I started creative writing after I retired, quickly realising I didn’t know what I was doing, had no routine and wrote whenever I felt like it. It was chaotic.
From there to here has been a journey of developing daily rituals, making writing friends through taking online creative writing and editing courses, collecting three successes in short story competitions and collecting 44 rejections for my debut fantasy YA novel.
I had an idea for a second novel scribbled across two pages in a notebook, but did nothing with it until I joined Lee’s course.
I realised that none of the courses I’d done before were YA specific. I wanted the guidance and tutorship from someone specialised in YA writing and who was successful at it.
Having peers who were also writing YA was a huge benefit as we were all in the same ‘family’. In the past, I’ve been in groups where I was the only YA writer.
The peer critiques, their different perspectives were thoughtful, respectful and invaluable to helping me shape the opening chapters to my second novel.
There’s been many ‘Aha!’ moments. I particularly loved Session 3 which honed in on Character. I became deeply immersed in my characters’ heads, their motivations, what made them tick. I was surprised to find I had a distinctive ‘Voice’. I know what an elusive quality that is, and had always wondered if I had one.
I also loved reading and studying the Book Club novel. I was heavily influenced by the author’s style and format, I even compiled a 3-Act Structure graph as a test run to doing one for my own novel, and the best part is we got to chat over Zoom with the author.
I loved the course Zoom calls because they fostered deeper connections with my peers and Lee.
I compiled all the comments on my work from my peers from each session, choosing to edit as we went through the course rather than leave it until the end. I was concerned that if I left it until we were preparing the ‘final submission’ (the first 10,000 words), I might have forgotten things, or become lost among the plethora of comments. This process made getting to my first 10,000 words easier. My final submission also included my detailed story plan to finish the novel, which Lee critiqued with her eagle eye.
Towards the end of the course, I noticed I was writing more naturally without my usual dithering. I compare that feeling to when I play the piano. When you’re practising a piece of music, you’re ultra-focused on every little itty-bitty musical element. You practice and practice. And then you get to a point when the music flows and you’re in that zen state, right? Your fingers are landing where they should. They feel strong. Well, I think my writing felt like that on this course.
By the time we got to our last assignment, I wrote instinctively as I put these early chapters together and edited; the characters leapt off the page, they took on a life of their own, the description and dialogue balanced naturally. The story plan focused my Pantser brain to think about the big picture; not a rigid plan, mind you, more of a guiding star to reach ‘THE END’. I was worried about how easy the writing was becoming because I’ve always struggled with it, not knowing if my writing was ‘good enough’. So yes, Lee’s course gave me confidence.
I feel confident and strong in my writing for the first time.
I wrote poetry and short stories sporadically alongside my novel writing. Now, I do daily prompts as part of my writing rituals. I submit some of these edited pieces to literary journals because any publication success is good for my writing resume. And I keep trying. I was even recently shortlisted for a story competition.
What’s next? My top priority is finishing the first draft of this second novel I started on the course. I’ve already reworked my first novel, which will be sent off for a structural edit in the New Year. I’ll polish away when I get the MS back, before querying agents again. During the ‘wait’ I’ll be redrafting the second novel, editing and polishing until its turn for a structural edit.
Unlike other online courses I’ve completed, the grieving feeling was quick to wane. We have a WhatsApp group where we share anecdotal texts and pics, upcoming events, successes and woes. We will continue with our novels, posting work on the Alumni to help each other reach ‘THE END’.
I feel more confident in my writing, that the writerly elements I’d been taught before this course are elevated to a new level of understanding of YA novel writing.
I’d recommend the Write a Young Adult Novel course to anyone who is serious about their writing goals in the YA arena.