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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
It was fantastic to see so many people at the inaugural Words Away Salon, "Make Your Novel Shine" at the Tea House Theatre in Vauxhall. Many thanks from Words Away's founder, Kellie Jackson, and me to everyone who came, and thanks too to the Tea House Theatre for being their excellent selves. It was a great evening: not just cake, wine, tea, and everyone making new writer friends, but a brilliantly insightful discussion with Andrew Wille, editor, writer and book-doctor: thanks most of all to him for his excellent ideas and inspiration. Andrew and I were talking specifically about how,... Continue reading
Posted yesterday at This Itch of Writing: the blog
The Creative Writing PhD is now firmly rooted in the Arts and Humanities forest, even if it is a relative sapling, and if you're nontheless wondering what on earth someone doing a doctorate in writing is, well, doing, this post of mine should make that clear. If you don't feel that the full length of a PhD is necessarily for you, then there's the very wonderful MPhil at the University of South Wales, which is very different from most MAs. And whatever you're studying, you might find that my post about Academic Writing is useful. But whether you're an MPhil... Continue reading
Posted Sep 19, 2016 at This Itch of Writing: the blog
Yes, if it's a totally new idea to them it might take a little explaining; it helps if you can do handouts or have Powerpoint, so they can have the examples actually in front of them all the time. Almost everyone will get the general idea intuitively and immediately, with examples, even if it takes a while before they put it into practice.
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You're welcome, Claire! Hope it's useful.
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Hi Ava. I'm so glad you're finding the blog useful, and thank you so much for sending others to it! These might help wtih your seminar: This is a more sophisticated way of thinking about PoV, with each character being at the centre of a concentric series of circles of experience/attention/knowledge, the closest in corresponding to the closest-in of Gardner's psychic distance. At some point I'll get round to putting a couple of images up, which might help, but I think it makes reasonable sense as it is: http://emmadarwin.typepad.com/thisitchofwriting/2014/12/circles-of-consciousness-understanding-point-of-view.html and this is about how to move PoV, with one of the examples using that circles-of-consciousness idea to help do it: http://emmadarwin.typepad.com/thisitchofwriting/2014/11/ten-ways-to-move-point-of-view-and-dont-let-the-self-appointed-experts-tell-you-otherwise.html You could get them to a Gardner slide outwards, to a point where they can move across to the next PoV, and then go inwards again with the new character?
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Thank you, Jennifer. The HNS has had festivals in your hemisphere - worth keeping an eye out?
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So glad! I think becoming aware of one's semi-conscious processes can be really useful in the process of re-wiring them, or at the least learning to cope with the less-successful results of them!
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BD - yes, I agree that ultimately it depends on what the job of this moment is, in the page/scene/chapter etc. It's about how much ground you want to cover. One thing I see a lot of in working with writers is that EVERY one of those moments is fleshed out from the one-and-a-half lines, to four-and-a-half, as it were. It's not that none of them should be, but the law of diminishing returns sets in, the more of them are like that: the pace slows to a crawl, however evocatively and enjoyably each individual moment is written. And the really crucial one or two don't work on the reader well enough, because they're in among so many others. It's like putting a diamond into a setting of a load of other diamonds - you get a uniform glitter-ball effect, instead of a spectacular flash that says "Big Diamond"
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Marija/Teika - you're welcome! As you say, a certain amount of this kind of work many writers do instinctively, as they go along, but it's worth looking at the issue specifically. And best of luck with the novel when you do get going!
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Hi Sarah - I think this is a VERY tricky one, because if the book is billed as "all about" the Olympics, I think most readers will assume that it sticks closely to the historical truth, and that's an unarguable non-truth. One get out, always, is to do what you want and explain in an Afterword. That might be the best way to go. But as a teacher/mentor I'd be asking "Why cycling?" Is there not a sport you could work with which did have women then? It also depends, I'd suggest, on the role of the women's-cycle-racing in the plot. If the book is centred on it, then I think a good few readers would feel that the centre of the story is too implausible to support everything which follows. It's a bit too close like - for example - centring a novel on a race to sail the Atlantic between a sailing ship and a steamship at a date when steamships didn't exist, or writing a mystery where the victim is electrocuted before electricity was available. If the story isn't centred on the cyclist as a medal-hoping competitor, and all the absorbing drama of the race etc. - if you're using a female cyclist as your way into a story about something else entirely in the Olympics - then that's different: a historical note would probably cover that OK. Although I'd probably still be suggesting that it might work better, and spike the guns of objecting readers, simply to pick a different sport, which did have women.
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Jeff, yes, I think you're right - the relative importance of things matters too. I can't remember now whether I considered tackling that and decided it would make the post too long, or assumed the reader would take it as read, when I said "you're still seeking to control the order in which the reader perceives the elements of the scene." The end-weightedness of English is a topic I haven't really tackled directly, though it's a fascinating one. One of Andrew Stanton's TED talks is called "STorytelling is Joke Telling", and he's so right, even at the sentence-level.
