This is an extract from C.J. Flood’s Start Writing Young Adult Fictiononline course.


We write because we feel compelled to, because we can, because we are trying to understand our experience, to shrink our pain, and elevate our suffering, to make our mark, and feel better with ourselves, and connect with each other and the universe. Sometimes it’s easy, sometimes it’s hard. Sometimes it’s a pleasure, and sometimes we wonder why we put ourselves through it. We write for lots of different reasons. But we write.

“There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.” — Maya Angelou

The blank page has scared off better women and men than us, but together we can tackle it. The trick is to handle our fear of it. The truth is that fear always accompanies creativity, because fear doesn’t understand creativity. Why would we do something unnecessary without any guarantee of a reward? Poor fear doesn’t get it. Fear isn’t going anywhere, and so it is crucial that we must learn how to write in spite of it.

“You don’t write a novel out of sheer pity any more than you blow a safe out of a vague longing to be rich. A certain ruthlessness and a sense of alienation from society is as essential to creative writing as it is to armed robbery.” — Nelson Algren

Okay, so fear is coming with us. Fine. So long as it doesn’t stop us, we can deal with it. Fear likely had some thoughts on whether our idea and writing style is original. Fear has ideas about everything! Sometimes it holds me back too. After all, are there really any new ideas? And if I don’t have an entirely new idea does that mean that I don’t have anything worthwhile to say? After much consideration, and some serious jousting with fear, I’ve come to the conclusion that I don’t believe so.

“You don’t write a novel out of sheer pity any more than you blow a safe out of a vague longing to be rich. A certain ruthlessness and a sense of alienation from society is as essential to creative writing as it is to armed robbery.” — Nelson Algren

Phew! So, now let’s consider originality.

You are unique, born with a specific set of qualities, defects, talents and failings that make you yourself. Your family, your upbringing, your personality, the jobs, relationships, experiences, accidents, injuries you’ve had, all the ways you’ve suffered and thrived and sacrificed and gloried, all of the rare, wondrous and humdrum, makes up your individuality, your originality, the very youness of you.

This is what you must bring to your writing. The better you know yourself and what you believe, the stronger your voice will be.

“Everything that needs to be said has already been said. But since no one was listening, everything must be said again.” — Andre Gide

My belief is that “every individual has the potential to be original”, as Yogi Bhajan says. And that everything has been said before, but will need to be said again and again, because there’s always someone, who, like you, needs to understand it more deeply. Certain things us humans never understand, but we are always in the process of trying to. Great mysteries like love and death and justice keep us flummoxed and bewildered and devastated and delighted all of our lives. These are themes that we consider and dwell upon and revisit in our stories and art time and time again.

“It is better to fail in originality than to succeed in imitation.” — Herman Melville


This is an extract from our course Start Writing Young Adult Fiction.