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Emma Darwin
I write novels and short fiction and I live in South East London.
Interests: fiction, creative non-fiction, novels, short fiction, short stories, historical fiction, academic writing, writing, reading, editing, teaching
Recent Activity
Sally, yes, I love RVW 2. The Fourth Symphony is as frightening and modernist as Shostakovitch... I never know about "proud", because it's so random. Interesting, yes. Fun, yes. An advantage - sometimes. And yes, The Ancestor did change the world. But it's nothing I did, I find myself thinking, so nothing I can claim any glory or pride in, any more than I'm proud of being tall. It's just genes. Hope to see you at Harrogate!
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;-) Apparently (as in, according to a long debate on a Nebraskan geneticist's blog...) along with the othe 152 of my generation of descendants, I would share 2% of The Ancesotor's genes, but because he and Emma were first cousins, it's more like 3%. Having my genome debated publicly online was one of the odder moments of the last ten years. But he wasn't ever knighted - that would have been a respectability too far. Being buried in Westminster Abbey had to do. FWIW, if you meet a "Sir Charles Darwin" that's Charles Galton Darwin, his grandson, my grandfather.
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Chocolate is God... Glad you're enjoying the podcasts, Sophie.
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Oops! Thank, Nick. Must have changed something somewhere else. I'll dig it up.
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Yes, in PoV terms that's true. If it were 'she looked' then it wouldn't be strictly in her PoV - it's something the narrator could know from outside. But "saw"... And yes, because it's a detail we're more closely drawn still. Also, come to think of it, why "filtering" (putting in "she saw", "he felt" etc.) isn't always a bad thing. It wouldn't work in the same way at all if the fact that the river was visible through the trees was put there as an objective fact, rather than her subjective observation in that moment.
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You're welcome, Shaista! Best of luck with it, and enjoy the tea.
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There seems to have been a lot going on, lately, and if the blog's been a bit quiet, that's why. I'm up to my neck in the last work on Get Started in Writing Historical Fiction. It's due out mid-Autumn and, as ever, even when I've been living with a project for years, I can't quite believe that it is about to become a Real Book, but all the signs are there! And historical fiction's a bit of a theme elsewhere. Also in the autumn, I'll be heading down to Leith Hill Place, the lovely house where Ralph Vaughan Williams... Continue reading
Posted 5 days ago at This Itch of Writing: the blog
Caroline, that sounds like a really good idea. I think setting yourself a time limit has that effect of making it manageable: it doesn't have to be perfect, or 'the right time' or anything. It just has to be there. Good luck with it!
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Yes, although of course you then have to get the disciplined/critical voice back in, when it comes to revising and editing.
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So glad the blog's useful, Loretta, and thank you for the nomination!
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Yes, I think they are different dialects. I notice when I'm preaching a "plain English as much as possible" song to my academic writing students, some of them look distinctly nervous, because of course particular vocabulary and habits of speech are part of any tribe's cohesion, and they feel I'm telling them to drop those and revert to childhood. It can be genuinely hard to separate out the substance from the style, and decide which matters. Especially if the people marking your work don't separate them either. Good luck with getting back into it!
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I think the first set of things - freewriting, etc. - are absolutely about getting your right brain back in the game: relaxing, shedding the censorship that tries to make your characters speak formally correct grammar and the like. But also, I think, about persevering further. The mixed metaphor thing is mostly about reaching for the first way of expressing an idea that comes to hand, without paying much attention to its connotations. Whereas with your right-brain engaged (image, simultaneity), you spot immediately that the denotation may be accurate, but you're in deep trouble with the imagery.
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Susannah, there's an overlap, of course - and lots of students, unlike you, need to have it pointed out that "touch" isn't just texture. The air cool on my forearms? But it's also about movement in space, which "touch" doesn't really cover: the sense of your wrist moving as you write, the shoulder-joint shifting as your hand moves, the way the skin on your elbow is wrinkled where it's pressing into the arm of the chair, the way that between them my neck and my head feel that my head's slightly cocked to one side and that shoulder's slighly hitched up - though I couldn't tell you exactly what feels what to tell me that. It's the difference between how your legs and back feel the café chair watching for your lover to come round the corner, and how they feel it after the small boy has delivered the note saying she's gone back to her husband...
