This leads us onto the official beginning of my third academic year at the De Montfort University where I wrote a promise to myself and reviewed my deadlines for the year which I now reflect on…
A Third Year University Promise
As it is your third year at De Montfort University, I am needing you to try and focus more on your work and deadlines throughout the year.
After every lecture workshop, I need you to review your notes that have been taken and make sure that you understand what’s been covered. Read through it and reflect on it and if you don’t understand anything, enquire to your tutor and ask if they could explain again. Admit that you haven’t understood and accepted their help.
You know from experience that the more you don’t understand something, the more confused you will get as time progresses. Not understanding one lecture or workshop, could have a knock effect on other classes.
In previous years, you could have caught up and been able to get away with not understanding something, but in the third year, every piece of information and theme that is covered, so ask someone to explain things again. You may have only misunderstood one small element which has made the rest of the lecture or workshop confusing.
You know that your anxieties often get out of control very easily, so try and tackle each anxiety at the root before it explodes. Speak up to those who can help you with those worries and anxieties that relate to your assignments. Fresh pairs of eyes may help you see an answer and resolve some of the anxieties.
One of your big anxieties is group work. You know how much you deny it, the anxiety is always there and it grows with time. The third-year is crucial to your result when you graduate so you cannot risk the anxiety to get too much or to be put with the ‘leftovers’ or those who don’t pull their own weight when it comes to completing the work by the deadline.
I’m not saying it will work successfully, but I implore you to speak to your tutor before the groups are set and voice your worries, anxieties and who you would prefer to work within a group and who you would definitely prefer not to work with. I’m not saying the discussion between you and your tutor will have the outcome that you want, but at least you have voiced your anxieties and they may be taken on board.
During the duration of your third year, I want you to be mindful and manage your time effectively. Set some time aside to look over all of your assignments that you will be set throughout the year. Break it down into bite-size pieces and make an important heading, so the breakdown has a clear structure when it comes to writing the piece up in full. After you have done this, go through it and start to make notes on your thoughts underneath this header and then add the notes that you have taken in your lectures and workshops under the relative headers.
It is very important that you make sure that all of the notes that you have taken in your workshop or lecture coincide with the headers you have made. Self-made notes are also vital to be in your assignment under the relative headings as you can refer to those which can make the assignment make a lot more sense when you come to write it up in full.
Make sure you have downtime in between working on assignments. Take some time for yourself. Wind down. This is your third year and it is so important, you can’t afford mistakes. Tiredness can have a serious impact on your concentration and if your mind is totally switched on, you can make mistakes which can affect how you structure and construct and write your assignments.
If you are too tired or stressed, it is better to take a step back and clear your mind and take time to concentrate on yourself. When you feel like you are refreshed, you might return to your work and see a new perspective on it that you may not have thought of before you had that rest.
While the completion of your coursework and assignments are very important and crucial to graduating, it is also very important to build up a portfolio of published work in which you can use to assist you when securing a job in the industry in years to come. I would take advantage of the opportunities around the University that will help contribute to your portfolio. The lucky thing is you’ve got an advantage already, you have been a part of Demon Media for two years now and already have published material already via ‘Demon Magazine’ and links to your own radio shows and articles you have written on behalf of Birmingham PHAB Camps. This is a great start and uses this to encourage yourself to write and publish more articles.
You have your blog which you update regularly, which has a strong following. Keep on with this. It may play a strong part in your future and as well as updating it regularly, it also shows how confident and dedicated you are to it and how efficient you are to potential employers. The beauty of having to build a portfolio of published journalism for 10% of one of your unit’s final mark is that you love to write as it is one of the few ways that you can express yourself and you, in fact, use it as a destress technique, so you can be having some downtime and updating your portfolio of published journalism, both at the same time. A win, win situation!
I have one last tip for you to finish off this promise to yourself. Remember to relax, have fun and take it day by day, especially after everything that has happened. It is crucial to find the right balance between work and free time.
My Third Year University Deadlines
My final year of an undergraduate degree at De Monfort University was a lot of work, split into half by doing a joint honours degree and is studying two units in each part of the joint honours degree, consisting of a number of assignments or projects that would contribute to my overall prospect.
PRACTICAL JOURNALISM 3
ONE LIFE FEATURE
One of the pieces we were asked to write in this unit was a profile piece on someone who had a funny, tragic or memorable story to tell. I decided to base my profiling piece on Maxine the current chairperson of Birmingham PHAB Camps. She has been my inspiration for many years and has overcome some of her own obstacles and used it to benefit other people in similar situations to herself and show that disabilities shouldn’t be an obstacle rather drive to push themselves forward as she has done. This is why I wanted to write my profiling peace feature on her life and how she has been able to be the chairperson of a thriving charity for many years. As I was writing this piece I was so emotional reading the interview material she gave me and I wanted the piece to reflect all of her achievements and how strong positive attitude throughout her work as chairperson. Overall I was really proud of the result got and more the sense of pride I felt when I knew that I had written this feature personally.
