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Archive for the ‘Studies’ Category

After Thursday’s decision, I’ve started my research and planning for my alternative book 2. This involves me reading a number of books about writing.

Although I enjoy writing and find it extremely fulfilling and engaging, it is also a serious academic subject in many ways.

The more advice and techniques I can read about, hear about, absorb and utilise, the stronger my writing will become.  That’s the theory anyway.  So I invest in guides and theories and exercise-filled textbooks, like any good student.

But – and this is the big question – how do you know if the book you read about books is actually any good?  Just as we’ve all read novels we think are badly written and poorly constructed, who can say whether a non-fiction will be badly put-together or, basically, a load of rubbish?

You can’t trust the reviews: people can pay others to give their books reviews, you know, and my internal cynic can’t put this information to one side.  You can’t really glean anything from the write-up in terms of quality or tone of advice.  All you can do is bite the bullet and buy.  Or download.  Or borrow.

But no writer I know wants to borrow all their advisory tomes.  They want them to read and re-read, to flip through when they (or their characters) have an existential crisis.  They want to hold them like life rafts when their plot is going southwards.

So what do you do?  Well, what I do is this: I buy advice on specialisms.  I mucked up my plotting – so I have a book to read about plotting and structure.  I am attempting a specific genre – so I buy a book about writing in that genre.  I want to think outside the box – I buy a book with lots of different inspiration-expanding exercises in it.

Are all the books giving good advice?  Not necessarily, but they all teach me something I didn’t know so they all have value in that sense.

One thing that has really helped me is thinking about how I would study a piece of writing – remembering the elements we were taught to identify, such as themes, motifs, imagery and so on.  The things that give books depth and identity are the same things we need to consider in our own work.  That is not to say we should write artificially, adding unnecessary elements – more that we should consider why these things worked for a particular story, and if they would work in our own.

So, as writers, we need to be both readers, and students; both producers and researchers.  Without that we can miss a fracture-point in our work which will be its undoing.  Sadly I missed that in my woods novel; I hope to fix it in the future but for now will have to learn my lesson and move on.

In other news – book 16 of the 100 best novels is ‘The Scarlet Letter’; I read it as a teenager and in all honesty I don’t think I enjoyed it that much.  It seemed rather staid to someone living in the modern age, and perhaps it’s worth revisiting as an adult with a greater sense of history.  It is interesting to me that my perception of certain books has turned 180 degrees since my teens – whereas others I love consistently!

Also – I was reading an article about copyright regarding Sherlock Holmes and associated characters.  I won’t go into my views on copyright which are convoluted and changeable, but it is a reminder that our work outlives us, as writers – so protect it!

And finally – I’ve just booked to go away on a retreat again, which I am very much looking forward to doing.  I am hoping to start writing the new novel then; so I’d best get on with my research!

Happy writing,

EJ

🙂

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I’m going to be very British and talk about the weather briefly.  With ice storms in  Canada, extreme snowfall in the US, floods and gales in the UK and a heatwave in Australia, plus who knows what other environmental issues to face, I hope everyone is keeping safe and as warm/cool as they need.  Take care of yourselves and those around you.

Other than worrying about flooding and a few blown down trees, this week has been about getting back into the habit of writing.

I’ve been working on book two, but also had a foray into another idea I wrote down last year, based on a dream I had (it’s not exactly Frankenstein, but it has potential!).  It’s not ideal to work on two at once so I’m going to carry on with book 2 but prepare to explore the other idea more extensively once this draft of book 2 is done.

In fact, I’ve even ordered a new reference book for it!  I already know I want to approach it differently from the first two – it is a complicated idea and I haven’t fleshed out some of the transitions so I’ll need to do that, but I want a full, in-depth plan before I start.  So many of the issues I have had with book 2 are due to my decisions about planning and writing in a particular way, I want to see how things work when I try an alternative path.

Besides, if I’m got to work then my writing time needs to be far more structured than it is at the moment – I can’t write at three in the morning, or space my writing time out throughout the day, so I need to make the time I do have more practical.

I know many of you work full-time and write – how do you organise your time?

