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  • Writer's pictureIan Brooks

I Didn’t Know What I Didn’t Know

Unsure woman

As I’ve covered before, I have decided to go back to writing school (loose term). Initially I wasn’t sure if this was the right move. Is another writing class the right thing for me? Should I be getting mentoring instead? Either way, I needed something. I was creating story after story without any result.

Currently I have just tiptoed over the halfway mark of my journey on the Golden Egg Academy’s 12-week Write Your Children’s Novel course led by Imogen Cooper. Before I get into what I have learned, I want to set the scene a little. I’ve been writing for 15 years. I’ve completed 12 manuscripts. I’ve had over 200 rejections from agents. And while it’s a big achievement to write and finish any sort of book, I have had 0 success in terms of results. With all that effort and no payoff, something is clearly wrong. The system is damaged. The machine is broken.

The point is, when I went to do this course, I thought I knew a lot of what would be said. And I did. To a certain extent. I am working on a story for Younger Middle Grade (7-9 humour readers. It’s something I started 6 years ago and has undergone so many rewrites it’s barely recognisable compared to that very first draft (and thankfully so!) But one of the issues I had was that the ideas had been stuck in my head for so long that I couldn’t see a way to tell the story without them.

And what has become clear to me on this course are the mistakes I’m making. I was focusing on plot too much and completely ignoring fleshing out my characters. This leaves them wooden and readers being unable to empathise or connect with them. My opening isn’t snappy enough. I’m not delivering key moments at the right times. My structure is lacking. I’ve too many subplots. The list goes on and on.

It’s a stark realisation. I’ve been restructuring and rewriting since the start of the course. At first I wanted to just move things around. I was sure that’s all it took. My work is funny enough, it has some good (hopefully great) scenes and I have enough obstacles in front of my protagonist. Alas, that was wishful thinking. Part of the course asks us to read the openings of various novels. I recently finished Charlie Turns Into a Chicken (hilarious book!) by Sam Copeland and things started to click.

I have now started swinging my machete. I am Edward Scissorhands on a path of destruction. I am cutting jokes, culling characters and killing my darlings. I am trimming the fat and trying to make everything more streamlined and slicker. So far that has taken me from 36,000 words down to 30,000.

The experience has been amazing. I’m learning so much about myself, my writing and storytelling in general. I feel like I am starting to learn this craft properly for the first time. And for that I have to thank the Golden Egg Academy. I could say that I wish I had taken the course before but I’m not sure it would have helped. Maybe now is the right time for me to learn and be receptive.

As part of the course, we have to submit 2,000 words from the start of our WIPs (works-in-progress) for editorial feedback and, depending on the quality of the work, we can be accepted onto the Golden Egg Academy’s 12-month Writing for Children and Young Adults course. I do hope with every fibre of my being I get accepted. I submitted recently so wish me luck!

It’s not necessary to do a course to become a writer, but it is helpful and for me, it was essential. It has highlighted so many things I never knew I never knew and I after years of wandering about aimlessly with my writing, I finally feel like I’m back on track and making positive steps to achieve my dream of becoming a published author.

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