Sunday, 5 April 2015

5 Reasons Why Teaching Helps Your Writing

1. Your English Improves

Becoming a teacher has been one of the best decisions I've ever made. It's given me a career path, a goal, and a whole lot of fun teaching young people, but it's also been a tremendous boost to my writing, not least because my all-round English has improved as a result. Writers need words like an addict needs crack, and when you're teaching, particularly if you're teaching English, you are around words all the time; words which ultimately fizz around your brain and find their way into your books.

2. Your Characters Improve

You meet so many different people teaching, whether be they teachers, parents, or students. In every one of my books there are at least 2-3 people that I have met during my teaching career swirling around in my characters. Teaching helps me to decide whether that kid would smoke, or that one would swear, and how they would act in any given situation, etc. Without these real people I doubt that my characters would have been quite so easy to write, quite so believable to the reader.

3. Your Dialogue Improves

Being close to young people also brings you closer to English as it's actually spoken, as opposed to how a dictionary would have it, i.e 'me and you' vs 'you and I'. This is of particular benefit to anyone who is either writing Children's/Young Adults fiction or who has some child/teenage characters in their book. So if you're teaching pay attention to how your students speak, what words they use, what topics they talk about, or even how frequently they interrupt each other etc. When the reader reads your dialogue they have to believe it completely, and that the character is speaking to them. There's no point in having a bunch of kids from lower-income families speaking like Harvard freshmen now is there? They must speak in your book as they would in real life.

4. Your Awareness Of Society Improves

Teaching brings you closer to people from all walks of life: girls, boys, rich, poor, urban, rural, christian, muslim, jewish, atheist: the list is endless. Teaching is a window into their world, and it allows you to see what their life experience is like, so that when you are dreaming-up characters and plotlines they become more believable and more realistic to the reader. The rich and supremely spoilt Padget Penárgon from my Jack Strong books for example, was that much easier to write precisely because of my job teaching a lot of fantasically wealthy kids in China. I knew how he would act, how he would think, behave, talk etc. So in a sense he wrote himself rather than the other way around.

5. Your Awareness Of Your Audience Improves

Kids are readers too, and teaching them also allows you to get a good handle on what books they are currently reading, and what characters they like. This is of particular benefit to anyone who - like me - is writing for Children and/or Young Adults. But since you also meet a lot of other teachers, it can also be helpful for adult fiction writers to find out what books other people are reading and what they might be interested in in the future. After all, there's no point in writing a book if your target audience is just not interested in what you have to say.

Final Word

If you aren't a teacher and are looking for that extra little ingredient that's missing from your writing, why not give teaching a try? It doesn't have to be a full-time job either - it can just be an hour here or there or the odd day at the weekend. What's the worst thing that can happen? If it doesn't work out then you can just walk away and try something else, but if it gives you an idea or two or helps you to freshen up a few of your characters then your books will not just be better written but also more readable as a result.

Some notable teacher/writers

1. Stephen King  2. William Shakespeare  3. Lewis Carroll  4. Robert Frost  5. J.R.R Tolkien  6. J.K Rowling  7. Dan Brown 8. William Golding

If you would like to read my book, Jack Strong and the Red Giant, about a bullied, 12 year old boy's adventures on a strange, alien spaceship then check out the link below:

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