Today, I’m delighted to be hosting the fabulous young author Charlotte McConaghy to my blog, as the last stop on her blog tour for her new novel with Momentum, Melancholy, book 2 of the Cure, released today!
I’ve known Charlotte for quite a while, ever since she was in high school in fact–we come from the same town and she’s a school friend of my middle child, Xavier (they are still good friends, incidentally!)
From her early teenage years, Charlotte was a keen and dedicated writer, and her first novel was published when she was only 17! I’m proud to reveal that when she was in Year 12, she came to me for some advice on a piece of writing–fantasy fiction–which she was creating for an Extension English major work. I was really impressed with her work and felt it also showed great promise–which was clearly the case, as though she’s still only in her twenties, Charlotte has since gone on to publish several more books, including Descent, The Shadows, Avery(first in the Chronicles of Kaya)and now The Cure series. It’s been such a joy to watch the progress of her career. And what’s more, as well as being a novelist, Charlotte also holds a Masters in Screenwriting, so maybe one day she can even be involved in bringing one of those great novels of hers to the screen!
Congratulations on the release of the new book, Charlotte, and welcome to my blog!
The Importance of Education in Perfecting Your Craft
Whether it be advanced degrees, continuing education, or workshops, how important is it to continue to learn and grow in your writing?
By Charlotte McConaghy
Thanks for having me on the blog today! To celebrate the release of my new novel Melancholy – Book Two of The Cure series, I thought I’d talk about something I get asked about a lot by aspiring writers: the importance of education in perfecting your craft.
A lot of new writers are keen to get opinions and perspectives on the education of writing – and whether or not you really need it. This is a tricky subject because many people will tell you not to go anywhere near creative writing courses, and I sort of agree with this. The reason people say it is because these sorts of courses can really mess with your voice, and as we all know, this is arguably the most important aspect of writing. Voice is essentially the personality in your writing, the style and tone and the way it feels for someone to read your work. When you start to play with the finer details of prose – grammar, punctuation, sentence structure, syntax etc – sometimes a writer will lose confidence in their original, natural style, and their voice can be lost.
There’s also a culture of negativity imbued in a lot of degrees, because in essence, education is about teaching people to critique works in order to learn frameworks for distinguishing quality versus non-quality. It’s an aesthetic at the end of the day. What often isn’t taken into account is the fact that there are other frameworks, including emotional connection and engagement, which are difficult to formulate or identify – these are instinctive, and they tie back in with voice.
SO, we understand that voice is hard to quantify – we can’t learn this, except through practicing getting to the heart of ourselves in our work, and allowing the essence of who we are to infuse our writing. Being true to what we love is the most important thing in any creative field.
HOWEVER, I do believe that in order to elevate our work from something that is more private – a piece of ourselves, in our voice, written for ourselves – we have to understand craft principles. After all, a novel is designed to be read, so you must take into account your audience, and using tried and tested tools will help you to engage your audience on an emotional level.
Early in my career (I say that like I’m a seasoned and wise old expert at 26 – ha!) I avoided creative writing courses, but I did do a Masters degree in screenwriting, which improved my writing enormously. It taught me the tools for understanding things like character development and transformation, story structure, genre, setting, world-building and POV.
So in summary, I guess what I’m trying to say here is I believe that in terms of the larger- scale aspects of writing, education is absolutely necessary to improve your work. Certain degrees, as well as workshops and courses, will keep you in touch with these tools, and remind you to be mindful of craft principles when you write. Keep learning – you can never learn too much, or hear too many personal opinions that might trigger an epiphany of your own. Go to workshops, readings, festivals etc. Connect in with your people. But I also believe that in terms of your prose, the best thing you can do is to read daily and write daily. Reading will develop your taste and teach you what inspires you, and writing will develop your own personal style. Practice, practice, practice – and you will never stop improving.
More about Melancholy and buy links here.
Visit Charlotte’s website here.
Follow Charlotte on Twitter.
Charlotte’s Facebook author page here.
One thought on “Guest post: Charlotte McConaghy on educating writers”
Very sound advice, Charlotte. Best of luck with your writing.