What Sort of Writer Am I?

My body clock is all out of whack this week. I’m up late again, buzzing with energy at completely the wrong time of day/night, and I’ve no idea why. It could be something to do with stress, maybe – the results of the writing competition (which I keep going on about) are due to be released soon, and I’m pretty wound up about it. I have zero expectation of being shortlisted, of course, but I wouldn’t be human if I wasn’t a bit nervous about the outcome. It’s natural to be curious and excited about it, even if you’re pretty sure it’ll have nothing to do with you. I’m looking forward to seeing who does succeed in being shortlisted, and how things work out for all those who entered. It’s wonderful to think that this one competition has resulted in hundreds of people, all over the country (and possibly the world) knuckling down and finally writing the novel they’ve always wanted to write. Just the thought of it is enough to make me feel like I’m crackling with static electricity! It’ll be great once the shortlist is announced, because I’ll be able to move on with my life – I’ll get some chapters of the WiP up on my blog, perhaps, and get some feedback on it. I’ll also start submitting it to agents and publishers, and start working on my next project. I’m anticipating all that with happy excitement, and it’s wonderful to feel that way. I don’t always feel that way, so when these moments of euphoria come around, I tend to make the most of ’em.

happy child

I’ve been thinking over the past day or two about my next project. I finished my edits on the WiP today (including rewriting that scene I talked about yesterday, the one between Maraika and her father – it works so much better than before!), and I’m planning to start outlining my next idea tomorrow. I’ve already described how I’ve realised the story I plan to write next would work much better as a book for younger readers (i.e. 8 years old and up) than for a Young Adult audience, and I’ve been evaluating myself as a writer ever since I had this realisation.

Several years ago, when I began work on the new project (let’s call it ‘Jeff’, for ease of reference!) I had it in mind as a Young Adult novel, just because I saw myself as an aspiring Young Adult writer. It seemed like a natural assumption. I wrote nearly 34,000 words on it before abandoning the idea, but something about it always stayed with me. I liked the characters I’d created, and I liked the narrative style I’d used, which was not only different from anything I’d ever used before, but also different from anything I’d ever read before. It’s languished on my computer ever since, but I always intended to revisit it. I read the whole thing through the other day for the first time in years, and – putting aside the awful writing – it was nice to be back in that world again. Reading it again made me see that its failure was partly a result of the fact that I was trying to shoehorn it into a genre that it wasn’t really comfortable being in. (Partly, it’s to do with my failure to plot it out fully – but that’s another blog post!) Jeff, the protagonist, is only twelve (turning thirteen) in the book – he’s barely into secondary school. He’s young. The voice I was giving him was just too old, and too knowing. He’s a funny, warm and adorable creature, but he speaks with the mind of an 19-year-old, and it just… clanged. It’s discordant. I’m looking forward to resurrecting Jeff and giving him his proper voice, and maybe his story will flow a bit easier.

Do you identify with a particular ‘genre’ of writing, if you’re a writer? Looking over my list of Works-in-Progress and fragments of ideas, I get the impression that I’m actually a writer of children’s books masquerading as a YA writer. Most of my ideas would be happier between the covers of a book aimed at 8/9 year old readers, I think, even though I love to read both types of book. I read David Walliams’ ‘The Boy in the  Dress’ the other night; it’s aimed at young readers, but I found it profoundly moving and utterly lovely. That’s a skill I’d love to have – the skill of making a story which is definitively for children, but which can touch the hearts and minds of adults, too. I think children’s and YA writing do go hand in hand, but there are significant differences between them which need to be respected; I certainly don’t think it’s impossible to write across both genres, and I hope that I’ll be able to spend the rest of my life doing just that. I feel like my mind has been opened a little wider, though, just by reading over an old Work-in-Progress, and that more room for ideas has been created inside it – but, as Terry Pratchett once warned, ‘be careful not to open your mind too much, in case your brain falls out.’ I hope I’m not in danger of that! But it does feel strange – liberating, exciting, and wonderful, too – to have a conclusion like ‘there is more than one way in which you can write!’ strike your brain.

Do you identify with a genre, as a reader or a writer? Do you think you could change? Or, am I talking total hogwash, and is all writing more or less the same? I’d love to hear from you.

3 thoughts on “What Sort of Writer Am I?

  1. anna3101

    I’m dreaming of being a writer one day (but don’t say to anyone – it’s a secret :)) Funny thing is, although I’m no fan of children and not comfortable being with them, my stories always tend to be either for children or teenagers. I had this grand idea of writing a whole book with magical adventures (of course, I never did) but once again, it was no adult stuff 🙂

    I would like to wish success in the competition. I don’t know what kind of competition it is but I hope you can either win or not get too disappointed if you don’t.

    Have you ever talked to other writers? I’m currently reading a book about finding one’s vocation and it says before deciding “this is it”, you need to ask those who already have the profession you want – ask many questions. I think I will do! I’m not sure if the people I will send emails to will want to reply but I hope at least some of them will. What do you think?

    P.S. Can we be friends on goodreads? 🙂

    1. SJ O'Hart Post author

      Well, keep on dreaming! You can get there. In fact, you might want to look up the WordPress blog of an author named Nova Ren Suma – the blog is called Distraction 99, I think. The other day she blogged about having the impossible dream of being a writer, and how she managed to achieve her dream despite people in her life telling her she couldn’t do it. It was a beautiful blog post, and I found it very inspirational.

      Thank you for the good luck wishes – as soon as I know the outcome of the competition, I’ll talk about it on the blog.

      I have ‘talked’ to other writers via their blogs, or via Twitter. Not in person, really. But I’ve known that I wanted to write all my life, and I’ve been writing since I was a child. So, there’s no doubt in my mind about my vocation! 🙂 Nothing else gives me the same feeling of joy and accomplishment, and if I ever get published, it would be amazing. I think authors are generally happy to help with questions, but check their websites first – most of them will have an ‘FAQ’ section, or a ‘Writing Tips’ section. Read those first, before you contact them. They’re busy people, and they might not have time to reply to you for a while. You might get tired of waiting for a response, and then give up hope! That, of course, would be bad. There are some wonderful websites and internet resources about being a writer, too – including http://www.writing.ie, and http://www.writersandartists.co.uk – I’d recommend looking at sites like these for help and tips.

      And finally – yes of course we can be friends on GoodReads. I’m not really very familiar with GoodReads, and I don’t have any other ‘friends’ on the site, so maybe you could let me know if there’s anything I need to do in order to befriend you. 🙂

      Have a good day! And keep dreaming, and keep writing. Hopefully, we’ll both make it, one day.

  2. aanderand

    Sometimes, I think you are reading my mind. “What sort of Writer Am I?” has been on my mind lately. If I have time I am going to write a post about it today. i would say though, all writing is not the same, of course it all has to do with using words to tell a story, but how that story plays out in the mind of the reader and the writer I think creates the difference between genre.


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