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Jeff, yes, you're reading me exactly right. If you've set up that this is a book which works with quite a few PoVs, then I think all readers except the most hide-bound writers'-circle types won't turn a hair to find themselves seeing things from the PoV of the brother. Although it would probably help if we've got some sense of the who/what/why/where of the brother earlier. It comes more naturally to enter a head, I think, if we already have a sense of the outside. So maybe having a bit more than an off-hand mention on p.4 would help readers to be ready for that PoV moment.
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Angel, it may be something that, at the moment, you have to accept is second-draft work for you: go over every sentence deciding whether it should be a showy one, or a telly one, and then change it if necessary. If you keep doing that, and even more, keep noticing as you read what other writers are doing, you should find that gradually your writing reflexes re-calibrate themselves. Try reading some really good, show-y writing aloud, to get a real feel for sound, sense and rhythm. Try reading poetry - poets tend to be very good at "show". And also try some of the advice in the post just above yours - the link in my answer to Rachel Lebbing. It's good advice for finding your Showy voice int he first place too!
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Gill, it's not always easy to tell, but I'd suggest that at least some of these should be visible: the sponsoring organisation should be an established magazine, universtiy or arts organisation, or an imprint with a track-record of mainstream if small-scale publishing. If they have ACE or other arts funding of a known sort, that makes it much more convincing. Who judges it? Have you heard of at least some of them? the entry-money should be proportionate to the prize money. £5 to enter for a £3000 prize is OK. £20 to enter for a £500 prize is not. If there's no money, then what else are they offering? Anything where the prize is publication should be giving you a free copy, but How/where do the books sell otherwise? Is the magazine actually available? Does it look professional? if entrants are firmly encouraged to buy the prize anthology and there's nothing else on offere, then it's likely just to be a money-mill try googling the name of the competition + "scam" or something, and see what you get. But do look at who's saying both bad and good stuff: I had a ridiculous conversation with an aspiring writer of the sort who's convinced everything is a conspiracy, about how/why I knew that a certain VERY big, famous, prestigious, ACE-funded and well-run open competition wasn't "a scam"... As around on the writers' forums - Word Cloud, WriteWords, Scribophile, or the Absolute Write forums - and see what you get. Although, as ever, not everyone sounding off on a forum topic is an expert. But in those places, you should get at least some who are.
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Thanks for that, Kate - do you have a link to the specific post?
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YAY! to panache-full synopses! Best of luck with it, Sally.
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Anne, I think that's very true too. And given that the first question any interviewer asks on on a radio programme or festival platform is "So what's the book about", we all need to get good at it, too ...
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Lawrence, that's SO interesting - and a really clever approach. I suspect I'm going to end up quoting it, when I'm talking about this stuff - so thank you for sharing it! Revealingly, it reflects my suggestion for the kind of "selling" synopsis one writes after finishing the book (which can feel like trying to catch a waterfall in a cup): that you start with the sentence-version, and then expand, by which time a whole page or so feels like luxury.
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... and some that I didn't but which might be useful. And apologies for the blog being silent, lately - normally August is a quiet month for work, with plenty of blogging time, but this one's been very busy, not least because of HNS16, but also because we've been planning a new series of evening events for writers in London: the Words Away Salons. Normal(ish) service should resume at some point between the York Festival of Writing, next weekend, and my workshop at the Harrogate History Festival towards the end of October. HNSOxford16, in Oxford for the first time, was... Continue reading
Posted Sep 5, 2016 at This Itch of Writing: the blog
The other day, without so much as a gun to my head, I willingly wrote a synopsis. Since synopses are, famously, at best a chore, at worst a nightmare, it was with mock-contrition that I murmured on Facebook that - sorry, hate me now, but ... I actually really enjoy writing them. The first ten comments were un-re-printable, but then my fellow synopsis-lovers cautiously put their heads above the parapet to agree with me. In the end there were ten or so of them, too, and we agreed, trying not to sound smug, that they can also be extremely useful... Continue reading
Posted Jul 27, 2016 at This Itch of Writing: the blog
Oh, it is, it is! A lovely book.
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"the Austrian literary theorist F.K. Stanzel describes the first-person narrator, the third-person narrator and the omniscient narrator as points in a circle with an endless amount of intermediate forms." How interesting - and refreshing. It's so often posited as an "either-or", and it so isn't!
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Jenn's on a well-deserved post-publication breather, but you're welcome, Rowena!
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Hi Marsha - and I'm so glad my reasoning makes sense. Mind you, I wrote that many years ago now, before I was doing much teaching: these days it's closer to a professional blog, though I don't monetise it in the obvious sense. I run the blog under a Creative Commons licence, which normally doesn't allow for quotations for commercial purposes. However, I'm happy to let you quote that extract, with acknowledgement, if you feel it would be useful for your readers. Best of luck with the book - it sounds very interesting.
Toggle Commented Jul 20, 2016 on Welcome to my blog at This Itch of Writing: the blog
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