF, I am adamant that I want to pursue a career in this profession and it motivated me to finish my assignments and graduate. Will it be a challenge? Yes. But I’m willing to put in all the hard work to get to where I want to be, and I’m so excited to join such an amazing community.

 

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Confessions of a Music Lover

Music is something I’ve loved since forever.

Is there a day I can go without it? Of course not.

There is nothing better than sitting down after a long day, with a steaming cup of tea in one hand, blasting your favourite songs, and just forgetting about the problems in your life.

I come from a family where music is everything. My late great-granddad used to play the saxophone, my dad and granddad play the drums, and my brother and I are learning to play the guitar (even though I’m still an amateur). It’s constantly playing in my house, and even though it irritates my mum, she never tells us to turn it off unless she wants to watch her TV shows.

I have always relied on music as a means of letting my bottled-up feelings out. There are songs that make me laugh, cry, think, or just simply want to dance to, and that’s the beauty of it.

Continue reading “Confessions of a Music Lover”

Finding Your Voice

As a creative writing student, I think finding the “perfect voice” in your work can be exhausting. Obviously I can’t speak for every writer out there. Sometimes, voice just comes naturally to oneself and they specifically use it for their desired medium. However, that isn’t the case for most writers.

What is a voice

When I say ‘voice’, I don’t mean writing dialogue. I mean using your own words and styles to convey the plot to your readers. It’s no good writing in a bland, uninteresting manner if it doesn’t have a touch of your personality within the words. When I write, I usually tend to find my voice isn’t powerful enough to provoke a reader’s emotions or to keep their interest in my work stronger. It’s similar to painting a picture and not using giving enough detail or colour into your piece.

Do you like using short, simple sentences? Use them. Do you like using complex sentences? Again, use them. Your voice is yours. Utilise it in whichever way you want. In my experience, I’ve been afraid of my readers not liking my writing because it’s too ‘fancy’ or too ‘complicated’. Does it matter? Of course not. Unless the words are completely undecipherable or have never been taught in English class, then I would advise you avoid using ‘big’ words that no average reader on earth would understand.

An uncertain voice can also impact the genre in which you’re writing. If it’s fiction, don’t be afraid to include modern vocabulary. Your characters are your mouthpiece; if they’re narrating the story, use them to your advantage. Use slang words and inappropriate words (but, don’t overdo them!) The same applies to poetry, screenwriting, playwriting etc. There are no limitations when it comes to the voice.

Using your voice in character dialogue

Utilising your voice in dialogue is just as important. Do you want your characters to sound like how you speak in real life? Do whatever you wish. Make them as informal and colloquial as you possibly can! It makes them more believable and human.

If it’s possible, inject dialect and accents into your character’s speech. However, I would NOT advise doing this if you lack knowledge of how a certain accent sounds. This can lead to major complications, such as stereotypes and clichés. It’s optional. Your readers will imagine the characters in their preferred accents.

Voice IS relevant to the plot

The voice relates to the plot of your novel. Without it, the plot would be devoid of feeling or action. Your voice is what drives the story forward, as well as character and setting. The language you use influences your characters’ decisions and thoughts.

If you use a typical sentence, unfortunately seen within fiction, such as: “The sky was blue and the trees were green. I looked up and stared at the clouds,” you’re not going to get a lot of positive feedback on your work. People will get bored, and this will have a negative influence on your target audience. Ask yourself 3 questions:

  • What language would I use when describing events, people, or places? 
  • How do I want to describe my characters and settings without making them seem dull? 
  • How can I make the language more engaging for my readers?

When in doubt, I’ve asked myself these, and it’s usually worked out. Would you say “said” all the time? Would you use simple language to describe amazing experiences? These are all questions that will make a difference to your voice and your writing in general. Here’s some advice I will openly offer if you’re struggling to find your voice:

  1. Use detail and imagery to create atmosphere.
  2. Write from all three tenses, and decide which one suits you best.
  3. Include plot twists and cliffhangers – nothing screams interest more than leaving a reader dumbfounded or desperately wanting to know what happens next.
  4. Ask other people if the words flow well.
  5. Accept criticism, and utilise it during your editing to help find your voice.
  6. Revise the word choices you make and ask yourself if they’re necessary/relevant to the story.
  7. Create five characters and write short pieces from their perspectives.
  8. If you like how you’ve written a scene, continue writing like it.

