Writing Wednesdays: Facts about writing that you didn't learn in school

 Writing is challenging. In this post I share a few facts about writing that you didn't learn in school.

I have mixed feelings about writing in school. That I did personally, that is. Obviously I am majorly in support of writing in schools, and supporting budding writers.

Every time we had to write a story in school, we always followed the same structure: we had to come up with a plot, in four stages: exposition, something about the story unfolding I don’t remember the technical name for, climax, resolution. Then we’d have to write the story. I don’t write well like this.

First thing they don’t teach you about writing in school?

There’s no time limit.

That was one of my major pet peeves about writing I did in school lessons: we’d only have half an hour/an hour to write, sometimes including all the plotting and then swapping with someone and marking them out of ten for use of metaphors and whatnot. I’d often start writing a story in school, and end up coming home to work on it more.

Sure, you have deadlines. But you can work with those. And it’s usually deadlines around edits, and not the initial writing.

It doesn’t matter how many literary techniques you use.

Of course they’re important, and they add to the story. But nobody is going to sit there and count off how many metaphors you used, how many times you used a different word for said, whenever you used a proper noun to add an authentic air to your story. Like I said: these things do help, but you don’t have to be convoluted about them, and throw them in each sentence.

You might like this post for advice on basic literary techniques.

There’s no word count limit, either. Well, not always.

At GCSE we had to write a short story as a piece of coursework and in our exam. As a guideline, it had to be about two sides of A4.

I’ve had messages from people who want to know how long their story should be. Is 1,000 words too long for a chapter? Is 10,000 words too short for a novella?

For the record: a novella can be classed as 15,000 words, a novel at 50,000 words. And sometimes you’ll find writing competitions or something like that where they ask for a submission or entry of, say, 5,000 words.

But if you want to write a story, there is no Official Limit On How Long It Needs To Be. Write as you want to.

Nobody’s going to ‘mark’ your story and grade it.

I mean, jeez, how intimidating can that be at school? Handing over something you’ve just written to someone so they can decide what it’s worth?

Writing is subjective. 

I don’t like horror or thriller so I doubt I’d rate Stephen King. But does that make him a bad writer? 
My mum thinks Harry Potter is a load of rubbish – and hell, there’s a whole theme park dedicated to the series!

Again: I don’t mean to say that writing in school is a waste of time. All I mean is that, if you’re serious about writing, the grade you get in school for writing doesn’t necessarily determine if you’re a good writer or not.

You might also like this post to find out the best ways to deal with criticism of your novel.

I just don’t want any young writers to be discouraged if they don’t get an awesome grade in writing at school.

You don’t have to study writing to be a professional writer.

It can help, of course. But it’s cool if you have other interests, too. Lauren James did physics at university, just like me, but we’re both authors. Plenty of authors have other jobs alongside being a writer. Some journalists don’t have a degree in journalism. It doesn’t stop any of them, any of us, from writing.

I don’t know why, but I was under the illusion that you had to do an English degree, or one in creative writing, if you wanted to be a published author.


It won’t hurt, but like I said: it’s not a requirement.

And, in general, there are no rules.

No official rules, anyway. Sure, there are some general rules about grammar and spelling (two vs to vs too, for instance), but when it comes to actually writing your story? It’s totally up to you how you do it.

Nobody can tell you how to write your story. They can advise you, offer you suggestions and constructive criticism… But at the end of the day, it’s your book. And it’s entirely up to you.

Have you got anything to share about writing at school? I’d love to hear in the comments!

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