The dreaded D Word

I was instilled with a certain amount of fear about having to write another dissertation. The mere word brought back all the memories of last year; filling my summer with research, reading every book on my subject, juggling it alongside other essays, word count deadlines, the endless drafts, locking myself in my room for six weeks and not looking at anything other than that word document until it made sense. In summary, it took me a full nine months to cram all my research into one coherent narrative, like birthing a terrible paper child. I even had a full scale meltdown in the final few weeks which culminated in several long nights spent with pages all over my parents’ floor, fretting over which sentence I could lose to get under the maximum word limit.

I’m a little scared about repeating the whole process.

So I finished my final essay and handed it in, knowing what was waiting for me around the corner.

I met with my tutor for that all important first discussion. I had decided on my final idea after thinking about books I had read recently that I would love to put my own spin on. It came to me like a giant shiny arrow covered in light bulbs had just descended over my desk and picked up the book which I was thinking about most and made it float in front of my eyes. And then I had to manically scribble the entire thing on a post-it, because I was actually at the train station, walking somewhere, I can’t quite remember. All I know is it was one of THOSE moments. Everything clicked and, I hate to use the word because it’s annoying and bland, but it suddenly all made sense.

So I entered the first meeting with a clear plan, and I think that’s key. I had rationalised my idea to myself over and over, thought about whether I could make it work in the word limit and started making notes, began researching the novels I would deal with. It was totally doable to me. And I was consequently delighted when my tutor thought so too. I left feeling so joyous and floating home I had another giant arrow moment when my first character started talking to me. I scrambled to find my writing journal. We only work with hastily written scribbles which are barely legible here.

Over the ensuing weeks I have kept calm. My tutor asked me about deadlines and I remained vague as I don’t work well to word counts. I decided to make this year easier so to avoid last year’s meltdown madness. I made a wall calendar with crucial dates and worked out my reading list for the following eighteen or so weeks. I’ve set myself rough deadlines but I’m not fretting just yet.

And I have to say, it’s technically early days, but it’s going well. My characters are shifting constantly, but that’s okay. It’s all coming together and I feel good, capable and, crucially, in control. We have sixteen weeks of this. It’s totally doable.



We gathered around the table, fizzing with anticipation, three children’s writers and three critical & creative (or adult writers, as they called us). This evening we were to mix things up a bit. It was a workshop for first drafts. We each clutched multiple copies of work we each were apprehensive of. The conversation was stilted, we were relative strangers. Then came the inevitable,  ‘do you want to go first?’
‘Oh no.’
‘Okay, I’ll take it.’
No excuses, we were to read the work straight through with no explanation until the critique was given, then the author could explain whether it was part of  larger project, if it stood alone and their intentions in writing it.

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Creative Critters

Last night we workshopped drafts. I’m used to fairly robust criticism, harsh verging on heartless. I can take it from those I trust to tell me something’s good, bad or most horrifyingly ‘distinctly average’. However in this new group I felt incredibly nervous.

I used to only cover grammar and repetition when I fed back but in the last year I’ve got braver about critiquing character and even plot. I used to be more organic in approach but now I blast out my points as soon as I can, partly to get a dialogue going, partly out of nerves. I used to never ever make suggestions for additions but since our Screen Play module I will.

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