To Write and Read Comes by Nature
In case it wasn’t already clear, at Yorick we love writing: reading it as well as creating it. Every member of the team has practised the art for years, and some of us even have studied it at university. Though we all have our preferred mediums and genres, there are some rules that follow through all forms of writing. Our blog post this month comes from our Chamberlin Critic, Cat Scott, as they share their own views on writing by recalling how they came to love it in the first place.
The adage goes write what you know, but I think it’s more accurate to say write what you love. If you don’t love what you’re working on – if you don’t have a passion for the subject or the characters or the narrative style – it’ll come across in your work, and your readers probably won’t love it either. As you grow and improve as a writer, and as your styles and tastes change, it’s very easy to look back at what you used to love and cringe.
‘What point are you trying to make?’ I hear you ask.
Reader, I rediscovered my FanFiction.net account.
Fanfiction, for those who don’t know, is writing based on an existing work of fiction, created by fans, usually in an amateur capacity. That being said, some fanfiction writers have gone on to publish their work professionally. Fanfiction is often a brilliant place to start if you’re new to this whole writing business. Learning how to write a good narrative can be overwhelming for an aspiring writer. Thinking about character development, tension, pacing, grammar and punctuation, word choice and syntax, setting and world building, and all the other millions of intricate elements that have to be blended together is too much when starting out. Having some of that development already in place takes a load off the writer and allows them to grow their skills more gradually over time because they already know the characters and the world, but now the plot – and the characters’ fates – are in their hands. And it’s this power that adds an extra layer of appeal to writing fanfiction. Wish a character hadn’t died in a book you just read? Write what would have happened had they survived. Wish two characters hadn’t ended up together in that TV show? Write them with different partners – maybe even a partner from a totally different show, film, or book! Want your favourite character to open a bookshop/bakery/flower shop and have whimsical adventures? You go ahead and write that. It’s freeing, and very fun. Of course, you can’t go on to publish your fanfiction as it’s based on copyrighted material – unless you jump through a lot of very complex hoops, of course – but I’m not getting into that here. I’ll leave you to go down that rabbit hole yourselves.
Back to my original point. Write what you love. What did I love enough as a nerdy teen to write fanfiction about? Mostly the works of Charles Dickens – Oliver Twist and A Christmas Carol, to be specific – with some CATS: The Musical and Shakespeare thrown in for good measure, though of course we can’t forget the poems I wrote inspired by Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho.
… I know.
I joined the site in 2007, and last updated my profile in 2012 to announce my departure due to the insanity of Highers, after school activities and other commitments mounting up, and knowing that moments to write would be few and far between. I was sorry to leave the site where I’d had so much fun writing about my favourite characters, making new friends, and improving my craft. Yes, I improved that craft while writing Oliver Twist/A Christmas Carol crossovers and having characters from CATS discover time-travel, but that was the joy of it. Even having had a brief look through my writing in order to write this post, I could see there was a marked improvement in the quality of my work as I moved from silly parodies and song-fics (a genre of fanfiction where lyrics are interspersed with the prose) to what was, at the time, my magnum opus – an over 80,000 word backstory for Bill Sykes from Oliver Twist!
I looked up my old account in the first place because I had read a rumour somewhere online that FanFiction.net would be closing down, and I wanted to save all my old work before it disappeared into digital oblivion. Apparently, I was misinformed – to my knowledge, the site is still chugging along, though it’s being hosted on a new server – and while I know the site may not be around forever, I was very grateful for the opportunity to look back on my past writing and, though it, my past self. I remembered staying up late on school nights to upload new chapters, and waking up early to read updates from my writerly friends on the other side of the world. I remembered how much I loved these characters, from Fagin and Scrooge to Mungojerrie and Rumpleteazer (now there’s a crossover idea, someone get on that!) and, most importantly, I was reminded of just how much I love to write.
I sit down to write a lot less often now than I used to, and back then I was busy with school, after school tutoring and acting in school plays. The point I’m trying to make is that writing was, and still is for me, a great escape – an escape from school, and later university and work, and dealing with chronic illness – into a world of my own imagining, or one lovingly borrowed from others. Sure, I may have cringed looking back at the time I had Macavity the Mystery Cat discover MSN Messenger, my attempts to write Cockney accents, and the fact I kept using the word taught when I meant to write taut, but I smiled as well, and even laughed once or twice.
Write what you love, friends – even if what you love is writing from the perspective of a ghost from a novella from 1843. Your future self will thank you.