Writing a book

One of the most popular topics of discussion at the moment is how ‘easy it is to write a book’ due to the fact that now anyone can self publish something they write on sites like amazon. Now, before we go any further with that, I think it is extremely important that we amend that statement. At the moment it is ‘easy to PUBLISH a book’, not write a book – big difference there, buddy. You know why? Because anyone can publish a book now if they have access to a computer and have basic understanding of how to work one, but not anyone can write a book – well, not anyone can write a good book at least. 

It really annoys me – well, many things annoy me and this is just another one – how so many people claim that they can write good books just because they have one published. In a lot of cases this can be true, whether they’re books have been discovered or not; I’ve read a ton of books that are on amazon for free by unknown authors that I think are fantastic and need more credit, but I’ve also ready far too many books which are just plain ridiculous. There was one that I got for free and thought, ‘Hey, fantastic! Free book!’ without even considering it wouldn’t be good. I started to read it and there was a girl who was hiding a secret from a boy and then, I kid you not, there was one paragraph shoved in the middle of the first few pages saying, ‘I just have to keep my distance from him because he can’t know that last month I saved him from a demon attack that almost killed him and by sacrificing my life for him I became his guardian angel and even though I’m completely in love with him I must stay true to my new responsibility’. 

What. The. Hell. 

There is also someone I know who is claiming that they wrote this book ‘in, like, a week’ and they’re getting it published because it’s so amazing and it will definitely hit the bestsellers list. Now I’m not one to judge (who am I kidding, I judge anyway hence the reason I have a blog) because the book may be great, but for an unpublished author to arrogantly state that a book they wrote in a week will be undoubtedly fantastic is just pushing it a bit too far for me. 

I’ve said this a thousand times, but it’s no secret that I want to one day be an author. I’ve been writing for as long as I can remember and this blog actually started for me to post snippets of things that I’d written in the hopes of gaining some feedback. I realised not long after that not only was it silly to post it online as anyone can steal it, but more importantly that I’m only 17 and whenever I look back at writing I’ve done from over a year ago I can’t help thinking that it wasn’t that great and how much I’ve improved. If I think that now, what will my writing be like in another year or five? I still have to get through school and university, so who knows how my writing style will change? There is one book idea (which I’ve finally finished writing) that I like, but I doubt that I’ll get it published any time soon because of how much I improve all the time. I’ve also been writing this for a good few solid months, maybe even a year or so by now, and I’m now going through it all over again to edit it because I want it to be a good product and not littered with mistakes that a lot of eBooks have nowadays. 

I’m not sure what else I can really say on this subject because I think it’s pretty clear what people should do/learn: writing a book isn’t easy, don’t publish something just because you can and, at the end of the day, if you actually care about writing and producing something fantastic rather than just wanting to make money, you won’t publish willy-nilly anyway. 

Followers: Don’t worry, I’m not going to delete the blog! I’ve been slow to update recently, but that’s due to trying to be a responsible student, and doesn’t have anything to do with the previous post.

But anyway, I really should go back to revising instead of clogging up your time by ranting and raving about things that I can’t change. Oh well, that’s me for the day – let me know what you think.

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Skin Deep

In my moments of procrastination, I tend to watch TV that requires the least amount of concentration and, yesterday. I turned on the ‘Idiot Box’ (name courtesy of my Dad, despite the fact that he watches Wheeler Dealers so often it’s not true) yesterday and started watching some good ol’ Catfish.

In case you’re unfamiliar with the show, I do not mean this:

Instead, I mean this:

Now, ‘catfishing’ is known as pretending to be someone you’re not online in order to hook someone into an online relationship. This programme shows the truths and lies of online dating, started by the host Nev who had his own experience after his online girlfriend turned out to be not who she said she is. People involved in online relationships (who haven’t met their partner in real life) email Nev to to help them meet their love. Sometimes, the person they meet is exactly who they claimed to be, just with a few insecurities or something along those lines, but more than usual it’s someone completely different.

You may wonder at this point where I’m going with this.

This isn’t a TV review (although, if you want my opinion, Catfish:the TV show is entertaining to watch – which is all I’m looking for in between bursts of revision. In actual fact, I had a realisation in the programme which probably isn’t that life altering, but it made me feel like I’d just had an epiphany.

