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Emma Darwin
I write novels and short fiction and I live in South East London.
Recent Activity
Thanks, Sandra! And best of luck with the family history novel - sounds exciting.
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Hema, that's interesting, though not everyone feels that way - I did a straw poll on a forum and about half of the aspiring writers said that they loved the mad first-draft stage, and hated the revising, and the other half said they loathed the incredibly hard work of the spinning-it-from-nothing first stage, and loved it once they had something concrete to work through. Of the published writers, the general feeling seemed to be that we'd learnt to love (or possibly hate!) both stages equally, a bit like loving different things in your different children...
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I do agree that something that's really your project will keep on nagging at you. On the other hand - some people's hearts apparently tell them to jump ship all the time, even if it is actually the Inner Critic in cardiac mode...
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Important concept, I think.
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So glad it was helpful, Nicki! I know what you mean about feeling too explained-at, or even preached-at. I sometimes wonder, when I meet that, whether it's just because they're having to write the damn thing too fast...
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I'm delighted to have been commissioned by Hodder to write Getting Started in Historical Fiction, for John Murray Learning's classic Teach Yourself list. It will be published towards the end of 2015, and starting it prompted my post So What Counts as Historical Fiction?. But there's another question I'll need... Continue reading
Posted 4 days ago at This Itch of Writing
Yes, sometimes it's hard to be really radical - specially when the project IS working in lots of ways, just not (you've reluctantly realised) in the most crucial ways. But, unlike a painter scraping down the canvas, that older version doesn't get thrown away. "It'll still be there if you want to go back to it," I say to myself, by way of pushing myself into to commiting to the more radical option ... And I never do. Mostly after a while I can't even remember what it had in it, as the new one takes over that space in my head, if not my hard drive.
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You're welcome, Carol. As you say, sometimes it can take a while to know what to do next, but best of luck with it!
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That's a good point too, Julie-Ann - you learn lots in totally re-working a project which you wouldn't learn either from abandoning it and starting a completely different project, ore from less radical revisions and re-workings of a given text of that project.
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Yes, exactly: seen from much later, you realise that that "fast first draft" is more a monster brainstorm of what sorts of things might go into a novel... And then, when you've understood that, you start working on the actual novel.
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Yes, on the whole I'd agree ... except that I do know plenty of aspiring writers who, as it were, give up too easily. Usually they haven't yet discovered just how much you can change cold-bloodedly in revision, without losing touch with the the original, hot-blooded sense of the overall creature. But, yes, there's a point at which you can't do that any more, and would do better to start a new project in hot blood.
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I'm terribly prone to the ButSorted bit, and I find many others are too. I think it's a) because after all, as the writer, you set the problem so it's pretty obvious what the solution should be, and b) writers are problem solvers by nature: Our default for difficult or puzzling situations is to pounce and wrestle and grapple until things are more sorted out. Indeed, there's a sense in which the process of writing a novel is one long act of solving the original problem we set ourselves: "What if? ... then what ... what would happen in the end?". So it's very hard to hold back and NOT let the character solve the problem, or at least not let the reader in on the solution, and not-let-them in a way which doesn't make them feel cheated and left out.
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So glad it's useful, Cynthia - lovely to see you here!
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Claire, you're welcome. I think one-chapter-per-scene makes lots of sense, specially at the beginning of writing. Then, later, you can see whether actually you're making the most of the possibilities, or there's some larger structure which you could also be working with. Good luck with the re-write!
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Remember that memoir you loved and spent ages on, years back? Or the novel you loved which has just spent ages on a slushpile, but come back? Or the story you coolly put in a drawer for six months, and now the light of day is actually cold you can... Continue reading
Posted Jul 14, 2014 at This Itch of Writing
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Paul, that's a good example, I think, of when something set in a time which is within living memory for some readers does "feel" quite historical - specific real stuff which is very Then and not very Now.
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Ava, you're very welcome! So glad it helped.
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You're welcome, Carol. Good luck with the application!
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I think one needs distance, in order to cut - and perhaps (I know I do) some kind of policy? A reason to cut? A goal to cut towards, in terms of tone, or energy? That's one reason realising that there was lots in the WIP that was just a shade "over-explained" was so useful. Glad you like the new look. The idea is that it's more tablet/smartphone friendly, being a simpler layout, but I also like the plainness.
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There's the Ray Bradbury quote - "The artist learns what to leave out.". On the other hand, is is Grace Paley? who says that mostly it's a matter of whittling down, but not always - sometimes what you find is that a story needs whittling up. I love that!
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Lindsay, you're welcome!
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You know the trick of stealing a square of chocolate, invisibly, from a bar? Which is a tasty way of explaining how I recently cut nearly 10% of a novel, without changing a single thing about story - plot, character-in-action, dialogue, description - which actually mattered. The effect was like... Continue reading
Posted Jul 7, 2014 at This Itch of Writing
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Oh, Victoria, how frustrating! And yes, sometimes one needs the distance of time, and feedback from someone who can give you a more rounded, nuanced picture than a rejection can. Best of luck with the revisions!
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"I wonder if someone could learn to write through ONLY positive feedback. It would make an interesting experiment." Yes, it would be interesting. It might end with them writing too much like the feederback, tho': just doing everything they're told to do. One of the values of negative feedback, arguably, is that it maybe pushes you towards finding your own positive solution. (Assuming, that is, you don't just meekly cut everything...) What it comes down to, I suspect, is that REALLY good feedback is such a mix of positive and negative that one hardly makes the distinction: X had this effect, Y had this effect, and it's up to the writer to decide whether X or Y are good effects or bad effects on his/her own terms.
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Glad you approve, Moira!
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