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With my visitors this last week, I have not thrown myself into a new book – but we have all been going for the non-fiction option.

It’s a long time since I did a history or science class, and I’ve never written a paper on disaster responses, but these were just some of the areas I was talking about with the people I had staying.

It’s reminded me that there is a whole lot of information out there that might give me a different approach to my work.

In fact one of the topics I was reading up on was a disaster I remember even though I was only about nine when it happened; the images were so memorable and I can still see the scene as though on a tv.

It’s given me an idea for a kind of memorial poem, a piece that never mentions the specific event but draws my memories together to make a new piece.

Which goes to show that even if I don’t read a book, a newspaper or a historical article might be a good substitute for learning something new.

And in this case, what I learnt was that we can be affected by something even if we weren’t personally involved – and even if we don’t think about it without encouragement.

Happy reading,

EJ

🙂

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In real life, you probably feel thousands of things without even thinking about it: the chalkiness of a washing tablet, or the roughness of a cheap pair of jeans, or the greasiness left on your fingers after eating a cake.

In writing, feeling is meaningful.

Now, I appreciate that may seem a huge generalisation but as a reader do you expect everything a character physically feels to be described?   I am sure the answer is no.

So the next question – why does a writer choose to describe something?

The writer has to make decisions about what they believe adds something to the story.  If you read that a character is laying on a bed, it tells you very little.  If you are told he is laying on clean Egyptian cotton sheets which still hold the scent of a summer breeze, you learn something – he is in a comfortable, homely place.  If you read he is laying on a gritty, grubby, sweat-stained mattress where he can see the fleas jumping on and off his skin, you know he is somewhere down at heel, possibly dangerous and certainly not somewhere he would aspire to be.

How things feel has a big impact on the reader’s understanding and our job is to give the right information to lead them down the path we choose.

There’s also an element of character that can be built through feeling: from the extreme e.g. Nathan in the TV series Haven who couldn’t feel anything until he was touched by the woman he loved, to the more everyday experience of Grace’s rough working hands in Margaret Atwood’s Alias Grace which were a result of her place in the world. 

And of course it’s part of setting, which continues to be my focus.

I am currently reading with this concept in mind as a way of exploring different stylistic choices.  For me as a writer, the key is to use feeling to add detail to a scene.

As a reader, I don’t want to notice the technique, only be drawn into the story.

Having both elements in balance is the skill I am trying to hone.

Happy writing,

EJ

🙂

 

 

 

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Firstly, I must apologise for the lack of a Thursday post. I got caught up in a lot of things this week and never got around to sharing anything. I thought about doing something on Friday but the moment passed and now it’s Sunday so there’s no point trying to catch it up!

Now that’s out of the way…

I was reading last week’s post about Fred needing an outing and this week he has had a little adventure. For reasons best left in the Jurassic period where Fred currently resides, he is running away from a huge fire and has just shared his plan for survival with a very patronising adult who keeps patting him on the head.

Despite the temerity of this adult Fred is nevertheless willing to help out and get everyone to safety, even if no-one realises he is playing any part in the rescue efforts…

I scrapped his trip to Stonehenge though.  He wasn’t enjoying the journey and is going to a zoo instead…

What I had also intended to do this week was to set myself some writing exercises to build on the work I have done regarding plot and structure. That hasn’t worked out as I planned and I need to set it up better. The suggestion is to set aside an hour each week for an individual task on generating plotting ideas. In a few weeks I’d look at what I’d got and dispose of the rubbish and keep anything with possibilities. I want to do it but I have not had a quiet, uninterrupted time to do it this week.

I will make one next week, even if I have to unplug the phone!

In other news – I am seriously considering another writing course, possibly focussed on editing through to (self?) publication. I have thought a lot about why my completed novel hasn’t been picked up by an agent and a big part of me thinks I need to put that idea aside and move on. However, the part of me that thinks a dream should be pursued thinks I should do what I need to do to get there.

Anyway, to cut a long story short I found a course with seemingly very good reviews which is designed to help students pull a manuscript into the best possible order – so whether the book is traditionally or self published it is as professionally edited and presented as possible.

It’s not the cheapest course but I was prepared to spend money on learning for fun so it seems silly to begrudge spending to achieve a dream.

I will do some more research and see if this is the best option for me and let you know!

Until next time,
Happy writing,
EJ
🙂

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It’s the last day of my break now and I’m a little sad that I am back to work tomorrow. It’s been very restful even with going away for a few days but tomorrow it’ll all go back to normal.

I have to admit Fred hasn’t travelled much with me, and is languishing somewhere near Stonehenge but I have been reading about plot and structure as well as tackling some novels. I wasn’t going to read them but sitting down with a coffee on a squishy chair isn’t as relaxing when you’re reading a text book…

I am about to start re-reading the plot and structure book because it is filled with exercises I want to try out, but that is for next week’s post!

It’s been a useful exercise to revisit some basics though. When I write I tend to fall into certain patterns and behaviours, and the book should help with stripping out the bad behaviours and focussing on a cleaner, more precise, narrative flow.

