Ahh, college is definitely the time in which I have grown most as a writer. If you didn't know, I'm currently a junior (who is way too scared of senior year approaching), and a lot of what I do in college involves writing.
I came into college as a journalism major and declared my creative writing minor during my sophomore year. In my first semester at college, I didn't really do much writing outside of class assignments. The only big thing was NaNoWriMo 2016, which marked the beginning of me learning just how much I could write in a day when I procrastinated (it's a lot).
At my school, we have a thing called J-Term or January Term. It's three weeks of having only one class for three or four hours a day, for about 3.5 weeks. The idea is strange, but it's really nice to only have one class to focus on for three or four weeks. Since I had a relatively free schedule, I thought it would be fun to take Intro to Creative Writing, which happened to be the pre-requisite for the rest of my classes as a creative writing minor. Yes, it might surprise you to know that I took classes for my minor before actually looking into what I actually needed to take. But hey, it all worked out in the end.
Being in this class was the first time I ever experienced being in a critique group and having other writers give me feedback on my work. Getting feedback on a daily basis was helpful for me, pushing me to grow as a writer in a very short span of time. I wish that this group had been a little more helpful in terms of understanding my writing style and helping me to develop in areas that I was weak in, but unfortunately, I struggled to connect with my group-mates outside of our assigned workshop times.
In this class, I had to write short scenes both in class and outside of class, as well as learn to write poetry. Being creative on demand for three weeks gave me a small taste of what it would be like to continuously be writing in a work setting. It also gave me an idea for my NaNoWriMo 2017 story.
It wasn't until my sophomore year that I really began honing my craft more seriously and improving at a faster rate. I attribute it to all the different forms of writing I did over this academic year.
During the fall, I was in a Writing Fiction class and a Newswriting class, and I became a lot more involved in student media. My Newswriting class required me to write sample articles and scripts pretty frequently, revising them heavily before turning it in. These deadlines were often in a couple of days, so I really had to work on my writing in order to turn in quality work on a timely manner. Writing for the news also meant writing in AP style and forcing myself to be a lot more concise in how I was describing scenes and giving information.
On the other hand, my Writing Fiction class was pushing me to be more creative and work on my ability to write plot and character development. I had to turn in an 800-1000 word short story every week for my professor and my critique group, then critique two other short stories in time for class. It was quite a routine to get into, on top of all the reading we had to do.
Since my Newswriting class was a MWF class and Writing Fiction was TR, I was writing pretty much every day during that semester. On top of that, I had a weekly column on my school's online news site that I was sharing with my roommate at the time. All of this writing and switching my brain between fiction writing and news-style writing on a daily basis made me really in tune with the craft and incredibly comfortable with churning out content at a moment's notice. It eventually took a toll on my creativity closer to the end of the semester, but that burnout was quite welcome after all the content I had created.
This constant writing also had an effect on my NaNoWriMo story that year, as it is still the smoothest and most comprehensive first draft that I've ever written. Yes, I wrote a 50,000 word first draft of a novel in between all of my class writing assignments and somehow remained relatively sane and alive. Looking back on that experience, I can definitely say that the constant writing that semester made me a much better writer and drafter.
My goal with that book was to have it finished by the end of 2017, and I somehow managed that. Once it was done, I sent it to the girls in my critique group, my roommate at that time, and my sister back home. From their feedback, I began making notes on how I can make that story better in my next draft.
In spring 2018, I started writing more for my school's magazine. By the end of the semester, my name was on two articles and I had been hired as the new Culture Editor for the magazine. It was an opportunity I wasn't expecting, but was super excited to step into. For one, it would give me experience in the journalism field that was more consistent, and it was giving me editorial experience that I knew would be beneficial in my own fiction writing.
Being Culture Editor has been one of the most amazing opportunities I've had as a writer. Seeing both sides of the process, as writer and as editor, has made me evaluate my own writing and pushed me to be better on a deadline. For the first time, I was responsible for someone else's writing and had to edit and give feedback on writing in a constructive manner if an article wasn't working. I also had the chance to write about a range of topics that were important to me and that I wouldn't have been able to write if it wasn't for my position on the magazine.
Of all the chances given to me by this position, the two that have impacted my career the most were interviewing the president of my college for an article about our upcoming change in status, and an upcoming College Media Association conference.
The most recent round of NaNoWriMo (2018) left me with my fifth novel drafted in as many years. It was the completion of this novel that made me decide to start working on seriously revising one of my previous works. With two of them in particular, I had left the story for long enough that my mind had come up with solutions to the problems I had during the drafting process and new ideas had formed to make the stories better.
That brings me to right now, as I'm in the process of preparing for revision of one of my novels. This is the first time that I've settled down to re-write a novel as part of revision. The bare bones of the story are still the same, but a lot about the characters and the setting of the story are changing. I've finally gotten to a point in which I think my skills as a writer have developed and grown enough to pursue revision, and I'm really excited about going on this new journey.