Don't wait till your English is perfect, the best way to become a writer is to just start writing

By YP Junior Reporter Bill Sham

You don’t have to be an English prodigy to become a novelist, writes one junior reporter who has completed his online fantasy tale despite facing many obstacles

By YP Junior Reporter Bill Sham |

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It’s a common misconception that you have to be an English prodigy to become a novelist. I think for most people, including myself, it’s a case of “practice makes perfect”. The more I wrote, the better I got, and I’ve already completed an online fantasy novel, The Law Imperium.

My English was very poor when I was in primary school, and I was too shy to speak the language with my family and friends. Back then, I saw English merely as a tool to achieve better academic results.

I completed my English assignments mechanically, without exploring the grammar or the meanings of the words I had learned. Every time my teacher corrected my mistakes, I would force myself to memorise them.

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As time went by, it became clear that my rote learning approach was not working. My English proficiency kept going down, but I was too stubborn to realise that my methods were wrong – until I failed my English exam in Form Three.

I was extremely frustrated, because it came at a time when I had to choose my subjects for the DSE. The subjects that I wished to choose required a level of English way beyond my abilities.

There are no short cuts to improving one’s language skills, and there were just three months left before my end-of-term exam. The closer the exam, the more depressed and stressed I felt.

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It was tough and there was no one I could talk to about it. It’s not that I had no friends to share my problems, but most of them had good English skills, and I thought it would be difficult for them to understand what I was going through.

I gave up trying to polish my language skills. I wanted to be rescued, and I was hoping someone would lead me in a new direction. That’s when I started imagining my rescuer, and writing down the things I dreamed up. It was the first time I enjoyed English writing.

I sat in the same spot for three months, typing away on the keyboard every day. Even on the days when I lacked imagination, I would still be there, editing my writing.

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At the beginning, I wasn’t happy at all with my novel, because I thought I hadn’t created something “artistic” or “elegant” that everyone would love to read. I even wanted to give up after uploading five chapters online because of a lack of reader responses.

Bill Shum says rote learning proved to be ineffective.
Photo: Bill Shum

Fortunately, I kept going, thanks to the encouragement and useful advice offered by my friends and a fellow teenage writer. Another motivation was seeing my improvement in English – a result of my daily writing, which was completely unexpected.

Failures and mistakes are inevitable. We are afraid of them because they can be costly. However, as long as we learn from our negative experiences, the benefits we gain will definitely outweigh the cost.

That’s why I think that we should embrace our mistakes and turn them to our advantage. Think of our life journey as a chess game; the key to winning depends not on your ultimate move, but on how you transform your weakness into strength in the process.

Don’t be afraid to make mistakes. In fact, as students, we are placed in the best possible position to learn through trial and error.

If you want to be a writer, all you need to do is start writing.

Edited by M. J. Premaratne