Finding your voice when you’re writing can be difficult and it hits even the best of us, even if we’ve already written something. Voices change, and that’s okay. If you’re struggling, just keep searching and you’ll find it. Become original and write in a way that’s comfortable for you, and one that won’t drive your readers away. Be clear in your writing, and you will find your voice just like that.

 

 

 

A Writer’s World

“Why do writers create worlds?” is a question I’ve been asked regularly during my time at school. I had no definite answer because, why do we create worlds that are completely different from our own, and what do we gain from it?

It’s a universal question that has many different answers from various writers. It’s incredibly hard to pinpoint, hence why I’m only going to give my opinion on what a writer’s world is like and why I create my own.

The most popular novels, written for both adults and children, have featured a fictional world with magic, idealism and the ‘perfection’ of a society. Harry Potter, A Song of Ice and Fire and Lord of the Rings are all excellent examples.

I’m a massive fan of Harry Potter. Anyone who knows me, will tell you that. As a child, I longed to be in Harry’s world. It was something entirely magical and different to me that I just fell in love with it. Hogwarts, riding broomsticks and casting spells left me awestruck and I kept wondering to myself,

“Why am I in such a boring world? Why can’t I be a wizard?” 

As a writer, I create my own worlds to escape from this dark and gloomy one. It feels good to be the “God” of your own world; created entirely from your mind. There are no limitations to it; it’s yours and yours only. No one can take the magic away from you when you’re the one who created it in the first place.

Also, I use it to make a point about the world we’re living in today. I use this technique to deliver my views on our world to readers through ambiguous story-telling, and nevertheless, it works all the time. Readers react to it, opening their minds about the problems we face regarding society and the environment today. It’s much easier than writing a memoir or diary entry, ranting about it in such a mediocre way, it becomes whiny.

Why not use your imagination to express your views? It’s more enjoyable, I’m sure.

It’s increasingly popular for writers because it’s seen as a challenge and it’s something we can all escape to, reader or writer. It doesn’t matter. World-creating is a great way to open the mind further beyond your boundaries and it gives a unique, personal touch to a piece of writing, whether it be a poem or a novel.

Have a go at it and tell me how you feel about being the creator of your very own world. It’s a liberating feeling for writers and I’m sure no one can deny it’s fun and a legendary means of getting a story across to the reader.

 

 

Battle for Creativity – Saving the Creative Writing A-Level

A qualification in creative writing is something a lot of teenagers would’ve killed for. Young writers who were preparing for their A-Levels before or during 2012 never received this option, until a year later when the subject was introduced into the curriculum for A-Levels. The course proved to be a success as more students going into sixth form/college were encouraged to take it as a ‘creative alternative’ to English Language and Literature.

However, a ‘reform’ that’s been decided by the government under the Conservative Party has deemed the qualification as being unfit for resubmission into schools and colleges, therefore scrapping the subject from the A-Level curriculum across the country from summer 2018.

Personally, I don’t agree with this decision.

I suspect this change hasn’t been made for academic purposes. In my opinion, the British government decided to scrap MOST creative subjects because they are skills-based and not knowledge-based, and therefore, cannot be fit for examination. Isn’t this an unjust reason to remove such an enjoyable and popular qualification?

Creative Writing is a subject that many young people feel lies behind the boundaries of being just a hobby, and it’s a great thing that children want to explore their own creative routes through education. So, why are we taking away that opportunity for young adults to become more open-minded about the world we live in?

I’m currently studying for a Bachelor of Arts degree in Creative and Professional Writing at university, and I know many school leavers are choosing the exact same route as I have – wanting to develop their writing skills to ensure they make a living from it. The whole purpose of the course is to understand how our writing can shape the world, and spark a reaction from the general public with just one document full of words. It also helps us to take criticism and apply the opinion of others’ to our own work to improve it, therefore allowing the individual to be able to communicate well within a team and working with others. Key skills that we’ve been told are ‘essential’ in life and employment.

These are the reasons why I disapprove of this idea, and what it’ll mean for aspiring young writers:

  • It improves an individual’s English skills, such as spelling, punctuation and grammar. Although spelling, punctuation and grammar (also known as SPAG) is taught throughout secondary school, it can also improve one’s range of vocabulary, and expanding their knowledge of language and communication – no matter whether it’s written or verbal.
  • It allows young people to embrace creativity and imagination, as well as teaching them about the world and why we use fiction to address issues in today’ society. One of the most important aspects of a teenager’s life is having the ability to create. It can also mean learning more about life through the eyes of characters from different age ranges and personal experiences.
  • It’s unique. Need I say more?
  • It’s more subjective than English Language and Literature. In English lessons, you have to analyse and write 4-page essays on what a piece of literature means. However, in Creative Writing, you are only required to let your imagination run wild through the voices of people from all backgrounds, although this could be a difficult decision for a writer to make due to avoiding stereotypes and clichés in their work.
  • Most importantly, it’s enjoyable and can relieve the stress of academic subjects such as Maths and Science. ‘Logical’ subjects such as Maths and Science can overwhelm a student, and cause them to feel stressed about passing their exams and making sure they’ve got their facts right. With Creative Writing, this is not the case. All you need to worry about is making your writing clear and sophisticated.