As importantly, it gives me tools to check the narrative itself – specifically whether it is strong enough to be the foundation of a novel. That is a discipline I need to work on, now more than ever due to my restricted writing time.

The other thing I have been doing is getting back to photography. I went to a couple of Medieval religious buildings and duly paid for photography permits so I could at least attempt to record some of what I saw.

At it was Remembrance Day on the 11 November the buildings were dressed with poppies, which is always a poignant reminder of how history shapes our experience of life, especially when is buildings that have stood for so long.

The last couple of weeks have definitely been more about theory than practice, but I don’t think that is a bad thing for me. I just have to remember that Fred needs a bit of an outing too!

Happy Writing,
EJ
🙂

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I said on Sunday that my reading this week would be textbooks and guides to help me get back on the writing track. It’s a little like studying, only without a set book list…

I am currently reading a book called ‘Plot and Structure‘ by James Scott Bell. I have read it before but as planning is where I need to focus my writing development it seemed a good place to start. I clearly need to take more from it this time!

There is of course no way to review it in the usual sense, and I haven’t finished revisiting it, but so far it seems very practical, which I need.

This type of reading will replace novels for a little while – but I am happy to share my views of the writing guides instead, if you are interested – just let me know in the comments.

Happy reading,
EJ
🙂

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I try to read the newspaper on a regular basis, both to keep up to date with the world and also to spur on my imagination, and for long term readers you might even remember the original post of this name, which I wrote nearly 3 years ago!

It seemed time to revisit the idea but this time, it’s more about the impact on my world view than how those stories can shape our writing.

In the newspaper today…

I read about David Cameron’s attempts to convince the rest of Europe to agree with him so we in the UK vote to stay in the EU when we have our referendum. As so much of the discussion seems to be about how much we’re prepared to give migrants in benefits I think it misses the entire point of closer integration, but there you go.

I’ve read about unaccompanied child refugees in the Jungle in Calais, and the squalour and desperate misery of life there, as we complain we are being ‘overrun’

I’ve seen the Pope’s view on Donald Trump’s Mexican border wall, as Trump leads the polls for Republican presidential nominee.

I’ve read about war, murder, the Zika virus, abusive ‘grooming’ of a young woman by a rich and successful sportsman.

I’ve read about a pretty crappy world, to be frank. So here’s a counterbalance:

The Good News Network where the stories include a New Zealand crowdfunding effort to buy a beach for public use and students designing a portable, wearable, shelter for refugees.

Huffpost Good News where there is a focus on love – romantic, familial and friendly.

Dailygood.org where it’s about how we each live our lives to the best.

I need to know what is happening in the world, but sometimes I forget that the media set the agenda.  I only see what a newspaper editor considers newsworthy.

I need to search wider, and these three sites are a good starting point to get a picture of the positive in the world, to hear stories that focus on the positive effects we can have on each other.

I want to read the good news for a bit.

Happy writing,

EJ

🙂

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I’ve been feeling a little rough – these really busy weeks have taken their toll and although it’s lovely to have lots going on sometimes I need to have a day’s holiday to recharge my batteries.

So yesterday, my husband and I went on a little ramble.  We headed out to see an archaeological dig which was open to the public, then off on a coastal drive with a stop at a country pub before heading home for a rather marvellously French inspired afternoon tea.

On our travels I got this picture.  It really was a gorgeous day; sunny and warm, with a light breeze to keep from getting overheated. Those cliffs on the far left are the White Cliffs of Dover, and the two tiny white blobs are ferries going into or coming out of the harbour – you can just about make out the harbour wall.

Just a bit of Dover

 

I always love to look out from the southeastern coast of England and see the coast of France.  I like to think when I wave over, someone there is waving back 🙂

What you can’t see from here, although I got some photos of these too, are the imposing Dover Castle or any of the Martello Towers that dot the coastline in this area.  It really is a reminder of how relationships between European countries have changed over time – and I for one am glad I’ve grown up in a time of friendship and community with our neighbours.

I do love to see the history of a place uncovered.  I watch a lot of documentaries, and even those with a decidedly unlikely theme often give me an insight into a part of the world that is unknown to me: its geography, history, folklore, culture, all tied into the roots of its existence.  This often influences my poetry, and the courses I take are frequently determined by whatever random programme I have seen that sparked my imagination.

I can’t ever know everything, of course – and the more I know, the more aware I am of the limitations of my knowledge – but the more I can learn the more I understand who we are, and how different people understand the world we inhabit.

In turn, the more I can bring to my work either in terms of language and imagery or in terms of creating peace poems.

This weekend enabled me to learn new things, and remember things I was once taught.  It gave me a chance to see, literally, what was buried in time – a real, live dig is a very different place from a visitor site and it was great to see the earth being treated with such respect.  It gave me a chance to sit back and be lazy, and learn, and absorb.  It gave me some ‘me’ time.

So I’ve had a chance to rebuild my reserves, and in a way that has invigorated my imagination: next week I’ll use that to expand on the work I did this week, and get the whodunnit another step closer to its conclusion.

Happy writing,

EJ

🙂

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