Love stories but struggle to read? You don’t have to give up on dreams of writing…
I’m seventeen and I co-wrote Waiting for Callback with my mum. I’m also a pretty poor reader and I’ll never be able to spell. I used to worry because I read so many times that to be a writer you had, first and foremost, to be a reader but I think I misunderstood that advice or took it too literally. What you really need is to have stories in your life and there are so many ways to do that. I loved picture books when I was really small and it was frustrating that I wasn’t a quick word reader and that’s probably why I insisted on being read to so often and for so long. My poor mum (and occasionally my dad – he had less patience) had to go through the whole ‘just one more chapter’ routine for years and years. And I insisted in what I now suspect was a pretty diva-ish way on accents (there was a long Twins at St Clare’s phase where my mum had to cope with both the Irish twins and Mam’zelle). Lovely though that was I got to a stage where I still wanted to be read to but not especially by them (does that sound mean? I’m pretty sure it was mutual) and that’s when audiobooks came into their own. Lots of classics (because they are all on audio), anything read by Martin Jarvis (all the Just Williams and the Wodehouse books) and then books like the magical Eva Ibbotson historical romances (if you haven’t come across the Secret Countess then search it out). I still use audiobooks all the time – for schoolwork as well as pleasure. I just wish more books were recorded.
I was a complete drama geek and that’s how I stumbled the best ‘on the page’ form for me: scripts. I don’t know whether it’s the shorter lines but I can read play scripts (and poems) much more easily than prose texts. For me reading Shakespeare was actually easier than reading some YA books. So I started searching out texts in that format, some great films publish the scripts and I read things like the Inbetweeners scripts.
Writing with my mum I get help for lots of the stuff I find hardest – obviously grammar and spelling but structure too and I think it’s ok to be good at some bits and to ask for help and work with people that have different strengths. And thank God for autocorrect and spelling and grammar checks on the computer even for short pieces like this.
When I’m not writing with my mum I write in screenplay format because for me that’s much easier, there’s great software that helps too. And just watching TV and films tells you so much about story building – while telling you the stories, so that’s all good too. Listening and keeping your eyes open feeds into writing and you can maybe do more of that if it’s hard to stay inside books.
So if you struggle to read that doesn’t mean that you’re cut out from stories or cut out from writing. If you’ve got a good imagination you’ll be spinning stories all day long in your head, there are lots of ways – don’t feel excluded.