I was very nervous but excited when I heard that we were doing another group project this year. When the tutor announced that we were going to do some more group work which would lead to our final assignment for this unit, I was very anxious as as I really wanted a good group who would support me and we would overall get the work done to a high quality without any problems with people not pulling their weight. I’ve worked in a group like this before and I would not have liked it to happen again. I was very lucky though, I got to work with two girls that I’d worked with before and achieved a high grade then and now we could do it again, especially when we had a new member on our team who was also eager to work. Together we were all full of creative original ideas to put in our magazine for our end of year project. But before any of this, we had to create a group presentation which would pitch our magazine ideas and overall outline the magazine that we hoped the create at the end of the year. Overall we were able to create a strong presentation in which we had thought out every idea for our final magazine and I was very happy with the way things looked and my very strong team!
COLLECTION OF PUBLISHED JOURNALISM
While studying this unit, it was our chance to collect all our published journalism we had created so far and I think this was one of my favourite assignments of the year, I was able to start to compile a portfolio of published journalism which I can use for future employment. Prior to now I have had so many opportunities and got so much of my work published through volunteering with Birmingham PHAB Camps and writing for the Demon magazine and I’m really grateful for these chances but no more more than De Montfort University Leicester. It was surreal to see my portfolio of published journalism up to industry standard, published articles in The Demon, Leicestershire Press and radio interviews and shows that I have participated up until now. Now I have a built a sturdy foundation of a journalist portfolio I can be proud of and add to for the future.
This was the piece that we have been building up to all year and I had been dreading this is silent but also looking forward too. I was dreading it because it was what the whole year has been building up to and I didn’t want my final project to go wrong, however, I had a wonderful team and all four of us had been working hard all year to make sure our publication was a success. Using our team working skills we were able to stay up-to-date with everything that we needed to complete and have regular meetings which made sure everyone was on schedule and everyone was getting this support. It was really fun to collaborate with my team members and create a publication from scratch with us being the ones to be in creative charge and able to achieve this, from the planning and preparation all of the way through to finally taking it to publication. I took charge of the organisation and structure of the magazine as well as writing four features and two ‘extras’ which included:
Aspiring Makeup Artist
Mosh Nightclub Leicester
20th anniversary of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone
Top 5 Makeup tips
Opinion Piece – Going Shopping with a Disability
Now holding a copy of our magazine, I couldn’t be more chuffed with the result. We worked as a team to achieve this and I couldn’t have asked for a better chance to be able to work with this team and make a magazine that I can show in the future.
This was the most draining and the most challenging unit of the year. All three years were building up to this and when it came to actually researching it and starting it, I was very intimidated by the thought of writing 10,000 words on a single subject. I had to learn to stop catastrophizing and at least write 250 words a day. The worst thing you can do is procrastinate and put it off until shortly before the deadlines. Don’t get me wrong it’s very tempting and there were some days this I would work but then there were some days that I would refuse to work and just take a break. Sometimes you need these days because not every idea is a good idea, especially if you try and force it down in order to have something written for that day.
The first thing that needed doing was to submit a literature review. This wasn’t a graded submission, this was only for your dissertation tutor to glance over and see if you were heading in the right direction. During the whole dissertation period, I was very paranoid that I was straying off in one direction when I was supposed to be going the other way, so it was good to get some constructive feedback before moving on to officially writing my dissertation. You could use the literature review that you have to your tutor in your final submission, so after I got my feedback from my tutor, I had to refine it and add to it and then this was a section done.
I won’t bore you with the whole process of how I wrote my dissertation, but what I will say is collect research and useful references to use but be careful you don’t go off on a tangent. Always review your question and check everything links back to your question, it may seem like it does, but just double-check and if you are not sure, ask someone to verify. I had this problem, my dissertation was focused on the differences between journalistic and film/television representation of disabled people and I got carried away with analysing film/television representation of disabled people, getting lost in how my four chosen case studies did this, in a positive/negative, accurate light. I did this so well, I forgot half of my dissertation question and while what I’d written would be good for a film studies dissertation it was not suitable for journalism one. I had to keep prompting myself to stay on course and refer to the extensive notes I had made over time. I’ll tell you what though, I spent more time in the library in my third year, that I had done in my whole University life put together.
