Writers just write!


Why writers need to write for readers, not English Literature students!

There was an article in Event magazine this week (Sunday 6th May) in which the Booker prize winning novelist Ian McEwan confessed to only getting a C+ for an essay he helped his son write about one of his own novels! On the radio 4 Today programme this morning (Wednesday 9th May) Michael Frayn, whose novel Spies was on the A Level English Literature specification, said he was terrified of being accosted by teachers to ask him to explain aspects of his book. ‘The author just writes the story as best he can and leaves it to the reader to work out what it’s about,’ said Frayn.

            So are writers unaware of the deeper implications of their writing? Perhaps. They are probably not aware of the hoops students are required to jump through in order to write ‘good’ essays!

            So if writers do not deliberately write for critical analysis, what do they do? I remember telling my supervisor I was ‘creating some motifs’ for my dissertation, comprising four chapters of my novel. ‘Don’t do that deliberately, she said. ‘Let them bubble up from the subconscious.’ She was right! When writers relax, and let the story tell itself, amazing things happen. Real life provides parallels, themes and messages – if we convey it faithfully, our stories will too. We don’t need to write for English literature students – we need to write for anyone who loves reading. If we write well, the literary features will shine through naturally. And our stories will be all the better for it.