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View of the Lake Blea Tarn, with mountains reflected in the water. Credit: Ellie Wood. ;

Studying the English language – a key asset in becoming a writer

Ellie Wood, alumna of the King's BA English Language & Communication, has just published her debut novel, The Wildwater Women. Here she talks about the complexity of the writing process, how the course gave her a strong foundation for becoming a writer, and shares advice for aspiring authors.

Back in 2009, Ellie Wood was graduating from King’s BA English Language and Communication (since then renamed the BA English Language and Linguistics) with a First Class Honours Degree. This summer, she’s published her debut novel The Wildwater Women with HarperCollins.

She’s answered a few questions for us.

Ellie Wood signing her book 'The Wildwater Women' in a bookshop. Credit: Ellie Wood.

1. How did you come to write The Wildwater Women?

It’s been a long journey to publication and it’s taken a lot of perseverance! I began writing in earnest five years ago, and although The Wildwater Women is my first published novel, it’s not the first full-length book I’ve written. HarperNorth read the previous manuscript I had out on submission, and loved my descriptions of the Lake District, and asked me to write about wild swimming.

The Wildwater Women is a love song to the Lakes, as well as a tale of friendship and overcoming your fears. The book centres on four women who meet while wild swimming, and it’s a celebration of nature and the transformative bonds we forge with others. The message at the heart of the story is to appreciate the little everyday moments in life.

Writing the novel was an intense nine-month process. I planned it for the first three, detailing the characters’ lives from birth right up until the book starts, to make them feel as real as possible. This helped me understand how they would behave in different situations, and the types of things they’d say in conversations – I wanted them to seem like fully fleshed out people as there’s no greater compliment than when a reader says they completely believed in the characters and their world.

2. Have you always wanted to be a writer?

Yes, I’ve been writing stories since I could hold a pen! I initially wondered about journalism, but fiction writing has always been my passion.

3. Why did you choose to study the BA English Language and Communication?

I thought the different elements of the course sounded both interesting and relevant to life outside university. The Grammar module in particular has stood me in very good stead for being a writer!

I liked the sound of the Language of Advertising section as I find the way different words can impact our thinking really fascinating. Learning about connotations and the way language can be used to influence us was really intriguing, and is something I often think about as an author.

4. What did you like about the BA, and did it play a role in you becoming a writer?

I enjoyed learning about how English is used in the mass media and global communications industries, and I was really interested in how language is used in diverse social and professional contexts. I also liked exploring the relationship between language and the mind. As a writer, having an understanding of the nuances of language enables me to be creative with words and evoke particular feelings.– Ellie Wood, King's alumna and published author

5. What challenges did you encounter?

To sit there every day and carry on writing sometimes feels like a mental marathon! Whenever I had a moment of self-doubt, I would flick through all the notes I made about the characters and the landscape in the planning stage, and it would give me the confidence to keep going.

6. What have you been doing since graduating?

I worked as an editor in London publishing for eight years, firstly at Pan Macmillan and then at HarperCollins. Five years ago, I became a freelance copyeditor and proofreader and this enabled me to take the plunge and pursue becoming an author.

Whilst working at these companies, I did additional courses on copyediting and proofreading with the Publishing Training Centre. These courses complemented the understanding of grammar and semantics that I acquired during the BA.

7. Do you have any advice for current and future students who want to write their own fiction book?

My advice to anyone wanting to be an author would be to keep on writing. The more you do so, the more you’ll be able to develop your unique voice and style. Rejections can happen for different reasons and it’s not always about the quality of your writing, it could be to do with the timing and whether the publishers already have something similar on their list. Above all, do it because you love it!


Photos: Courtesy of Ellie Wood.

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