In other news – the 100 best novels is up to number 15 – David Copperfield, by Charles Dickens.  I grew up in an area almost overwhelmed by Charles Dickens references, but I have never enjoyed his writing and have barely made it through any of his work.  When I was little I found Oliver Twist – well, more specifically the musical Oliver! with Oliver Reed’s Bill Sykes and (spoiler) the scene of Nancy’s death – incredibly scary, and this put me off reading that book.  Since then I have read Martin Chuzzlewit (which  I can’t remember at all) and tried to read Great Expectations, giving up on many occasions.  I enjoy watching good adaptations, such as the recent Little Dorrit, but will happily admit to not wanting to read Dickens again at the moment.

I’m hoping for a more favourable next book!

Also – my next round of courses is due to start shortly – although they may be a step too far time-wise, I am looking forward to getting back into learning!

And finally – as the Christmas decorations come down, and the tinsel is packed away for another 11.5 months, I have decided it is time to start developing a plan of action for the next few months – I love a plan, and with work beckoning I need to make sure writing is both regular and focussed.  So look out for a few deadlines being set in the next few weeks.

I’ll leave it there for now – it is raining hard and very windy so I’ll post this whilst my electricity and broadband are still fully functional.

Until next time – happy writing,

EJ

🙂

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Ah, King Lear. I studied this play at school and really disliked it, and yet some of the lines come to mind very readily…

The reason this particular quote has surfaced is that I’m sitting waiting for high winds that have been forecast over parts of the UK.  I can already hear the howling noises so am hoping I get this posted early in case we lose power tonight!

This week has been another one of those up and down ones, and a lot of my writing time has been very administrative – editing, filing, formatting, reorganising, submitting and so on.  I am struggling to get to grips with editing book two, and am ignoring the two courses I should be doing – ignoring them studiously, actually!  Everything has seemed so fragmented that just spending a few hours archiving old poetry drafts seemed a good way to get some work done without having to focus too much on anything in particular.  My friend and I have also discussed a music and poetry performance for Christmas, so I’ve considered which pieces of poetry might work for that.

But I have to get a grip on book 2.  I have a target of the end of November, and about 130 pages to read.  I am rearranging so much that there will be significant amounts of new writing, and I have barely scratched the surface, with 5 weeks to go.  I can’t focus on the courses now – I un-enrolled from one and will make a decision about the other in the next few days.  If I can watch a few videos and feel they are useful, I’ll stay on the course but if not, I’ll un-enroll from that too. It’s frustrating and disappointing, but it’s been a really challenging few weeks and quite honestly, I think trying to do two new courses on top of everything else means nothing will get the attention it needs.

So I am setting myself a new plan of action.  I will go through – correcting and revising – 30 pages of book two each week until I am done.  I have 5 weeks so there’s 20 extra pages of contingency; if I fall one or two behind I’ve got a bit of leeway.  This will be my personal NaNo, and rather than aiming for a word count I’ll work on edited pages.

I want to get this done before I lose faith in my ability to salvage the strong core of the work – wish me luck!

In other news – well, I lured you here with Shakespeare so I thought I’d better go back to him!  I read this article about Shakespeare being performed in schools.  I love the idea of plays being treated as plays – they are, after all, written to be seen and heard.  If you’ve read Shakespeare and never enjoyed it, watch a performance and see if it changes your perception.  The worst thing that’ll happen is you get an afternoon/evening of theatre or film!

And finally – we’re onto book 5 in the 100 best novels and it’s another one I’ve never read.  I am not doing very well with this list at all.  Roll on next week, let’s see if I can tick one off!

That’s it for today – I’m off to find some candles and torches just in case…

Until next time,

Happy writing,

EJ

🙂

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I knew it would happen one day – I forgot completely that it was Sunday and just as Midnight came and Monday rolled in, I realised I should have written a blog post for you.

So I did what any self-respecting writer would do, and I scrabbled around trying to make 400 words out of thin air.  And I give you – the week that was…

  • I did some editing of the novel (hurrah!) and some more poetry (yee ha!)
  • I went to open mike night (cool!) and got an agency rejection (boo!)
  • I missed the start of my new course (hmm!) and got some boring paperwork done (phew!)

There was lots more to it, of course – but these were the writing-related things that I can remember.

Editing was fine, although I haven’t looked at the manuscript for longer than I thought so it was a bit hard to get back into the flow.  The poetry was and will be fine – I am comfortable with the idea that it’ll change over time and that’s quite exciting to me actually, to see changes in my life blend with my older poetry to give it a different tone.

I won’t say much about the open mike as I spoke about it on Thursday – except to say it was a good night out regardless of my own readings!