We have come all this way as a nation to provide our students with a wide range of subjects to choose from, whether it is creative or logical, it doesn’t matter. There is only so much you could do if you take English, but with Creative Writing, the possibilities are endless. Are we really going to take that away from future generations and leave them having to take subjects where memory is prioritised more than imagination itself?

Remember, writing has the ability to change the way a person thinks. It’s everywhere; newspapers, novels, blog entries, diaries etc., writing is all around us, yet we fail to acknowledge it. Science is a factual subject. Creative Writing is an art.

How To Better Yourself As A Writer

It takes time to perfect your writing, but if I’m honest, there is no such thing as a ‘perfect’ writer. As with every other form of art, writing is subjective, and how it’s judged completely depends on who is reading your work. It might be a ‘masterpiece’ or a ‘piece of trash’, but there is always room for improvement.

So, I’ve come up with some handy tips that you could apply to ‘better’ yourself as a writer. Feel free to use them as they’ve personally helped me develop as a writer when I was in doubt!

  1. Read and write as much as you can. Okay, I’m stating the obvious here…but there is nothing that’ll help more than reading and writing as much as you can. Even reading the local newspaper can prove to be a lifesaver!
  2. Expand your vocabulary. I’m not saying read a dictionary or thesaurus from back to front, but soak in as many words and synonyms as possible! Replace dull words such as ‘cold’ with interesting synonyms such as ‘wintry.’ Not only does it make your work more detailed, but it also helps your audience to engage with what’s going on too!
  3. Write to your heart’s content. If sketching out a rough first draft, don’t worry about what people will think until its completion. Nothing makes your work feel more unique than your own personal touch with your real feelings. A piece of writing only comes alive when it’s given colour.
  4. Always revise your work. Revise and edit your work until you’re satisfied with it. Check for spelling and grammar errors, add and cut sentences, and just make your piece the best thing you’ve ever written.
  5. Prevent procrastinating. Procrastination and ‘Writer’s Block’ are a writer’s #1 enemies; nothing is more dangerous than losing an idea because of the latest TV show that’s been added to Netflix. Don’t try to get into the habit of procrastinating to the point where you get nothing done. Believe me, I have personal experience in this far too much!
  6. Keep a notebook or a writing journal on you at all times. If you have a poor memory like me, you’ll find your ideas for your next or current project will disappear. So, it’s important to keep a notebook or a writing journal on you everywhere you go so your ideas can be recorded.
  7.  If need be, listen to music to get inspiration. Sometimes, I find listening to music really helps when generating ideas, even if it’s just the audio in the song. If struggling, try listening to music and I guarantee you’ll find endless scenarios in your head!
  8. Show, don’t tell. This is one of the most generic and obvious rules in writing, but it’s so important to show what’s happening in your story rather than tell your readers, otherwise they will switch off and lose interest in your writing.
  9. Ask a person you trust to read your work and provide feedback. If there’s one thing that’s helped develop my writing skills, it’s asking people to read through your piece and give you honest but constructive feedback. It helps you know where you went wrong in your writing and if anything should be changed/improved.
  10. Always know your genre and your audience. Imagine you’re writing a horror novel for young adults. You go through the writing process only to find out you have no knowledge of the genre or audience you’re writing for. It’s a pain, isn’t it? This is why it’s important to research your specific genre and know what your audience want.  
  11. WRITE, WRITE, AND WRITE. As Dory in Finding Nemo says, “Just keep swimming.” Instead of swimming, replace it with ‘writing’ and your motivation to do what you’re supposed to be doing is right there in front of you. Write until your hands bleed with the essence of imagination, and let the story you’re telling unfold.

I hope these tips will help you in your development as a writer. If you consider any of these, please let me know! Nothing will make me happy more than knowing my words have helped someone. Everyone has the ability to become a writer, but it takes hard work to become a great writer.

I wish you the best of luck!