Seven things I have learned while doing my degree

I received a phone call from my supervising lecturer yesterday with the good news that I’ve passed my Master of Arts (Creative Writing) degree.

And with a Distinction, too.

After three years of intensive, hard and sometimes frustrating work, I finally get to wear the funny hat and gown in a few months’ time.  It has been a difficult and testing time, but there have been many highlights and fun times in there as well. My final thesis paper was a 40,000 word novel for children plus a 10,000 word exegesis essay on the research, influences and processes of writing. You can read more about the process in a series of articles here. Now I start the next phase in the process; trying to find a publisher to give my precious novel a good home. This could prove to be the hardest part of all.

So what have I learned?

Doing my degree has taught me some valuable lessons:

  1. Writers can always improve: no matter how much you think you know about writing, you can always get better.
  2. Writing is hard work: I have put in literally thousands of hours of writing, rewriting, editing and proofreading into my essays, assignments and novel.
  3. Writers need persistence: I must admit there were times when I almost gave up, when the task seemed too much or health issues intervened. By persisting I was able to finish the race.
  4. Writers learn to write by writing: there is no other way. Write, write, write – and your writing skills will develop.
  5. Rewriting is as important as writing the first draft: too often I have been satisfied with the attitude my first or second draft of a story or poem. Most first drafts are rubbish. My novel went through an incredible 17 drafts before I was truly happy with it.
  6. Editing is a part of the creative process: I used to hate editing my stories. I found it tedious and boring. I wanted to be rid of the story and to get on with the next one. Editing is an essential part of the writing process; ignore this stage and your writing will remain mediocre – and unpublished. I still don’t love editing, but I have come to appreciate its importance.
  7. Proofreading is an essential writing skill: editors and publishers are almost unanimous in their chief gripes about writers, and this one is almost always near the top of their list. If you don’t proofread your writing before sending it off to a publisher you stand a very poor chance of having the work published.

I could go on, but these seven things stand out. I probably could add patience too, because that lesson is still coming. Sure, I have had to wait a long time to get my final results, but the wait to hear from a publisher is sure to be much longer, and then the wait to hold the book in my hands may be even longer. But as they say, good things come to those who wait.

And if patience is a virtue, then I must be very virtuous.

Good writing.

Further reading:


11 Responses to “Seven things I have learned while doing my degree”

  1. john malone says:

    my latest blog bombed, Trevor; this is most disheartening; I think what have I not done? then I read a blog like yours and I get really good clues

    and btw CONGRATS for the degree; I’ll shout you a drink if we ever meet up 🙂

  2. Trevor says:

    Thanks John – you’re on. When and where?

    When you say you latest blog post bombed, what do you mean?

    Pleased I’m inspiring someone. Sometimes blogging can be right up there with talking to a brick wall: not much of a response.

  3. Frances Kendall says:

    Congratulations, Trevor. Well deserved.

  4. Wendy says:

    Congratulations! Hope to read your novel in print one day soon.

  5. john l malone says:

    about time you put up a new blog, Trevor; manuscript finished; no excuse now 🙂

  6. Penny says:

    Congratulations on the distinction! I hope you are able to find a publisher for your story and the wait is not too long before you receive a response.
    What will you be writing next?

  7. Trevor says:

    I hear you John. And I’ve been busy over recent days following your suggestion. Stay tuned.

  8. Trevor says:

    Thanks for the ‘congratulations’ Wendy, Penny and Frances.

    Wendy – publication is still a long way off. Now I have to prepare it for sending out to publishers and the wait for a reply can be as long as 6 months – and they can say ‘no’ after all that time.

    Penny – I still have to make some small changes following the examiners comments before doing a final bound copy for the uni library and the humanities dept. I have to do that in the next week before graduation on April 9th. Both examiners stated that the novel was very well done and of publishable standard. YAY. Their comments were only on a few very minor issues (eg a missing question mark!).

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