Posts Tagged ‘Studying’

Every day, I set aside some time to write and do any coursework needed. It’s time set aside from paid work, housework, social life, hobbies etc and it is down to me how – and how well – I use the time.

This week has been more about reading than writing, with most of my literary time spent in Americanah, or textbooks, or newspapers.

After Thursday’s post I practiced what I preached and bought a newspaper to dig through over the next few days.  It is big and has many supplements so it’ll take me a bit of time to dissect the stories and articles, balance them and see what, if anything, inspires me.

I already have a few ideas and I am eager to see if they fly…

Although there are no new words on paper, to write I must give myself time to read, so this week was like research, or an extension of my learning.

It’s been a good exercise in identifying how the right word was chosen, understanding the subtle manipulations of thought that writers have to achieve, identifying what grabs my attention as a reader.

In many respects, it has been an opportunity to review my recent learning on style, language and context.

Over the next week I will be getting into my next writing course, playing with the newspaper articles to see what they create, and finishing Americanah so I have a chance to reflect on difference in writing.

For now, I am going to curl up with a good book and a pile of newspaper in the hope that I can share my experiences with you next week!

Happy writing,



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This week is my drama show and every night is dedicated to trying desperately to act the part of a competent performer.

It’s funny that one of the biggest learning points from my current course is about purpose, and yet I only really got my head around it by being in the drama group.

Every movement in a scene has to have purpose – we are moving left to right to reveal something, conceal something, interact with something.

That is true of writing, but somehow it is easier to learn from physical experience than it is from academic instruction.

Purpose means cutting words that add nothing, replacing words with better ones, making every word in your story count. Purpose means each scene, each sentence in fact, brings something to the story that needs to be there.

This is a lesson I learnt in principle but am not always great at applying to my prose.  I feel in control of purpose in poetry but I can’t apply the skills across my stories and I really don’t know why.

It’s probably in the revision phase, but I haven’t got to the updated study on that yet…

If I can keep in mind what I have understood about purpose on stage and can apply it consistently and appropriately on the page, I am sure it will have a significant impact on the quality of my output.

Watch this space…

Happy writing,




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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,




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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,





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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,



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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,





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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,

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This week I continued with the whodunnit, caught up on some of the coursework I should have done, and got back into the swing of writing group.

I’ve pressed on with the whodunnit despite still feeling a little conflicted about the detective.  I have gone for a police detective for realism but the more I think about it the more I think the likes of Marple or Holmes work precisely because they are not official – they are not constrained by the rules of the law and can do things that wouldn’t make good policy!  I also feel that it’s made the story become a bit sludgy as I try to get the jargon and legal process right.

In a last-ditch attempt to get a balance between professional detective and civilian sleuth, I have had a Miss Marple marathon running over the weekend in the background.  This week my writing time will be very limited as I have things on every evening after work – predominantly rehearsals, sadly! – but I will revisit the story and see which direction I want to go.  I am trying not to get too bogged down in the minutiae, bearing in mind my reason for trying this was purely to practise the written art of misdirection, and think if I continue down my current path I’ll lose focus again which I don’t want to do!

In the meantime, I have started work on a new poem for performances, called ‘The Ties That Bind’.  I like it and I feel it has legs so will be working on that in the next few weeks as well.

Alongside the writing, I am getting back into my studies, on a fairly basic level – I am doing the bare minimum work and no interactive elements such as forums, because I don’t have time, but I wanted to get back to learning which I find so inspirational.  I still have ideas to explore about history and society that may become poems rather than novels or short stories just because I want to get them onto paper!

And finally, this week also saw the return of writing group.  We have a new venue which is a local pub, and I’m not sure it’ll be entirely successful but we’ll give it a while to try it out.  As we arrived it was snowing, and a great big log fire was a very welcome sight!  I am pushing us all to have writing targets this year, and we are going to run a children’s writing competition locally, so I hope everyone’s a little more invested now.  We even have newbies joining us, which is great fun!

I’ll leave it there as it’s nearly midnight and I have to get up for work!  Decisions on detectives will be made soon…

Happy writing,



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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,



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This week, as is usual now, my writing time focussed on poems for the wedding.

I am happy with some much improved ones and am excited that the writing mojo seems to have come back, although still worried about the timescale.  I think about it a little like an assignment in that I can only do the best I can do, in the time available.  I cannot seek – nor will I ever find – perfection, and I have to remind myself sometimes!

But despite the practical elements, it has been really great to dig out poetry books and read (of course I do read poems on occasion, sometimes even my own but you know what I mean!).  This has been a prolonged study, sitting and identifying what works, what doesn’t work, what words cause a reaction.  What, in effect, sums up the feelings I wish to convey, in the most successful way possible.

Writing is perpetual growth, and even though my mind is scattered and my time is frenetic, I can feel my writing developing as I work.

I am more aware now of the language I choose to use for this project, of the joys and shared happiness I want to convey.  I am exploring a writing side of me that has never really been aired (I don’t write romance in any form, really) and I am getting a great deal of pleasure and satisfaction from it.

That I am doing it for my partner, and our family and friends, makes it even more special.

And finally – this week it’s book 56 on the list – Brave New World by Aldous Huxley.  It’s been many years since I read this but I do know I really enjoyed it – not perhaps quite as much as 1984 but a lot more than many other things I have read!  This is definitely on my list of books to re-read, if for no other reason than I feel it deserves to be considered from a different time and place in my life, and not as a direct follow-on from other dystopian stories.

Weirdly I feel a little nervous that, as with 1984, there will be a little too much that’s recognisable for me when I look again.

A short post today, I know – but it’s found me full of joy in writing, and that’s always a good place to be 🙂

Happy writing,







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