Saturday, 29 May 2010

Hello Draft Three Welcome to My Desk

I now have a third draft. Some chapters have needed complete rewrites or have been reshuffled. A lot of chapters had whole paragraphs removed and even pages were scrapped. I have added more 'character voice' and taken out the 'author voice.' More description went into this draft too. Maybe I should add some salt and pepper for good measure?

Some stats (because we all deep-down love word counts):

End of first draft - 291 pages = 82,389 words
End of second draft - 248 pages = 71,002 words

I might have a break for a few weeks from the novel and attempt some short/flash stories. Or I might jump back on the wagon and edit like I have never editted before.

Preparing for the next draft (a bit like a royal visit):

  • Back up all relevant files - I do this monthly - I have lots of files on my USB stick called 'backup month year'
  • Tidy away papers from last draft - start with a clear space. 
  • Get favourite editing pen ready to do some damage and/or repair. 

Friday, 28 May 2010

I Recommend These Books

As well as nearly being finished with the first draft and preparing to scribble over the second, I have taken some time out to read some great books. So here are my recommendations for the bank holiday:

The Rehearsal – Eleanor Catton – This debut novel is one of those Marmite books with the reviewers. I tend not to listen too much to what they say so I grabbed this one. This book is about the effects of a sex scandal at a girls’ school and also how the local acting school decide to turn into a play. One of the major questions through out the book ‘is adolescence a rehearsal for real life?’ and ‘What is reality?’ The main reason for liking this book is the way the story jumps around in the narrative, cutting to different time frames in the plot, swapping view point. There are flawed characters – I like that because it represents real life. 

Eleanor keeps a blog here: Eleanor Blog

DELLA SAYS: OMG! – Keris Stainton – I own a signed copy of this book thanks to Twitter and Keris. This book takes me back straight to the days of searching the school library for Judy Blume books and pretending I was a year eight so I could take out the ‘naughty’ ones. ‘Della Says’ is about Della losing her diary after a party at her house. A summer romance happens with the boy of her dreams but there is someone out there with the diary, ready to make it all crumble. Here we have a honest protagonist – an icon for a generation – telling it like it really is. None of that fluffy Enid Blyton. The voice of the character pulls you straight in, making the book a compulsive read. I only stopped reading this because I needed to sleep and also I needed to go back to work after lunch.

Keris has a great blog here. Keris Blog.

 I am currently reading ‘Room’ by Emma Donoghue. I believe it has been tipped to be the big seller for this year. The book is about a young woman and her son being kept in a basement away from real life. The story is told in the voice of a five year old. I’m twenty pages in but so far I am intrigued to continue.

Tuesday, 18 May 2010

Inkspill Magazine

My short story, Jasper's Betrayal, has been published in the first issue of Inkspill Magazine. Originally the story was going to be about imaginary friends but then developed in to something slightly different.

There are not just short stories but articles, debates, poetry and photography. One of my class mates from Roehampton is also tucked inside the covers too. Big up Ray with her great poetry! The front cover reminds me of some of the older Mslexia covers with its wispy font and enticing colours.

You can either buy a print copy for £3.50 or download for £1.50. You won't be disappointed. There are some great pieces in this issue.

Inkspill Magazine is run by Sophie Playle during her spare time (in between writing and full time work). I believe she is open to submissions until the end of the month.

Thank you Sophie.

Tuesday, 11 May 2010

Website Recommendation and Editing Update

I subscribed to the email from Writers' Centre - some of their events are local and some aren't but it is interesting to know what is happening in East Anglia, England. It's a shame to see nothing seems to happen in Bedfordshire (writing wise).

They have recently redesigned their website and they now have a section for writers. There is alot of great information and links on this website, not just for locals but for all writers.

Writers Centre - Writer's Area

Editing update - I am currently redrafting chapter 21 on the computer and chapter 22 is on the clipboard with lots of scribbles. Draft two is nearly ready for printing off. Then the whole editing process starts again. I have already lost 10,000 words. I am going to end up with a poem if I'm not careful...

Monday, 10 May 2010

Creative Writing Courses - Part 2 - My Experiences

Here’s the second part of creative writing courses. Last time it was advantages and disadvantages, this time it is my experiences of the courses. Please note these are my experiences. I have tried to offer good parts and bad parts.

Evening course – ‘Creative Writing’

  • This was taken over 15 weeks on a Monday evening in a further education college. I took the course during my gap year so I could get a taster on what my degree would entail. Plus, I was still under 19 and the course was free. So nothing to lose. The tutor on the course was a writer (although she never pointed us in the direction of published work) and also a life coach. I remember her talking more about her life coaching then writing.
  • Basically, we wrote what ever we wanted. There was no theme or structure. There would be a small discussion on ‘scripting,’ etc but nothing substantial.
  • The tutor told us to read ‘Rebecca.’ This was the only book on the reading list.
  • I dropped out half way through. I handed over a story about a woman getting revenge on her cheating husband and his girlfriend (it was crappy). The tutor didn’t like the fact that the protagonist was a sinner who also got away with murder. She should in imprisoned or bet still, kill herself at the end. As well as the lessons being a sham and this comment – well, it pushed me over the edge… I smiled politely and then sloped off home during the break. Somehow, I still ended up with a certificate.

