Posts Tagged ‘Wilkie Collins’

As  a break today, I decided to flick through a book of quotes by writers, called ‘The Wit and Wisdom of Great Writers’.  I don’t know about you, but I often find these quotes, when taken out of context, less inspiring than perhaps they first appeared.  Context is often key.

Having said that, I found one today that I wanted to share.  The quote was in a speech made by Rudyard Kipling, in 1923:

Words are, of course, the most powerful drug used by mankind

I’ve been coming back to this quote since I read it, and I still don’t know how I feel about it.  Are words really like drugs?  Or is it more accurate to say writers long to fill their worlds with them, collect them like a philatelist collects stamps, or a numismatist collects currency?  Is there even a word for collectors of words, of language?  Dictionarist, Lexiconist?

So many questions, so little chance to know.  All I can do is share my thoughts as they are, right now.

Words are like gemstones.  We start with rough chunks, and we polish them to make them shine.  Each word in our language – whatever language we speak – has been hewn from our past and presented to us like a gift.  Sometimes new gems are found, and we polish them for future generations.

We string words together into shining, shimmering ropes of language.  They are our currency and our trade, as writers; they are what we bequeath to others.

If all that sounds a little melodramatic for you, I hope you can at least agree with one point: words need to be displayed to their advantage, so people can see the best of them.


In the book challenge, I’ve read three this week, so am building up a little cushion in case I come across another Moby Dick that takes ages and never gets finished!

Book 7 – The Moonstone, by Wilkie Collins.  This seemed really long – it took about 12 hours to finish which is quite long for me – although I’m not sure how long it is in its physical form.  Another one from the 100 Best Books list, it was quite fun, a little overlong, but neat and tidy at the end.  The multiple viewpoint characters meant that some parts were more enjoyable for me than others, but it was worth reading even if I never do so again!

Book 8 – The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, by Washington Irving.  Ok, this was a bit of a cheat as it’s a short story, but after The Moonstone I wanted something short!  This was fun, and entertaining,  and not much of a ghost story, at least to me – it seemed more satire than anything else.  Enjoyable, and my interpretation was that it was very tongue in cheek.

Book 9 – The Importance of Being Earnest, by Oscar Wilde.  Another play, and in typical Oscar Wilde fashion the conversations were sparky and vaguely ridiculous, the characters drawn cleverly in just a few lines.  I can imagine the giggles in a theatre, watching this performed; it made me smile.  Short, and sweet.


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This week at writing group we were talking about feedback and critiques.  As the person responsible for making sure we cover these things, I took along a poem I wrote a couple of years ago so people could practice giving feedback without worrying whether they were offending someone.  

It’s a poem I’d forgotten about, to be honest; although I think it has a certain charm it’s not one I’ve revisited since June 2012 – and that was only the second draft!

Being able to listen to feedback and make it constructive for you is important, but that’s not the point of the post today.   No, what really struck me is that I haven’t looked back at old work for a long time.

Working on the woods novel, which is now in stasis, I spent a lot of time working through its inherent issues, and writing new pieces to keep me going.  What I didn’t do was revisit old folders of work.

I often work on old pieces, don’t get me wrong – but they’re the pieces I’ve finished and take to open mike nights or readings.  I amend them based on hearing them read out loud.  On the other hand, I haven’t looked back at my files of early, unfinished, drafts for a while.  I think that without really noticing, I just closed my mind to them.

So after having that blast from the past, after having a look at my old folders full of random lines, or articles, or early attempts at expressing myself, I am determined to write a whole new set based on those bits – a whole new set to go out and read for an audience.

I don’t write drafts just to forget them, and I don’t want that to be their fate.

In other news – We’ve got to Book 19 of the Best Novels list – The Moonstone, by Wilkie Collins.  I saw this come up and read it this week, I’ll give you my impressions on Thursday.  I have come to the conclusion that I don’t really agree with this list though – or at least, if these books are really the best in the English language, then I don’t enjoy the best!

Also – as I was looking at the newspaper, I found this article about the deadly argument two friends had over the relative benefits of poetry and prose.  I thought I’d share it to remind us all to keep things in perspective – and to say I think both poetry and prose are fabulous!

And finally – I was watching a programme about house-hunting in Wales, which discussed, briefly, Dylan Thomas’s love of the area. Subsequently I came across this article about places to visit in the area to celebrate the centenary of his birth.  I’m taking it as a sign that Wales is a good writing destination, and that our trip to the retreat at the end of April will be a success.

We writers love to interpret signs, after all!

Happy writing



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