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So true. I'm sure I'm not alone in picking up voices frighteningly easily. Indeed, with my 400-word every-morning new novel, I've had to make sure I don't read any fiction over breakfast, before I go back to bed with my tea and tackle the novel, because whatever I was reading creeps in. Even magazines and stuff can be a problem. I don't terribly want the new novel to come out with the breathless enthusiasm of the Lakeland Catalogue copy.
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After you've gone three rounds with the Annual Report, it's frightening how often things like these somehow materialise in your novel: Ann was in a conflictual situation and chose the least-worst option. The command structure was put into a red alert state and the opening procedures were followed. Wheeling his idea out for the others to chew on, Bob took on board their thirst for closure and wrapped up the conference by casting caution to the winds. Flinging the briefcase over the wall before the ticking stopped, the solution was the last thing that Carrie knew. I've taught creative writing... Continue reading
Posted May 12, 2015 at This Itch of Writing: the blog
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And another thing I've noticed about those two: The Mantel moves inwards mostly using the classic pyschic-distance shift from Telling with more abstract and inform-ing descriptions and un-specific times ("certain threats" and "easily panicked at the best of times") to Showing with more particular and concrete things and moments ("he grumbles" and "he sees squat spitting Italians"). Whereas the Carter moves from the general to the particular in time (" Freeze off a girls’ bum, the winters up there.") but is very concrete and particular ("Aberdeen", the grouse) at the beginning. And where we close in in time, to the moment of Perry leaving, she steps back and informs us ("too down at heart to eat anything ourselves"). Which just shows how dynamically and flexibly the different aspects of psychic distance can be used.
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And sympathy for getting exciteable about new ways of doing things - I'm hopelessly seductible by whatever I'm reading at the moment, whether it's the voice of a novel, or a book about how to write memoir...
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You're welcome, Jemma. It does help to see examples, doesn't it, and see just how differently different writers set about the business of "close in" and "far out". And I'm sure lots of them are scarcely conscious of doing it, although I think virtually all of them would recognise the different quality of the two ends of the spectrum. And then you have to take the tools to your own writing, which is different again, as you've found.
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LaDonna, you're welcome, and I'm so glad you're finding the blog useful. There never is enough time, is there - but I hope that if The Mathematics of Love does float eventually to the top of your TBR pile, you enjoy it!
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Jules, that's such a perceptive reading and I think you're absolutely right. Debi and I have had many different takes on psychic distance, in the years we've been teaching it, and the "long-shot" "wide-angle" "medium-shot" "close-up" one is always a favourite. But you're right, it's subtler than that: it's about directing attention as much as it's about how much context you do or don't have. And yes, the best technique slips past even the technique-conscious reader.(As a judge that's the one I say "Turned me back into a reader", and I give the prize to!) It's something to do with perfect match between the technique and the writer's idea of the story. With things like Wolf Hall it's often only a page or two later that my conscious writerly brain catches up and thinks, "Blimey, that was good, back there!".
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You're welcome Sandra. And yes, I agree - whether or not you can see a problem, and whether or not you can then see what to do about it, does seem very variable. One reason I work such a lot on paper is that at least I can scribble "PD wrong. ?Too far out?" or whatever, and know that at least I've found some of the problem, and it's now safely tethered, ready for when I will start to see the solution.
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You're welcome, Manikmia!
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Isn't it good! I'm so grateful to Susannah Rickards for recommending it. Like you, I hadn't thought of some aspects of not-writing as having their roots in the same place as more obvious procrastinatory messes, but they do..
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Yes, I think that can work very well ... as long as going back to existing work doesn't just become a way of avoiding the problem. In a first draft, have a rule with myself that I never go further back than the previous session's work, edit my way forwards to the sticking point, and then force myself onwards. But, as you say, very often the problem turns out to have sorted itself out, or at least you've seen a way to ride over the bump (perhaps with a note that more will need doing another time), and start moving forwards again.
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