As I was watching, it was a typical episode where the guy goes to meet his girlfriend who claims she is a size 6 blonde bombshell, but is instead several sizes larger. I kept on thinking, ‘Why would someone take part in an online relationship and why would you pretend to be someone you’re not? Surely you know it’s never going to end well?’. Then as I kept watching, it started to sink in – ok, it’s pretty obvious anyway, but still – that the people faking their identity always happen to be a lot larger than they pretended to be.

Before any of you start sending me abuse about how you should judge someone’s personality and not their appearance, this isn’t exactly where I’m going with today’s rant. I’m the first person to jump into the argument that personality should always be favoured instead of appearance, as would most people, but what does this programme in particular tell us about our society? It shows us that, despite everyone’s claims that they favour personality, in actual fact people still favour appearances. Why else would we have so many people pretending to be someone they’re not? To hide their appearance, perhaps?

Nowadays, I’m a lot more confident in my appearance than I used to be thanks to a great family, some awesome friends, and those few wonderful individuals who drop a compliment to a stranger like it’s nothing, when in fact it means the world. Hell, even when a stranger smiles at me on the Tube (which, if you’re a frequenter of London, you’ll know that smiles hardly ever happen) it helps to brighten my day.

I had serious confidence issues and consequently I was always self-conscious of the way I looked thanks to an early hit of puberty. My lovely hormones caused a huge bout of acne which essentially crushed my confidence in days. It sounds melodramatic and tons of people will say, ‘Everyone gets spots, just deal with it’ and I don’t see myself as vain, but acne did ruin a part of life starting at the age of ten. In primary school, whilst everyone else around me had lovely skin I was there with spots and blackheads. Starting secondary school, it felt even worse because I didn’t know anyone and – in year 7 – not many others had acne like me.

I’m incredibly lucky that all I’ve had to deal with is acne because it could have been so much worse – there are people out there who have to deal with something much worse than that, but it still affected me. I tried every acne cream/soup/wash that I could find and so many different types of pills that would supposedly help that I’ve lost count, but they never worked.

^^This is me in year 7 (excuse the silly expression) and it’s the only picture that I can find on my facebook that I haven’t deleted which shows some acne. Before you ask – yes, I did spend hours going through all my photos to make sure there were none of me that showed any really bad acne because I couldn’t bear the thought that people would look at me and see the acne. There are many times where all I wanted was a different face and I couldn’t understand why I had to have the acne when other girls in my school had perfect skin. Seriously, some girls literally get nothing; their ‘puberty’ just involves getting bigger boobs. HOW IS THAT FAIR??

Anyway, so I had many teenage breakdowns over acne – as I’m sure many teenagers do – but luckily the acne has died down now after eight years of turmoil. I still have some, but it’s less noticeable and it doesn’t have such an awful affect on my confidence. In fact, I even tried to get into modelling at one point and, for all you out there who have confidence issues, the best way to get rid of them is through yourself in the deep end. Don’t go on whacky diets or operations, just go stand in front of a camera and smile. It sure helped me.

So, what the hell is this post all about? Is this just a chance to get my sob story out there? …Not exactly. Actually, I think I wanted to make a point about our society or something deep like that. It just hit me that the only reason we have programmes like Catfish out there is because there is still such a huge problem in our society about appearances. Be that if you have a lot of acne, a bit of extra weight which people put too much focus on or even if you have a misconception on the way you look. If you even look at people filming celebrities, the commentators will talk about their clothes, or how they look a big bigger then normal and therefore she must be pregnant, because surely she wouldn’t do something as awful as putting on weight! Heaven forbid! Celebrities just can’t be like us regular mortals where a bit of extra weight is practically mandatory.

It’s silly to say that we live in a society where everyone thinks that personality is the most important thing, because it clearly isn’t true. I wish it could be different, but I suppose time will tell.

Let me know what you think ~ Eleanor

Why the education system is flawed

As a seventeen year old student about to face my final exams that will essentially determine the rest of my life, I think that I have a bit of experience in the education system from when you first learn your times tables up until you’re eighteen trying to get the grades that your university offers are demanding.

I’ve already ranted and raved about how ridiculous I think it is that we have to decide our whole lives before we’re even deemed ‘adults’ (because of course as soon as we hit the age of eighteen we immediately become sensible, knowledgable adults). I have friends who didn’t do so well in their exams and are suddenly stuck because no university wants to take them in, meaning that they have to reevaluate their whole life plan. Another friend of mine has applied to, and received offers from, universities but since she applied a few months ago she’s realised that she doesn’t want to study what she’s applied to do. Instead, she wants to do something entirely different and is currently debating how she’s going to change it now. Luckily someone in my school realised a few weeks before applying to universities that she wanted to take an art foundation course rather than medicine.

