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I am keeping this post short as I have a lot going on tonight, and will write more on this subject another time.

This week I started a writing course about style.  A big focus of the teaching is on the effective use of language, and how we use words to convey particular and specific meanings.

I have always believed that good writing is accessible writing.  You can be the cleverest person in the world, with the widest vocabulary and the greatest ideas, but if no-one understands your meaning, you aren’t a good writer.

In fact I find part of the joy of reading those moments when you come across a word that is new to you but you know what it means because of the way it has been used. I accept I may be in the minority on that one!

I sometimes struggle to find the perfect word, that elusive set of letters that will be the crowning glory of my work. I might substitute with an approximation, which is the best way to keep writing, but I know it’s not exactly what I want to say.

And that’s the other lesson I have taken from the course: it is my job, as the writer, to find the right word.  Readers can only respond to what they are given and however good their imagination is, it is being sparked by the words on the page. If we want to take our readers on a journey into our worlds, we need to give them the right directions.

Happy writing,

EJ

🙂

 

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A few weeks ago I told you that I registered for a number of writing courses, to bring me back into a more structured way of thinking about writing.

I have completed the first one, which focussed on plot, and it was both extremely interesting and slightly perturbing.

I try to take in all the rules and suggestions but sometimes I struggle to see writing as an academic exercise.  I wonder why we have so many rules in place for our work, creating artificial barriers and sections, when many of the most successful and prolific writers we read never once went to a lecture on narrative structure!

Still, it makes me think a little more about what a publisher is looking for, and there is definitely a structure which is considered less ‘risky’.

My first novel does not fit this, or at least it doesn’t cleanly fit it.  I debate the benefit of trying to force my story into a new structure simply to meet some short-hand standard, and I don’t know that I want to edit with that standard in mind.

However, for future works this is a good way to manage the planning and plotting process.

The benefit of rules in writing is that they provide the foundations on which to hang the clothes of your story. There is a controlling element that can be utilised to pull you back into line or show you where there is room for growth.

Rules are the corsetry of your story.

Some writers are confident and skilled enough go be free but at this point, with the writing market as it is and the unwillingness of agents to take on first time writers, rules make sense to get past the first hurdle and at least be read.

Interestingly though, the rules I am learning now are not those I was taught before – in a relatively short space of time the focus of writing has changed.  I am not sure if that is partly to do with the audience – my first course was via a UK university, the current courses are via a US university – or if the writing market really has changed so much in a few years.

I have been told that agents are moving out of fiction into non-fiction, read that unknown authors are too high risk for significant numbers to be taken on, and that the amount people can expect to earn from their writing is diminishing.  It would not surprise me at all to learn that agents look for a specific structure in the work they receive because they have to limit their own risk.

I wonder if it’s true that a reader will be dissatisfied if the rules aren’t followed, as is the message.  I need to read with the rules in mind, see how they affect my experience of a story.

Mostly though, I need to understand them fully because unless I do, I won’t know whether to risk breaking them!

Happy writing,

EJ

🙂

 

 

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As I have decided to use Thursday posts to reflect on my writing generally, I am going to use these Sunday posts to focus on one element.  For now, anyway!

You may have heard the quote ‘nothing happens nowhere’, attributed to Eudora Welty, or as an alternative Elizabeth Bowen’s ‘nothing can happen nowhere’.

These two quotes are a starting point for my next challenge.

 

During one of my courses, the idea of setting as a part of plot was raised – and I remember long ago reading something along the lines that location is another character.  We have to remember its features and foibles just as we do with the people we create.

But how can you choose somewhere?

In my work, it’s generally instinctual: I feel if a scene needs to be set inside, or outside; if it’s a cosy bedroom or a dank, overgrown woods. I trust my characters to put themselves where they need to be and I follow in their footsteps to see where exactly we all end up.

That’s not to say I have no choice, of course; but that as a writer I might know I want a scene to take place covering specific interventions or unveilings, but that I don’t know where it takes place until I have got to that point.

My very first scene in my family tree novel is in a bathroom.  The choice arose from three elements: the need for the character to be alone and aware of their body; a clock, which was important in setting out some bigraphical details of the character and her background; the ability for the character to show frustration through activity in a way that met points 1 and 2.

I have faith in my choices through that story, as each represents an element of character and experience.  However, I need to work more on this in my current planning.

When developing my ideas from last year into a better, more tangible, more cohesive story I need to work on setting, and this is going to be my writing focus for the next week or two. I want to keep my settings cliche free – or if using a cliched setting do it with a knowing wink to the reader.

I can of course use places as I have done before – as a basis, a sound foundation on which to build my fiction.  Or I can create a new environment, free of human intervention, or I can do something in between.  Who knows what it’ll end up being: the only limit is my imagination.

So next week I’ll report back on what I’ve learnt this week and how my aims have progressed.  Maybe I’ll even have a new world to share with you!

 

Happy writing,

EJ

🙂

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I read something this week that was a good place to start the new year.  To paraphrase: a target without a plan is just a daydream.

I have to stop daydreaming.

My first writing act of 2017 was enrolling in some creative writing courses today – four which cover different elements of writing and which I will undertake concurrently so by the middle of February (when my panto is done and dusted) I will be nearing completion of them.

I have said before how easy it is for me to put barriers in my own way so I’m also going to do some work on breaking them down and will be seeking out a writing mentor to help with this.  I am researching this at the moment and have found a few possible routes open which I will be addressing over the next few weeks.  Some are very costly and I can’t afford to make the wrong choice because I won’t be doing this twice!

Finally, I am going to change my writing pattern.  I find it very easy to get bogged down by life, so much so that finding an hour a day becomes a bit of a pipe dream.  However, if I change my pattern by writing somewhere else I might be able to balance that, at least a little bit.  With that in mind I will try different options – libraries, cafes, pubs and so on – to see what works, and I’ll do it before I get home from work so the household tasks don’t distract me.

I will have to give myself time each day for coursework which will also help to put more structure into my writing life.

The plan is, as it always has been, to be published. There’s no change there – I just have to work more effectively to make sure the work I produce is as good as it can be, and get it out there.

2016 was a bumpy year, but 2017 has to make up for it and some concrete action will be a grand way to start!

Happy new year, and as always – 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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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 am really enjoying trying out a new genre of writing, and working out my list of possible killers.  I have my victim nicely set up, and the location and group of people involved all in hand – now it’s just putting some character profiles together and moving on to the more in-depth storyline.  There are plenty of motives and plenty of possible killers.  I know who it is and it most definitely isn’t the butler 🙂

There’s something really energising about doing something I know isn’t my strength – it’s as though I have taken the power back into my writing.  That is such a great feeling after floundering since the wedding.  I will say, thought, that I have learnt a lot from planning a big day and some of the little details I picked up in the process will definitely make it into stories in the future.

For now, I’ll say I am progressing, and that’s something I haven’t really been able to say for quite a while.  Roll on the next step in my crime thriller!

Other than the writing, I have been in rehearsals for my panto, joined a ballroom classing group and started a new course (introductory paleobiology…) – I was so busy with wedding planning last year that a lot of other things went by the wayside and this year I want to do more.  This does mean I need to keep control of my writing time and targets so here and now I will set a target of no less than 1 hour on writing each day.

It’s not a huge amount but keeps me in the regular writing habit, and that’s a big plus!

I am going to leave it there for tonight, but I will be back on Tuesday with the reading challenge, and hope to get back into peace posts this week too, so I’ll see you then!

Happy writing,

EJ

🙂

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