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Emma Darwin
I write novels and short fiction and I live in South East London.
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Anne, I was amazed when I began to hear "head-hopping" applied by aspiring writers to any move of point-of-view that wasn't between chapters. To me head-hopping is only the kind of mis-handling which means the pov bobs all over the place, in a way which doesn't work for the reader. Just moving point of view is - well - it's just moving point of view. Why shouldn't a narrative talk about anything it feels like talking about, from any point of view the writer finds effective? ... I think the locking-in of PoV is perhaps the most regrettable and restrictive orthodoxy to have come out of the creative writing courses. Glad I've convinced you!
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One last thought: if you do decide to change the ages, it doesn't necessarily mean that you should start by re-writing the first 30k. Especially if you're someone who tends to get waylaid be re-working existing stuff instead of moving forwards, it's often better just to pretend to yourself that the 30k HAS ALREADY BEEN WRITTEN, and move straight on into 31k and onwards. I would suggest doing some imagining-in-paper (otherwise known as making some notes) about the major changes that would be required in that first 30k - say that someone wouldn't have just left school, but would have had a job. Or that someone else would have been born in the War, not the 50s. That way you don't have to stop the drafting to work this stuff out (at least, not quite so often), and you've got the new-style characters a little bit ready and waiting for your imagination as you go forward.
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Emma - you're so not too late! I think the 30k Doldrums is a perennial. It's amazing how often, when a writer says they've got stuck and I ask how much they've got, it's around 25-35k. (Either that, or it's 5k, which is different!) My instinct with a first draft of a first or early novel is to give it its head, and follow its - and your - nose. Your storytelling sense is telling you that things are exciting, looking down that road. But, yes, why not sit back, take stock, and see if the new direction is still looking twinkly and exciting? Then dive in and get going. Various thoughts: this is about the scary business of flying blind, if you're used to short fiction, where it's possible to "see" the whole story before you start can: http://emmadarwin.typepad.com/thisitchofwriting/2012/11/flying-blind-just-for-a-moment.html this should, hopefully, encourage you not to mini-edit: http://emmadarwin.typepad.com/thisitchofwriting/2008/07/fiddling-hangovers-and-the-paris-review.html for the big picture - and to stop yourself fiddling - print it off, settle on the sofa with a pen, and read it fast, and forwards, as nearly like a reader as you can. When you meet something that's not as good as it could be, just make a note in the margin of what's wrong - DON'T stop to find a solution might be unless it comes to you immediately - and keep going. Keep a pad of paper at your elbow for any wider questions or ideas or inspirations that occur, and, again, keep reading. You could also brainstorm the pros and cons of changing the ages: make a list of the good things it would do, the opportunities for drama and narrative drive it would allow you, and the problems it would pose (apart from that you'd have to re-write the first 30k, which is minor in the larger scheme of things!), and the advantages of keeping the ages as they are. It doesn't have to be a particularly organised or coherent - if you're not a linear planner you might find a mind-map more intuitive. But if you really squeeze every possible reason out of your creative mind and onto the page, my experience is that it becomes clearer which really is likely to be the most fruitful. Good luck!
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;) Sophie! And you're welcome. I think we all only, unconsciously, start listening when we're ready to hear... Which is usually when we've worked our way to the point of really, properly knowing that the way we're doing it isn't working. In other words, I'd always rather know that a writer has come to something I'm suggesting from deep in their own work, than because they're assuming at the outset that I know better than they do, and so meekly doing as they're told.
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You're welcome, Jane. The idea of circles of consciousness is my bright thought for this weekend - and I do think it helps. Especially in understanding that PoV isn't quite "either-or" - something can be consistent with more than one PoV.
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Yes, that's another way of tackling it, although arguably Bastard! Liar! isn't using free indirect style, because the words aren't within a narrative sentence: they're not colouring what the narrative says, they're quoted directly, just without the " ". But obviously these things are always much more fluid in practice, so it would always be an option.
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You're welcome, Rochelle - and it's never too late for this kind of topic! Good luck!
