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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
;) dust too, mind you ...
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It's lovely, isn't it. I think urban Christmassyness is very special. History's there in a way that it isn't perhaps quite so much in the country.
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I'd forgotten you're round there! Yes, do let's have a catchup soon. Emma
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You're welcome, Asif!
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On several mornings recently I've walked from London Bridge Station, past Southwark Cathedral and the Globe, along Bankside and across the river in sparkling sunlight to the very centre of the old City of London: St Paul's Cathedral. The street names, the roast pig in Borough Market, the spiders-web steel and plant-like trunks of the Millenium Bridge, the street names, the stones of St Paul's, all sing with history. So, to celebrate the launch of Historia, the magazine of the Historical Writers Association, and my column in it, Dr Darwin's Writing Tips, I thought I'd post this, a version of... Continue reading
Posted 4 days ago at This Itch of Writing: the blog
Yes, the "it"... How does one find it? Not by looking for it, perhaps: by working on all the individual components: ideas, flexibility, intuition, word-hoard, practice, practice, practice.... But I do agree that certain books about writing fill one with energy... Good luck!
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Yes, it's very difficult, isn't it, by definition. You can't say, "do this, do that"... And thanks for the congratulations!
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You're welcome, Moira. It's no fun sometimes ... Best of luck with it.
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Thanks, Lesley - the stats are stacking up nicely...
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LoL Geri! Yes, planning's a perennial issue...
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Point of view is one of the most important tools in your toolkit, and the basic concept isn't so hard to get your brain round (click here if you want a quick revision course). But in "No, it's nothing," said Sally airily, and John wondered if she were lying. He stared out of the window, and Sally closed the kitchen drawer with a snap. She poured herself more coffee and sat down, offering up a little prayer that John wouldn't ask why the bank was writing to her separately. is Sally closed the kitchen drawer with a snap in John's... Continue reading
Posted Dec 8, 2014 at This Itch of Writing: the blog
Oh, blurgh! to the rejection, Kath. It's so easy - probably inevitable - to have a bout of "Why am I bothering?" as you sob into your keyboard. But yes, after a while, the energy comes back and you start thinking about what you might do next. Very best of luck with that!
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If you've been visiting This Itch of Writing: The Blog for a while, you'll know that as well as writing fiction and non-fiction, blogging, teaching and generally living and breathing writing, I also work individually with other writers. I've just launched a new website to focus specifically on that so do click through to find out more: This Itch of Writing: the Studio I love adapting to the needs and aspirations of individual writers and groups, and whether you're looking for a mentor, for a one-off appraisal giving honest and detailed feedback on your work, or for someone to lead... Continue reading
Posted Dec 1, 2014 at This Itch of Writing: the blog
Glad you approve, Mary! Hope it's helpful.
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You're welcome Katrina - and there's no such thing as rules. Good luck with your new freedom!
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You're welcome, Brian - glad to help! There is nothing more important than the siting of one's semi-colons...
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I think that's the way it has become an orthodoxy in lit fic, in particular, but I think we should all try and have more faith in ourselves. Commercial fic seems much less wedded to the orthodoxy, and if fiction which is chiefly concerned with getting the story over as efficiently and engagingly as possible is happy to do it, why shouldn't the rest of us? I honestly don't think that if you're doing it well, it'll hamper a novel which would otherwise be picked up. But awareness of - oversensitivity to? - PoV changes is probably an argument for being judicious, even cautious, in how you go about it, not just the move itself, but how often you do it, and how many heads you get us engaged with... And I DO so agree about italics being used - often for directly-quoted thought, in my experience, because the writer can't handle free indirect style. And yes, it's clunky, jolty, an admission of failure ;) ... though it will be an editorial decision by writer or editor; the typesetter just does what she's told! Ms Cowless is actually in the Andes, I think - at least, it was an Andean condor who delivered the last reply, as you can see in the most recent post...
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I know what you mean, Lindsay, although I do wonder if it's partly that we're over-sensitised to PoV, because of being trained to notice it: as you say, you want to pause and look at how it's done - and I do to. But I guess that's a writerly reaction, not a readerly one. It's hard for us to read innocently any more sometimes.
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There have been two exciting developments: first, I have a new website specifically for my work helping other writers, so if you're interested in my mentoring, teaching, events or appraisals, do click through to This Itch of Writing: The Studio, and have a browse. And then, just as I was recovering from the worst of the website-wrangling, I heard from This Itch of Writing's agony aunt, Jerusha Cowless. She's been busy un-contacting un-contacted peoples in the Upper Amazon, but at last I got a message through, enclosing a plea for help from an aspiring writer, and Jerusha sent her reply... Continue reading
Posted Dec 1, 2014 at This Itch of Writing: the blog
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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