So what is it that I’m really ranting about today? I’ll tell you the one word which simultaneously strikes fear into our hearts, makes us groan in frustration and have mental breakdowns multiple times a day: Exams.

Yeah, yeah, yeah, I get that we all have to do exams but the exams that we have to take these days are bordering on pointless. Let me give you my education for example and I’ll start with my GCSEs. I’m considered to be a ‘good’ student but I can safely say that I don’t remember most of the pointless information I had to remember for my GCSE exams. Yes, I said ‘remember’ and not ‘learn’. We spent more time looking at mark schemes to see ‘what the examiners gave marks for’ than looking things up in our textbooks. It didn’t take skill in understanding the depths of Chemistry to do well in the GCSE exam, but rather knowing what words you had to churn out in order to get those marks. I once dropped a mark by writing the answer ‘fossilised animals from millions of years ago’ instead of ‘dead fossilised animals from millions of years ago’. All we had to do was remember a bunch of information which we immediately forgot a few days later.

Moving on to A-levels, I’m going to focus first on my English and Classics exams. My first point to rant about? Time limits. We’re tested on how much we can write in a small amount of time and yet still expected to produce a high quality, thought-provoking essay that demonstrates our ‘flair’ to the examiner. I was told in one of my lessons today – another ‘exam prep’ lesson where we looked at mark schemes – that I needed to talk about what other people taking the exam won’t. I need to come up with something unique and original that no one else will think of so I stand out instead of stating the points that everyone will mention. My skills in mind reading and seeing the future aren’t up to scratch, so it’s going to be really difficult to know whether the points I make in my essays written in an hour will be made by anyone else. Not only that, but for English I have to memorise as many quotes as possible for a Shakespeare play, a Jacobean drama and one of the Canterbury Tales by Chaucer – quotes that aren’t in modern english with, to the ‘untrained eye’, a load of wacky spellings. I know I sound like a whining teenager – living up to the stereotype here – but I’d rather be tested on my analysis skills rather than writing incredibly quickly and churning out a load of quotes that I’ve been memorising, most of which I will write down just to show the examiner how many quotes I can remember.

Next, and final, subject on the list? Geography. To give you an idea, one section of my geography exam is the ‘physical geography’ section where I will answer a few questions on the topic of ‘plate tectonics’. It’s taken over a term – a long time if you think about it – to learn everything we might be asked on in the exam. I’m talking plate boundaries, plate movements, landforms, volcanoes, hot spots, volcanic eruption types, different types of volcanoes, earthquakes, ways of measuring earthquakes, the history of plate tectonics AND MORE. I will spend hours and hours and hours learning all of this information – as well as refining my skill to be ‘synoptic’ and a bunch of case studies which I must know facts and figures for – but in my exam I will be tested on a minuscule part of my knowledge. I could just be asked about earthquakes, which means all my knowledge on volcanoes will be made pointless, or I could even just be asked on ways to measure earthquakes and how they vary, in which case everything else I know will be, you guessed it, pointless.

Now don’t go taking this rant the wrong way. I actually adore all of my subjects and I’m one of those abnormal teenagers – again, fighting the stereotype – who actually enjoys school (well, to an extent, anyway). I’m planning on going to university this september to study English and Classics and I can’t wait, but what I really want to get across to you is that I think the way we are examined doesn’t best demonstrate our knowledge. So many students will be doing exams this year and will do badly – not because they’re dumb or didn’t revise or had bad teachers, but because they couldn’t write fast enough and ran out of time, or couldn’t remember that one word the examiners are looking for to award a mark. Maybe their ability for memorising information isn’t fantastic at the moment or maybe they’re just so stressed out that when they walk into the exam they can’t remember a thing and spend the whole exam time writing meaningless detail which will just receive a big, red cross.

I want the way teenagers are tested in schools to change – and for the better – so that we can all have a better chance to show how well we can do.

Anyway, if you’re facing exams this year then I wish you the best of luck and, if you want, leave a comment to tell me what you think about exams, pressure or anything of that variety. I’ll just be sitting here revising some mark schemes so that, when summer rolls around, I can walk into my exam and write exactly what the examiners want to see. ~Eleanor