The agency rejection wasn’t upsetting – I have zoned out in a way, as there’s nothing I can do to change minds.  I do need to send the book out to another couple of agents this week though.  Meanwhile, the poetry gives me my own little lifestyle and I quite enjoy that.  As it’s not something I expect to publish, I am considering self-publishing a small pamphlet to sell at any performances; I’ve seen it done before and I think it’ll be a sensible thing to do for a small expenditure.  I’ll be setting up a separate blog for that too, eventually.

The course will be a loss if I don’t do it, as it’s about writing historical fiction; it’s a way back into my first NaNo piece or my book 4 (was 3) which is set in 1950s, I think…

And the paperwork was paperwork.  There’s not a lot more to say about it than that!

So there you go – a mixed bag of a week but the next one starts here!

In other news – My travels through the 100 best novels has reached number 4 – ‘Clarissa’.  So far I have read none of the books, but I do remember seeing this on TV in my youth: it must have affected me more than I realised as so much of the story came to mind when I saw this book on the list.  To be honest, I am extremely unlikely to read this one.  Better luck next time, I hope…

As it’s so very, very late I’ll leave it there for tonight – let me know if you’ve read the book though, I’ll be interested to know if my memory of the story is as accurate as I think.  Or, indeed, if it was a good adaptation.

Happy writing,

EJ

🙂

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I recently read that in around 3,400 years of human history, there have only been about 250 years without war.  In my stories I don’t really focus on the political, with or without a capital ‘p’, but information like that makes me think I should.

It’s not my normal style to write particularly serious blogs, but I really wanted to share this fact; so when I was writing this month’s peace post, I decided to incorporate it.  But, I also wanted to talk about love and understanding – so I chose to write two posts.  This is part one.

The challenge for August was about peaceful music.  Well, this isn’t a peaceful song, but it’s crying out for a peaceful world.  This song was recorded in the 1960’s, and is very much about the world as it was then – but if a few words are changed, you can imagine it being written today.

Eve of Destruction – Barry McGuire

There are more modern, more well-known and probably more popular protest songs, but this is the first one I remember hearing, when I was playing my mum’s records as a child.  I have been listening to it, on and off, for about 20 years.

I often talk about a personal peace, a level of tranquility in my own life.  But there are millions of people who don’t have peace – not because they don’t want it, but because they are denied it.

This song reminds me how important peace is.

I hope you have a peaceful day,

EJ

🙂

B4Peace central

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This week has been a long one.  It’s incorporated all the normal elements – work, friends, family, shopping, studying etc – and added a new one into the mix: emergency house interventions!  I won’t bore you with the details but suffice it to say, it’s been a little bit up and down here.

Still, the main issue as far as this blog goes has been work, and that’s gone pretty well.  I’ve spent a fair bit of time reworking my newest chapter though – much more than I thought I would when it went off to the proofreader last time.  I’m glad I’ve given it the time but it means it’s going back to the proofreader for yet another check.

I am still confident that I will finish by the end of Wednesday: the rest should be smoother by far. I’ll try to think positively and not think about famous last words…!

As always, my target is with myself and if I miss it, life will go on.  I know myself though – sending off to an agent is scary and I have to be really careful I don’t just avoid it altogether (which I know I will, if I can).

Along with that, I’ve committed to attend a poetry reading with a new group of people, all of whom are writers themselves so it’ll be another ‘critically supportive’ event, I hope.  I tend to use the same poems when I do these, as I’m confident in reading them, but I may add a new one into the mix and see the reaction.  Generally feedback on my poetry is very positive so it’ll be interesting to find out if that’s the same with a different style of poem.  Oh, and you may remember I said my friend was reading a few of my poems at an event in Cornwall – well, I got very good feedback from that too.

Hurrah for all the kind people saying supportive things 🙂

In other news – I am getting ready to enjoy one of music’s most cheesy and cheery nights: the Eurovision Song Contest.  I love Eurovision, and even though we generally don’t do very well at all, it’s still a most entertaining experience.  From Abba and Bucks Fizz  through to Lordi, there have been some memorable acts.  For the sake of the event, Europe’s boundaries are a little different, but no-one seems to mind too much!

