Thursday, 23 February 2012

The art of books and language

I don’t think it’s a huge surprise that I love reading. It could be, of course, but then I doubt you’ve really been reading my blog and have probably just been mocking me from afar. Don’t worry, I get mocked a lot in life but usually because I have my nose buried in a book and refuse to communicate with the outside world. Books have always been a source of pleasure and I think I picked up my first book before I could talk (exaggeration!).

I was discussing this with friends at the weekend and we came up with an impromptu ‘challenge’ of sorts about which of us started reading first and which of us started on the most complicated books before the others. This is something we discuss a lot; the four of us are avid readers and writers and I would definitely recommend surrounding yourselves with like minded people. I love my friends dearly but there is nothing better than a little spirited book competition to get your pulse racing!

The first ‘difficult’ book I read was the Hobbit when I was seven. I was miles ahead of the other students in my class and it was hard for my teachers to find me something challenging to read. I devoured the books in the library within months and I spent most of my pocket money buying 10p books from the charity shops. This meant that I unknowingly devoured more romance novels than my little mind could cope with and probably goes some way to explaining my hatred of the genre now that I am rapidly approaching my thirties.

Something about the Hobbit must have stuck because the fantasy genre has remained a favourite, branching out into sci-fi and dystopian novels. My bookshelves are lined with many a title from these specifically, although I have lately become enamoured with the Young Adult genre. It’s surprising how many really good books are coming from that quarter. When you’re used to reading the classics and devouring literature for an English course, the last thing that makes you feel like a proper critic of books is walking into Waterstones or Foyles and picking up a book entitled Percy Jackson and the Olympians. However, I can safely say that this series will surprise you. It surprised me. The series is incredibly well written and alluring and the characters are very well rounded and appealing. Most young adult books follow this same pattern – with the exception of Twilight. If there’s one thing I won’t tolerate it’s someone telling me the books are decent. They’re really not. (Again, this is merely a personal opinion, and does not reflect the opinion of the University ;))

{my actual bookshelf – well one of them!}

Speaking of decency....

In short story class this week, we had to give collective feedback on other people’s work. Collective feedback is a taboo term in this class apparently, because it seems to be comprised of people who don’t like talking out loud. I can forgive them because I know it’s very difficult for some people. However, when you’ve taken the time to read something aloud and you’re not exactly happy with your work, the last thing you need is someone saying to you that they, “don’t know how you can improve.”

I understand that it can be difficult to think of something constructive on the spot but I’m sure there is something you can say with that will help with the story. Part of being able to write your own story is having the ability to critique them. If you can’t find errors in your own writing, then it’s the opinion of this writer that perhaps this isn’t the career path for you. People are going to find fault with your writing; people are going to reject your writing and if you can’t deal with or accept that, then you’re in for a tough ride with editors and publishers. For every one acceptance letter, you’re bound to get ten rejections. This is just the way it works.
I’m currently writing a novel and I’m only on the first draft. I’m aware it’s going to need at least two before it’s any shape to send to a publisher. Granted, University is a lot different but the sentiment behind it remains the same; people want to improve. They want to be in a position where they are satisfied enough with their own writing that it can be sent to someone professional in the business and have it good enough to be printed and put on a bookshelf somewhere.

This is what I strive for. This is for what some of my fellow classmates strive for and, one day, I am going to have that book on that shelf and the pride I feel will come from the knowledge that receiving good feedback in class came a long way towards helping me get there. 

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