You will have times in your dissertation or the equivalent that you feel panicked and that you can’t do it, this is totally normal. My advice is to break whatever your final project is down into small chunks or sections; there is nothing worse than staring at a blank page. Slowly chip away at it, making rough notes that you can turn into something more sturdy later on. Study and develop a process that works and is most effective to you, your the one who knows how you operate.
Professional Writing Skills
The first assignment was to write a 2,000-word essay based on one question we had outlined to us in lectures. All of the questions were interesting and were ones I could really sink my teeth into. These questions are as follows:
Is copyright dead in the age of the Internet? If not why not? And if so, how will writers be able to earn money?
Can Creative Writing be taught?
What factors might a writer take into account when deciding whether to self-publish?
Does the division of literature into genres and whether it helps or harms readers, writers and publishers.
Should writers work for free?
Every question I thought was crucial to current writers and aspiring writers in today’s industry and we all need to be aware of the implications of all of them. I was really grateful that the lectures covered each one of these questions in detail before it was time to start the essay. After thinking about it for a long time, I chose to write my essay on the division of literature into genres and whether it helps or harms readers, writers and publishers?
Since I was a child, I have always wanted to write and as I’ve grown I have learnt to structure my writing and stick to certain conversations identifiable to each genre, from character types, to plots, to settings so this can have the most out of the piece. Readers become use to reading certain genres as they have grown to like what the genre and therefore story has to offer them. However if readers always read the same genre all of the time, they can become stuck in a rut and be scared of reading anything else and writers can have the same problem, they can get used to writing certain genre or genres of books as its easy to stick to them so they know where they are going with the story, but this can limit their writing capabilities and expression of originality. Trust me I have done the same as a writer and a writer which is a habit I now want to break. Writers can use genre conventions to lay the foundation of their work, but then build on it with their own originality and finding the courage to be experimental.
Publishers also have high exceptions of writers as some may appreciate originality from writers and may enjoy launching a book that combines two or more genres, you as the writer just need to be mindful of finding the happy medium so your book has more of an impact, but at the same time some boundaries need testing. Writers need to decide what impact they want to make on the industry and whether certain risks are worth taking to get the novel they so desire.
Most publishers prefer to take on literature that co-ordinates with only one genre as its easier to categorise and therefore sell. Bookshops also categorise the literature they receive in order to make it more easily accessible for costumers and to sell more effectively.
As a writer, you need to be mindful of the trends that are current in the industry so your writing can be up there and compete for those top spots, while trying to show your originality and own unique style of writing, finding your niche.
At present, I am still trying to find my niche and discovering where my creative flair while working out the kinks of being a writer, and it’s challenging, it gives me a headache. I keep persisting as this is my passion and what I want to do this for the rest of my life. I need to work with the industry to be successful, always modifying my writing to get my books noticed and sold.
CREATIVE WRITING PUBLICATION
Out of all my assignments, this was definitely one that I was looking forward too. We had the chance to create our own publication and have it officially published. Our tutors briefed us on the project requirements quite early on in the year as it is quite a long process; writing the content, finding the right publishing and printing company and fitting everything to their standards, designing an eye-catching front and back cover and then getting it printed and delivered in a timely manner. Though it was a fun project in hindsight, there was a lot of logistics to figure out, both creatively and professionally. I knew from the beginning that I wanted to work independently on this project, I knew that it would be a lot more work on my plate but I knew that if I wanted to do this is a career then there would be nothing more satisfying and bolstering then to see my published project and know that I’ve created it all by myself. After much consideration I decided that I wanted to publish a number of stories that I had started to write and then not had a chance to finish, I thought this was the perfect opportunity to do so. This would also mean that I would be in full creative control of the content and do everything using my creativity and at my own pace.
Once I had established all this, I knew I had to get the stories that I wanted to include up to higher standards and improve the characters and plotlines in order to make them much better and much more enjoyable to read. I actually enjoyed being able to look at my own stories and completely strip it down to use the core elements and rewrite it using the skills I had acquired that has made me a better and stronger writer. It truly was a grilling process to balance all the elements of a published book and make sure everything fitted accordingly to the brief of the assignment and the publishing company that I used, I knew that this is what I want to do as a future career and this would be great practice for me when it came to wanting to publish another book.
The process of finding a publisher was probably the most longwinded part of the entire project. I along with my classmates underestimated how difficult this would be so had focused primarily on the content of our novels. The tutors at first recommended some publishers we could use which I looked at. A tutor has used Amazon CreateSpace for their own book, however, I found this to be too expensive for a student budget. Following this, I found other publisher’s but could not fulfil all their demands for publishing. Eventually, I followed a friend’s recommendation and this was the best option and required only a small change to the number of pages I needed.