Also (and much more writing-relevant) – I read this article about grammar rules and it made me smile.  I particularly like point four about the decline of the word whom, which I have defiantly used in this week’s post, whether it’s correct or not 😉

And finally – I’ve talked about the rise of e-books before, but this article really shed light on the growth of digital downloads here in the UK: I know EL James may have had a lot to do with that so it will be interesting to see if the figures are repeated in the future, but for now it’s very clear that e-publishing attracts a huge market.

Happy writing

EJ

🙂

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I have a lot of non-fiction books about or for writing – from my course text to style guides to reference books on where phrases originated. I buy them for inspiration, for fun, and for practical guidance.

But are they necessary?

I know people who are keen on pursuing writing, but feel they cannot do it because they’ve never studied it.  There are lots of people who are in a similar position – who want to write but cannot access courses due to time, money or other issues.

How does this tie in with my reference mountain?    Well, one of the valuable elements of a course for new writers is the guidance in the process of writing – from inspiration through to editing.

So if you can’t get on a course, get to a bookshop.

There are how to guides for every aspect of writing as well as overarching ones; there are hundreds of reference books on all sorts of subjects; there are industry guides.

I have bought a variety based on reviews and fancy (never underestimate the power of a gut feeling for a reference book!).  A few examples include a style guide for proofreading and editing; a book about clichés; a dictionary of unusual words in multiple languages; a book of exercises to spur inspiration.

I am now looking for a good guide to planning, as it’s an area I need to work on for the next novel.

There are also websites devoted to improving grammar, or providing inspiration – and blogs about writing all over the place!  There’s free advice, downloadable guides for magazines and a wealth of on-line reference sites.

In other words – there’s guidance out there for those who seek it out.  Courses aren’t the only option.

So if you have a longing to put pen to paper, and an idea you want to explore – write it down.  The only way you’ll know if you want to be a writer is by being one.

In related news – I managed to have my celebratory 99 today so here is a picture of it – it’s not the best picture but I wanted to eat it rather than let it melt.  It tasted very, very good!

Celebration

See, it’s worth all the hard work if you get treats.  It’s just a shame I got an assignment for my nutrition and health course today – and have to keep a food diary to see how good my diet is.  Oops! 😉

Happy writing,

EJ

🙂

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As I feel like revisions to the second novel have taken over my life and my blog posts forever, I don’t want to talk about any more – but I have to give you a brief update because things have moved on a lot in the last week.

Midway through this week, I decided to change the story.  I won’t go into too many details but it just seemed that it was getting more and more convoluted and even straightforward edits were getting difficult to pick out of the dense, thorny mess.  So I got brutal.  Gone were two strands of storyline and their associated challenges – and of course, their associated scenes.  I am now concentrating on getting rid of references to these for this first read-through.  I wish I’d gone through this whole process differently now, but c’est la vie!

The outcome of all this is that, as at the end of the 28th April, I have 35 pages left to review and 2 days left to do it.  It’s looking possible, which is completely unexpected, to be honest!

So what does this mean for my other April targets?

I have my last read-through of the first novel still to do, and then send it to agents; I will give myself until 15 May for this. I have a short synopsis written but that needs extending to meet agent specifications; and I have to do my personal bio bit – at the moment it reads like a CV and that’s not good!

The sum total of all this is that next Sunday I will be able to write about something other than revising this novel.  There may be a parade and some carnival floats to celebrate.  Or (weather permitting) a trip to the beach for an ice cream…  At the very least, there will be chocolate!

In other news – I’d like to say a big thank you to Ellyn Baker for nominating me for the Very Inspiring Blogger award.  As always seems to be the case, these awards come at just the right time, and in particular this came when I was having a rough time with the writing life, and it kept me motivated.  That it the power of positive affirmation!

Also – some of my poetry will be read in a live performance!  My good friend Joanne Louise Parker has asked to read some of my work at a performance in Penzance.  She’s an amazing singer and songwriter and has encouraged me to do more with my work, so I hope it’s well received…

Plus – I am just about to embark on my next round of courses: two start on Thursday, both nutrition courses but from different perspectives.  I expect there will be much cooking to be attempted and I’ll of course be honour-bound to eat it all up!

And finally – I’ve actually managed to make a start on a couple of new pieces of poetry; one is based on Thursday’s revisit to old inspiration!  I’ll probably share this one at some point in the future, but I just wanted to let you know that the exercise worked  better than expected and I will definitely use the technique again.  I love it when a plan comes together 😉

Happy writing,

EJ

🙂

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Fairly expectedly, I didn’t get far in my revisions for the woods novel this week; I reached a point that needs something of a restructure and am still working out how to do it.

