Hello there! My name is Arjan and I’m (nearly) a second-year student studying English Literature at university.
I recently earned the opportunity to work with Emily for a week, thanks to an organisation called Arts Emergency. They help young people from underrepresented backgrounds connect with industry professionals in a field of their choosing, primarily through mentorships and work experience to help us “get a foot in the door”.
Emily asked me to write a guest post for her blog and my first reaction was one of shock and gratitude—all I thought to myself was, “this is an amazing opportunity, don’t mess it up!”
I’m quite self-critical if you couldn’t tell, and that’s something I was able to work towards overcoming during the period of my work experience. The first portion of the week involved Emily and I working through and editing a piece of my prose for me to improve by the week’s end, to show me how much I could progress in a short time span.
We also discussed various methods and templates for developing characters and plot. Emily’s suggestion of using enneagrams to develop character motivations, conflicts and believability helped me to build upon the character sketches I had completed for the protagonists of my potential fantasy novel, making them feel more authentic and alive.
Working with Emily has allowed me to bolster my confidence as a writer, seeing the potential within my work and what habits I can adopt to improve and grow over time.
The midweek period involved a pair of Q&A calls; the first focused on the craft of writing itself, with the latter focusing on publishing and the practical aspects of a writer’s life.
Both calls helped clarify the doubts and concerns in my mind surrounding things like pacing, formatting and networking within the writing community—things that I was not taught at school or thus far in my undergraduate degree. I’m forever grateful for Emily allowing me to ask question after question, so many in fact that we had to reset our zoom call during each session to make time for all our tangents and love of spreadsheets.
These sessions (and the pages of invaluable information that came from them) allowed me to gain a clearer understanding of the publishing routes I may want to consider for my novel.
My background when it comes to writing began in high school, with the English department noting my fondness for literature and helping me pursue both my academic and creative interests. It’s because of them and how they nurtured my love for literature that I chose to study English at university.
My connection to the fantasy genre stems from my love of series such as Lord of the Rings and the tabletop roleplaying game Dungeons & Dragons. I was introduced to D&D through a web series called Critical Role, where a group of well-known voice actors in the worlds of animation and video games play the game together— I could talk about Critical Role and D&D for hours, but I’ll save that for another time.
Growing up with these stories and having a fantastic group of teachers in school helped me realise that I wanted to create and share my own work with the world, just as those who influenced my love of fantasy did.
It all started with me creating my own world during the early days of the pandemic and setting up a D&D campaign within that world for a group of friends. Over the years the world I created has grown, and with the help of my players and their input it feels alive—but it still has a long way to go.
I hope to one day publish my work, specifically within the fantasy genre and set within my world. My friends/players, people from very different walks of life, act as a focus group of sorts for my novel.
It is through the game and their response that I can test out ideas and concepts for the plot and see what the reception is—the feedback so far has been incredibly helpful! In no way is this an indication of what the genre’s global audience may think and feel about my stories, but it’s what works for me right now.
I write for the same reasons many others do; it’s an emotional outlet for me and a great form of escapism. Writing has allowed me to create worlds where the impossible is possible—where I can step away and forget about my anxieties for a time.
Having the ability to create and tell stories is a powerful thing and without this form of expression I feel life would be meaningless (or at the very least, EXTREMELYboring). I hope I will be able to use the knowledge I’ve gained throughout my education and my week working with Emily to contribute my own work to the world.
Who knows, maybe my novel will inspire someone to tell their own stories, just like my influences inspired me. It’s a nice thought, but I know I still have a long way to go until then.
Thank you so much Arjan for your incredible blog, and your time this week! If you would like to follow Arjan’s journey into authordom, you can follow him on Twitter here.