Before I could publish I had to find a cover. I was very grateful to my father’s colleague who designed the cover for me as I knew him very well. This saved me the anxiety of finding someone to design the cover. As I struggled with the lingo I was able to send him the requirements which he would understand, as well as my design ideas. He also gave me some options which allowed for a brainstorming session, ensuring I created something I was proud of. It also meant I could focus on finding a publisher!
Fast forward a number of months, I am sitting here and looking at my first published book and it feels really surreal. I have sold a number of copies and people have praised me on my writing and the overall presentation of the book and I am very pleased with how it turned out. I hope to sell more copies of these books in the future and made me put them up on Amazon to sell. This has been my dream since I can possibly remember and now I’ve done it once I am working on more stories which I hope to turn into two more published books and become a professional writer!
Following the submission and people purchasing copies off me – I now hope to get it put on Amazon or a similar platform to sell it online. This will allow me to create a name for myself as I write and publish other stories.
For now, I will leave you with this…
Love & Loss: A Collection of Short Stories
Two stories of Love and Loss…
Three years ago, Olivia’s parents were killed in a car crash and her life was turned upside-down. Now, on the anniversary of that fateful day, she relives the tragic events that changed her life forever. How will Olivia manage to open up to her aunt and brother?
EMMA’S INNER TORTURE
Since the death of her mother, her father’s violence towards her has increased, despite her love and devotion towards him. She draws an escape world that one day she finds herself in. King Jorden looms over this Kingdom, spreading fear and flaunting his power. Will Emma ever manage to stand up to the cruel men who rule her life?
For the final assignment in this unit, we had to create a web profile showcasing ourselves in any way we wanted to and I decided to Showcase myself as an aspiring writer, using the website to introduce myself and publicise my official published book as well as promoting my current projects that I’m working on such as my first fantasy fiction novel as well as a fantasy novella and a crime, police drama novel. These are the things that I’ve based my website on so far and now I’ve built a foundation for it, I hope to know to expand it with more or published at current projects here at #SophieCreates
Specialism and Negotiated Study
As I had chosen to do my dissertation in journalism, I had to study the Specialism and Negotiated Study unit in creative writing. At first, I was regretting my choice to do my dissertation in journalism as I really wanted to complete a bigger creative writing project to what I had been allowed to do so far. But then I found out that this unit would I mean we could focus on different elements it’s of children’s writing which I really fancied doing and being able to take a different approach to the world of writing. It really was, in fact, a different way of writing and it made me look at at the world differently which I’m guessing what’s the whole point of the unit.
For the first assignment in this unit, we had to write content picture or LeapFrog book as winners instructions to the illustrator to indicate what art images we wanted to go with the text we created. We had the chance to choose which one of these we would prefer to complete as our first assignment after learning about each one and how to do them. I was both excited for this as I have always wanted to create a book with writing and illustrations, but I am also anxious about not being able to write my instructions for the illustrator clearly enough. As we started to learn about picture books and LeapFrog books for this particular age I found it complicated in ways that I didn’t expect, we were told to forget everything we had learnt so far and taken a step back and try to see it in the eyes of a child. Though it sounded very easy, it was actually quite complex in terms of creating a story of simplicity that it could be read by a young age and the limited amount to text that we were able to use. After much consideration I decided to write a picture book based on a young girl with an imaginary friend that helps her through getting bullied at school, I felt this was very relevant to the age group as this was what I struggled with when I was a young child and an imaginary friend really got me through it. I did find it challenging but also quite fun to outline the illustrations that I wanted in my picture book, I just had to keep reminding myself to get the right balance between the text and the illustration instructions.
The final assignment in this unit was to write a 5000-word novel extract for an audience between 9 and 14. I had a few ideas of what novel extract I could write but I thought about it more and then I decided to rewrite the opening chapters of my first fantasy fiction novel that I had been working on since I was 10 years old. I could review what I had written already and edit the chapters so it fitted the assignment criteria. As I had been writing it from the age of 10, it already had factors that would be needed for the target audience requested and being able to read write and edit it more would allow me to fix those rogue parts. As I was writing I became nervous about submitting these chapters as I have been working on this for so long and I feel that I would get negative feedback which would put me off writing the remainder of the story. I am delighted to say that I secured a grade of 73% on this assignment which is the highest Mark I’ve got in my University’s study and within the boundaries of a first. I was in pure disbelief when I saw this result and I couldn’t believe that something I had a hidden away so long could get me such a positive response.
Now having officially finished University, I feel bolstered by this high-grade to continue to work on this novel, maturing it slightly to include elements such as love and drama but keeping the core aspects of the story. I am currently deep into the world that this story is creating and I can’t wait to see where it takes me!