In the work I’ve done so far, I’m making the relationship between the two main characters more uncomfortable – this may sound like a bad thing but is actually important for character development.

The male character is in love with the female character, and they were best friends when they were teenagers.  But they have been apart for several years and the male character doesn’t know why. When the female character calls him out of the blue after the death of the woman who raised her, there is a lot of unspoken tension – even though something compels him to support her.

The segment I am now moving into needs some work to incorporate this awkwardness.

But I have to say that – despite my earlier horror at the many, many alterations I was making – I’m actually not too unhappy about the way the work during NaNoWriMo progresses. Yes, there are a lot of amendments, but as I read through it I can see that the characters are clearly drawn, their personalities reflected in their movements, actions and language. Maybe I was too hard on it – and myself – when I started the revision…

Or maybe I was right last time, and next week I’ll be saying I was wrong this week!

Other than that, I’ve sorted out the poems I was looking at amending.  I realised that if I thought the ends were too similar I only needed to fix one, not both.  It took me longer than I want to admit to realise this!  Anyway, I’ve done it and it’s pretty good, but I’ll look again next week.

Non-writing-wise, I’ve completed my last week of Astrobiology – this was my favourite week as it was the philosophical stuff about first contact. It leads me nicely into the next course which is a Philosophy course, and starts tomorrow.

But it also leads me straight back to writing.  It’s probably not the right time for the comedy book – my partner in mirth is hugely busy at the moment, so there’s a time issue anyway, but I’m so fired up by all that I’m learning, and the way different people can approach a question or an idea, that I want to use my new learning in a more practical, writerly way.  I don’t mean I’m turning to sci-fi (although I may attempt it in the future!), but that I want to write something that forces the reader to consider their own responses…  Not quite a morality tale but something where norms are challenged.

I will think on that a bit longer, but studying is inspiring on both a personal and a writing basis.

In other news – I read this article about how a company has offered to get books to the top of the best sellers list – for the bargain price of £46,000.  I don’t understand this; if no-one’s actually reading your book, what’s the point of going to the effort of writing, revising, editing, publishing, marketing etc?

Maybe I’m naive but I want people to actually like my work!

I’m going to leave it there for today and prepare myself for some philosophical thinking.  After all, I think, therefore I am…

Happy writing,

EJ

🙂

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I have finished editing the novel, finally.  Oh, to be free of it for a little while, to rest without thinking which words to cut, amend, replace. To read without wondering if I’ve used the right tone, or kept in the right voice for the character.  Birds are singing, bunnies are hopping and the deer are gracefully leaping over fallen branches, to come and see what all the music is about…

Ok, so finishing it doesn’t quite put me in the middle of a Disney cartoon, but it is a relief.  I’ve got about 87,250 words (I miscounted by 1000 before, oops!) which is a bit longer than planned, but not horribly so, and as I said before, any professional editor worth their salt will rip bits out anyway!  I cannot look at it any more for now, so it’s lucky I’ve sent it to be proofread by someone else!

Sadly, the next on my list of things to do is the first read-through of the woods novel – more editing and revising.  I could put that off and start the planning process for the third book, but to be honest, I’m a little tired of prose, and want to focus on poetry for a few days, so I’m going to do that.  I hope to finish the peace poem, tidy up the elements I identified at the reading last week, print off all finished work for my portfolio and generally make everything all neat and tidy from a poetic point of view.

I’m also now a day behind on the astrobiology quizzes, and need to catch up – but at least you can’t point and laugh that I put it first!

Looking back at The End of the (Editing) Affair part one, it’s amazing that I’ve been through so many revisions, redrafts and edits since then.  The book is really a different animal now.  Which is good – then it was a newly hatched chick, now it is a grown bird.

Hopefully not a turkey though… 😉

There isn’t much other news this week – apart from library closures or unhappy tales of the decline in reading, I haven’t seen much worth sharing – except headline news, which will be the focus of Thursday’s deferred post.  However, I have just been sent details of another poetry reading night (I think my friend is trying to get me on a roll to keep my confidence up) so I’m aiming to go that.  Maybe focussing on poetry for a few days will be a good thing!

Until next time, happy writing,

EJ

🙂

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