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You're welcome, Richard! I agree - some of us just aren't well-wired to work in a group environment, for all sorts of reasons... I wouldn't go back to a full-time work for someone else if I could help it, now. And thanks for the share.
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;) Helen! Good luck!
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Certainly does make sense, Marija And I do agree that one of the lethal things about being short of time is precisely that it makes the time you have too important: there's a sort of perfectionism that creeps in: what you do has to be worthy of you having used your small, precious time for it. And that's guaranteed to skew your creative compass...
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Yes, I think it's hugely valuable to think in terms of practicing. Aspiring writers are often told to keep a journal, and as I'm not a diary-keeper, I never really understood it, till I realised that it needn't be "journal" as in diary, but as in sketchbook... Just because you MIGHT go on to use scraps of experience in a novel, doesn't mean that the only reason to sketch something is that you're going to put it in a a six-foot canvas...
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"I am fully aware that it is a novel to teach me how to write a novel." Yes, exactly! Best of luck with it!
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If you've been hanging around the Itch for any length of time, you'll know that I think the creeping Creative Writing orthodoxy that you can't change point of view except between chapters is nonsense. (Click here if you're not so sure what we're on about when we talk about point of view.) It's a "rule" which has only been invented in the last twenty years or so, peddled by would-be writers don't know good writing when they see it, and, I suspect, writing teachers who don't know how to teach it. But how you handle point of view really does... Continue reading
Posted 4 days ago at This Itch of Writing: the blog
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I think that the danger in the worship of Showing (as opposed to the intelligent understanding of its value) is that it lures writers into too much Stuff: into feeling they're not "allowed" just to inform us of something. And to a degree, it's simply a matter of taste. Some readers find They kissed under the rotting oak or They fought under the sapling willow more evocative than They met under the big tree which to them seems dull and bald. But others will prefer the plainness of the latter. And quite a lot of us would say that it depends on the story, and the context, and the voice... I think with Telling, it depends a lot too, on the voice. If the narrator's voice is compelling, they can do pretty much whatever they like...
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Thanks for the traffic, Barb - and so glad you found this one clear. It's such an important topic.
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You're welcome, Stevie - as you say, I think fairy tales are often very Telly. It's natural to the genre, although of course that needn't preclude vivid physical detail.
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Anne, that's so interesting about Psychoanalytic theory, and it makes so much sense. It's frightening to be confronted with the blank page - the amorphous soup of possibilities - with no guidance on how to navigate it. I'm sure that's why some writers grab at the first rules anyone offers them, and cling onto them hard in the teeth of the obvious point that there are no rules, and/or that these are clearly also the wrong tools...
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David, yes, I think that's probably a very common outcome with NaNo - but it doesn't mean (as some people would suggest) that NaNo-ing and similar is a bad idea. Just that it can be a great way to discover what kind of story this is, but then, yes, you've got to sort out that skeleton, and make it well-proportioned and sturdy. And as you say, the way to do that may very likely not be to revise and re-work, but to start again from a blank page, with everything you've discovered as your raw material.
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Anne, you're welcome. I do think that it's worth learning to zoom as far as possible in both directions - even if you don't end up doing it very often. It's there to be used when it's right for the story.
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You're welcome!
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Well you're welcome to say that, Carol! Glad you liked it.
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:) Brian! I think the only thing I've written which exceeded the minimum wage was the erotic story for In Bed With. And I've actually done pretty well with advances, one way and another. But it so rarely reflects the hours...
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Henry, I didn't know that. Makes sense, though, and good for him. And he really learnt his trade, and bided his time, and when he had an even more cracking idea than usual, he could do it justice. I think Scott Turow still practices as a lawyer, doesn't he? As I remember from an interview, that's partly to do with Helena's point about not losing touch with proper normal life. But goodness, either they must be able to write very fast, or they have an exceptionally good support network. (Which historically is code for having a wife who picks up all the pieces. I don't know if things have rebalanced these days with writerly husbands doing as much...)
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