Exam season is drawing to a close here in the UK.
After months of preparation and stress, thousands of GCSE students will face their final papers before kicking back for few weeks, while trying to ignore the shadow of gloom that is Results Day.
Remembering my own experiences of this time is uncomfortable.
When I took my GCSEs, they were called O Levels (a simpler name for a harder exam, if the tabloids are to be believed) I don’t remember learning how to
I’m not saying I wasn’t taught the techniques, merely that I don’t recall the information being passed on to me.
But then, my mind is hazy about a lot of things from that time: how to calculate the area of a circle; why I stood outside the school gates, holding a cigarette for the Head Girl, before being caught by the evil harpy that was Miss Brown and losing my Prefect’s badge; why I chickened out of meeting Dominic behind the print works after school, even though he was pretty good looking and no one else had asked me out through the whole of Secondary School.
I think I might have glanced through a handful of old test papers, but in the main my revision technique was
(1) Wake up thinking about upcoming exam.
(2) Experience a sickening feeling of dread.
(3) Attempt to cover up sickening feeling of dread by playing the Seven and the Ragged Tiger by Duran Duran very loud.
(4) Eat oven chips.
(5) Got to bed.
(6) Wake up thinking about upcoming exam …
I passed most of my exams – some scraped more than passed – but would have got an A in The Union of the Snake, if it had been on the curriculum.
When it came to studying for my degree, I took the whole thing rather more seriously.
I read, re-read, annotated, drew crazy looking diagrams with five different coloured luminous markers, bought a stack of old exam papers and spent every evening for weeks on the run up sitting mock exams in my dining room until I could answer a question about Religious Observance or Women’s Role in Roman Society blindfold with my hands tied behind my back, scratching my answers into the wall with a spoon clenched between my toes.
I got a First.
Now, writing a novel is rather like sitting an exam that’s really important to you but has no time limit and which you’re never quite sure is over until someone buys your answer papers from you.
I’ve revised my YA novel many, many times. I’ve sent it out to four agents, three of which have come back pretty quickly with a big no and the fourth has yet to answer at all.
So far, I have failed the exam.
But an editor has just looked through my first chapter for free, covering the page in lovely squiggly red comments.
Now I’m back to revision.
Maybe this time I’ll pass the resit.
Written for Kat’s W4W prompt.
The editor in question was James at Storymedic. I’m not sure if he’ll read any more chapters for free, but read his blog anyway – in it you’ll find some brilliant guidance for writers.