Degree course – ‘BA Creative Writing’

  • I picked this course as I wanted to be creative in every module, not have to write essays every two weeks or take exams at the end of the semester. I wanted to challenge my creativity. I really enjoyed the poetry, fiction and scriptwriting (in the second year) strands of the degree. This was also an opportunity to write three chapters of a novel for the third year project. I didn’t continue the novel after my course but it has helped since.
  • Experimental techniques were explored - my favourite module!
  • I really enjoyed all of the fiction writing and poetry modules. Scriptwriting made sense in the second year but journalism wasn't my cup of tea. 
  • I wish there were more tutorials and feedback. One each term for each module was enough and going to see a tutor within office hours was a nightmare.
  • Some people didn’t want to be there and would chatter through the class. They were normally the people who begged for feedback but never returned the favour or bother coming to the editing group.
  • I thought the course would make me more prolific – I imagined we would roll out a story/poem every week (as most critics think about these courses). I was wrong (which is good) as it is more like one story per module – those editing skills are really put to the test.
  • There was a lot of ‘free time’ outside the class room so writing could be done with out the pressure of constant lectures.
  • Went to some of the events in the uni and got to hear some of the tutors perform. I wish they had run some sort of ‘open mic’ or performance for the students to perform their work and/or an anthology. However, the course was fairly new.
  • There was no career advice.
  • No one talked about the internet and its opportunities.

Postgraduate – ‘MA Professional Writing’

  • I picked this course because it was near enough to commute, fairly reasonable fees and offered a scope of choices. The tutor was also really enthusiastic on the opening day and also encouraging. But it all came crumbling down …
  • Lesson after lesson was spent listening to one person read out their story as the tutor verbally corrected the grammar. This was the sort of thing that screams tutorial.
  • We had to do a module on ‘research methods.’ It was a waste of time and dull. We even spent a whole session on using Google.
  • I wanted to extend my knowledge on experimental methods. But most of the group in the ‘creative writing’ module got annoyed that my story had no dialogue. But apparently, every story must have dialogue. Oh right. You better tell those big name authors the same.
  • My project was a shambles. My supervisor said my project was chick-lit because it had a female protagonist.
  • Writing London was one of the best modules - Trips around the capital for inspiration. 
  • I took arts reviews - I like reading reviews but I learnt, not very good at writing them. But at least it gave me practice of reading out work in front of an audience. 
  • The course was aimed more at Journalists and people who preferred non fiction. I did manage to write a few pieces. But a career in journalism isn't for me. 
  • Tutorials were not encouraged.
  • I did come out with a couple of pieces of writing, which were published/awarded a prize.

So, I passed my Masters degree. I have no regrets though because it offered me a chance to concentrate on my writing without worrying about a full time job.

I developed a bad case of writer’s block after that course and even thought about giving up for a while. But I couldn’t let the negative hold me back. Okay, I’ll shut up now because I’m starting to sound like a self-help book.

Friday, 7 May 2010

The View From Here Magazine - Print Edition

Issue 23 of The View From Here Magazine is now available. My story, Sandbox, featured last month on their website will now be in print. Which is exciting - one of the writing resolutions was to have at least one piece appear in a 'real life' magazine.

You can buy the magazine from here.

Thursday, 6 May 2010

Creative Writing Courses - Part 1- Advantages / Disadvantages

I am going to be writing a couple of posts about the advantages/disadvantages of creative writing courses and also my experiences (part 2). I thought it might be useful for a few people. when I thought about applying for a CW degree I googled about the advantages but there wasn't much out there at the time. So I hope this might help someone at some point.

I also want to point out that:
  • I know a lot of writers who did creative writing courses and have gone far e.g. published, agents, book deals. 
  • I know a lot of people who stopped writing as soon as their certificate was nailed above their fire place. 
  • I also know a lot of people who didn't do a course and have succeeded too. 
At the end of the day, even if you do a course or you don't do a course, you will still need the following:
  • Motivation
  • Determination
  • Dedication 
  • Realistic about rejection/acceptance
  • Plus ideas, of course!
Advantages for creative writing courses:
  • Discipline - You can't put it off. A deadline is a deadline. 
  • Motivation - Prompts help a lot of people. Also preparing for editing groups is a good kick up the backside.
  • Feedback - From peers and tutors. My advice is to be in an editing group that your best friend or flatmate isn't in. You want partial advice, not someone who is overly nice/nasty. However, having a friend on the same course can help you have someone to bounce off ideas and have pre-edit discussions. Feedback helps push one to be a better writer and step up one's game.
  • Competitive - Not racing but having the attitude of 'I want to write a story that will get clapping too.' It is healthy. Again, it's motivational and it spurs you on to write. 
  • You can learn the rules and then break them. 
  • Book recommendations - find new writers to explore. 
  • Like-minded friends. 
  • You need to also remember - the tutor's advice isn't always the right advice. Get confident with your own judgements.
Disadvantages for creative writing courses: 
  • Money
  • Time - a degree is three years. Someone famous once said writing is a lifelong apprenticeship so those three years are just a drop in the ocean (I might have paraphrased). 
  • You can find a lot of advice in 'how-to' books or essays on the internet. 
  • Attitude of 'you can't teach talent' - no you can't. Its about nurturing. 
  • Read, read, read is the best education and then write, write, write - Actually this is the best advice!
  • You can only work on assignments.
Having a degree doesn't give you the advantage over someone who hasn't got a degree. Its about the words you write. You can also create most of the advantages at home by making up your own deadlines, own goals, etc.

I will be also writing a post about my experiences of attending a BA, MA and also evening class soon. One was a complete disaster, another one had be reconsidering my future and another one got good near the end.