This is Emma Darwin's Typepad Profile.
Join Typepad and start following Emma Darwin's activity
Join Now!
Already a member? Sign In
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
Thanks for coming by, Alexander. Yes, I think it's something that it's really useful - important, even - to learn to do in one's own writing. The wider the range you can manage - from the furthest-out to the furthest-in - the more tools you've got, haven't you. Good luck with trying it out.
1 reply
Come to think of it, may I base a blog post on your question? I think it's something that lots of writers struggle with.
1 reply
You're welcome! With not showing things, one thing to bear in mind is that if you make material events and physical things vivid for the reader, then they'll work directly on us: you may not need to touch on the MC's emotions at all. You may find that you need to write out the emotional content, as it were, to get to the heart of it, and then cut it back. It might help to think about who the narrator is talking to: imagine a frail, old, but much-loved Granny. You used to be very close: you WANT to convey what's really going on with you at the moment, because she was always the person you did talk to ... but you don't want to burden her with the whole story of your breaking heart/PTSD nightmares (this issue is where Stephen in The Mathematics of Love came from/ghastly Kafka-esque dealines with social services about the services your disabled son needs ... So you say, tight-lipped, "Well, it's being a bit complicated" and "The nights aren't so easy, but the sun always does rise in the morning" or whatever. Think Second World War Pilot, was what I used to tell myself, writing Stephen's letters, in particular. They were almost where it started: as an exercise in getting the reader to read things that someone isn't actually saying...
1 reply
First, can we get get a few things straight? Writing is not an exact science. It's not even an exact art. So it's next-to-impossible to say, "Doing X is Telling, doing Y is Showing", because "Telling" and "Showing" are convenient but wildly over-simple labels for effects on the reader which are achieved by a complex of means. Sorry. I prefer to call Telling "Informing" and sometimes "Explaining", and Showing "Evoking". Those are also over-simple, of course, but still, I think they help. Any text worth reading has writing which Tells, as well as writing which Shows. So you can ignore... Continue reading
Posted 3 days ago at This Itch of Writing: the blog
Yes - we always have one foot in how real people talk, and only the other one in the grammar book!
1 reply
I think publishers are concerned, in the sense that they're not blind to how difficult it is for their authors to make ends meet - the editors and agents aren't, at least. And they may anecdotally know of terrific writers who couldn't get that second contract, and gave up. They may even think sometimes, "Such a pity - I'd love to have seen what s/he would have done in later books." But the brute reality is that which authors get bought and what advances they earn is the product of much larger forces than the publishers can control.
1 reply
Blad you liked it, Jenny - thanks for sharing.
1 reply
Yay to lowering - or at least managing - expectations! And yes, also, to tackling it from the other end: cutting back on what you need to earn.
1 reply
Yes, they do that ... Such fun!
1 reply
Oh, thank you! Yes, it should - corrected now!
1 reply
Yes, so true. And clichés are a vital part of writing: when that's just what you want for the voice or the character or whatever.
1 reply
Yes, I think that's right - present tense is very effective and useful but a) the law of diminishing returns sets in, the more it's used and b) it's very restrictive, and can make things much more awkward. I explored the whys and wherefores of that restrictive awkwardness, more recently, here: http://emmadarwin.typepad.com/thisitchofwriting/2014/02/past-and-present-tense-which-why-when-and-how.html
1 reply
:)!
1 reply
Whisks, I think your experience is very common - and I do agree, oh, it's a glorious rush in your first days of learning a craft, when one brief sentence can make a hundred pieces of understanding fly into place! But yes, it gets less. To an extent, is for the reasons I was suggesting upthread, in response to Sophie's comment: as you develop further, your problems and needs become more particular to you, and a book is less likely to be so much help. I think that's where your writers' circle comes in: and a carefully picked one, with enough experience to spot and explore the issues in the sort of detail that you need. I cherish a very precious couple of private groups of my fellow writer-teachers, for exactly that. There's nothing a writer needs more, but you have to find the right group for you, and not be shy about trying several out first.
1 reply
There are lots of fabulous writers who could no more write a how-to book than fly, either because they operate instinctively, or because they only understand one way to write a book, and that's their way, solving their problems with their tools; they have no capacity to offer different tools for different problems to different kinds of writer. Whereas a writer you personally haven't heard of? All that means is that their writing isn't, at the moment, writing which a commercial organisation thinks it can sell 20,000 copies of in a couple of years. I certainly haven't heard of many fantastic writers - and the fantastic writer-teachers, who are really what we all need, may not be very well known at all. I DO think that they should be published writers, and good writers of their kind. But I think the proof of a good how-to-write book is largely whether it helps you to write better...
1 reply
Yes, I think picking and choosing and being open but also confident in closing them ... That's the way to go.
1 reply
True about the index... I agree that so many books seem to cover the same ground but, to be fair, that's partly because as writers get more advanced their problems get more particular and individual to them. With a room of 20 beginners, pretty much all of them will need to discover the same things - the things that I'd put into a book if I were writing one for them. With a room of 20 writers on their third novel, the things they need to learn and develop are far less universal. Which isn't to say that I can't do something useful (I refuse to admit that there's a roomful of any kind of aspiring writer I can't help ... But then I refuse to admit that there's any kind of writing I can't have a go at, so what do I know?). But I'll much more have to steer as I go, and see what they pick up and what they already can do, and where I can be most help.
1 reply
Yes, too many books that say they're "about writing" are actually about writing screenplay. The weird thing is, I think most prose-writers know they're not writing screenplays, but the screenwriters don't seem to have noticed that they're not writing novels. Which isn't to say they're not useful sometimes. I go to screenwriting stuff when I want to think about structure - but even then you have to read with reservations, as it were, because the novel is a far looser and more flexible form than film is (at least, film as conceived for a mainstream audience.)
1 reply
Glad it was useful, Edith.
1 reply
Yes, it's easy to feel that shelling out £9.99 is going to solve the problem
1 reply
Kath, I haven't heard of the Scarlett Thomas - I'll go and dig it up. I'll be jumping up and down on here and elsewhere, when Get Started in Writing Historical Fiction comes out, so I'm sure it'll be hard to miss!
1 reply
Hi Tony - lovely to see you here. I'm so glad you found the blog useful. I agree, I think the rhythm is crucial. Enjoy the rest of Jess's course!
1 reply
I hope I'm a kind and supportive teacher, I certainly don't tolerate seminar bullies, and I can honestly say that the only time I've been aware of tears in a workshop I was running was nothing to do with anyone's hurt feelings, and everything to do with writing fiction. Since the business of fiction is largely about imaginatively inhabiting consciousnesses and experiences which are not one's own, I had set the group an exercise of writing a scene from the point of view and voice of their main character, though not necessarily an event from the story. First I got... Continue reading
Posted Feb 16, 2015 at This Itch of Writing: the blog
Yes, it can take some sorting out. Which is why I'd never say you must take all of it out: sometimes a discreet prop works better than a whole load of explaining later...
1 reply