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Emma Darwin
I write fiction and creative non-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
Blimey, does King say that? I can't help thinking of all the editors and agents I've chaired, who would, for the most part, feel that except for certain genres perhaps, that long is... at least a problem. Not insurmountable, but definitely a drawback for all sorts of reasons both creative and industrial. So my goodness the book needs to be good in every other way to make up for it. I know lots of people who really rate the King book, but do think it's a risk with writers who are very successful, to tell it how it is for them, without checking with enough others about whether it's true more widely. (I took the late and very lovely Carole Blake to task for saying in her book about getting published that a synopsis should be 3-4 pages long, despite the fact that she was just about the only agent on the planet who wanted that from unsolicited subs.) And yes, one-to-one industry folk are not always good readers - because by habit they're reading for whether they want to read on and buy. Some are amazing feeders-back, others... less so. (In their defence, if they are doing a full set of sessions at the York festival, say, they may have had to read 50 or 60 3,000 word scripts in less than a week while doing the rest of their job too). The best of the festivals etc. do listen to feedback from attendees, and don't ask agents/editors again who haven't been useful.
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Rebecca, my apologies for having missed this, and I'm so glad you were enthralled... SPOILER ALERT!!!!! With Cecil - lost children is a hugely important theme in the book, but how you think he connects the two strands depends on whether you believe in ghosts or not. If you don't, then he's Uncle Ray's son by a disappeared woman, and his resemblance to the small, lost semi-feral village boy in Stephen's time, who doesn't seem to have any parents, is just coincidence. If you do believe in ghosts, then he's still Ray's son, but becauses he's so lost and neglected he's not even anchored securely in his own time, and sometimes shows up in Stephen's, as Stephen's nightmares show up in Anna's sleep. I don't believe in ghosts, but I do think they are an endlessly fascinating way of thinking about human psychology, and our sense of time, so it was important to me to make it work for both kinds of reader. With Idoia - yes - she married into the local Jocelyn family, and Anna's father was a later member (I did calculate the generations, at some point), who seduced the young, war-damaged Nancy. Nancy ran away from her abusive mother and weakling brother to have Anna, and changed her surname. But she gave Anna "Jocelyn" as a middle name, as a discreet nod to who her father really was. The clues are tucked away in that last scene with Crispin...
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You're very welcome! Glad it's helpful.
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So glad it's a help, Rajib. Good luck with the proposal.
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Lynn, you're welcome! Best of luck with the application!
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As you may know, I also have a column, Doctor Darwin's Writing Tips, over at Historia, the magazine of the Historical Writers Association. A version of this post first appeared there, but in an era when we've all become more sensitive to questions of cultural appropriate in the arts, it's relevant much more widely. Certainly if you want to build your story on people of another ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, (dis)ability, class or perhaps just wildly different life-experience, there's work to be done compared to what you'd need if you stayed inside your own. So the ideas and strategies I've... Continue reading
Posted 4 days ago at This Itch of Writing: the blog
So glad you think so, Philippa (And apols that in all that excitement back in Feb I missed your comment!)
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Yes, it's one of the more baffling commands, isn't it, in it's most naked form. And most writers, being contrarians, can instantly produce examples of when an adjective or adverb is exactly what's needed! So glad this post make things a bit clearer.
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You're welcome Susanne - lovely to see you here. So glad you're finding the post useful.
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You're welcome, Samantha! It's strange, isn't it, how it always feels like there's nothing, and... there always is actually something there...
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Ah, yes... You'll be getting some funny looks at the next family wedding...
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Hi Julie - that's a great story, and certainly fits with what I've heard elsewhere. The plus of getting images from museums and publishers is that they have a clear setup for clearing permissions (usually: I know of one or two publishers who are notoriously hopeless), the minus is that they have a clear scale of charges which have been set assuming that it's a profit-making business who wants to use the image. But, like any contract terms, those clear terms are only a start, so what's to lose by negotiating? Especially if, as you say, you have a strong argument for why they shouldn't charge - either the origin of the pic, or the cause you want it for, or in your case, both!
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Hi Victoria - in principle, as far as I know (nb: not-a-lawyer) if the painter has been dead for 70+ years, your uncle can do what he likes with the picture and, say, the painter's heirs can't do a thing. Indeed, AFAIK, he couldn't even sue you if you did use a reproduction without his permission, unless you trespassed in his house, or stole the painting to get it reproduced - and then he could sue you for trespass or theft, but not breach of copyright. It's only the physical painting he controls, not the right to reproduce it, though of course, practically speaking, physical control tends to mean reproductive control, with art, in a way that doesn't quite follow with writing. BUT - if a publisher was nervous that the heirs might kick up a fuss, they might be twitchy, unless you could show clearly that they didn't need to worry.
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This is the third in a series of posts which I'm planning in the run-up to next February, when This is Not a Book About Charles Darwin will be published. In each post, I'll try to shed a bit of light not only on the practicalities of what happens when your book is being published, but also the sometimes surprising ways that this stage of the writing life can affect you and your writing. Part 1: Contracts is here. and Part 2: Editing is here. I've had to get permissions for all my books, starting with various epigraphs and quotes... Continue reading
Posted Jun 3, 2018 at This Itch of Writing: the blog
As Deborah said at the top of the comments, sometimes it's as hard to stop writing as it is to start - and, yes, the discipline has to cut both ways, doesn't it: not just to get you writing, but to get one coping with the rest of life. And one can be physically present - at least to avoide a shirty phonecall from the school - and yet not mentally present... Good luck!
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You're welcome, Ruth!
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Given what a VERY high proportion of professional authors have another job of some sort, to which a good few of the office hours must be devoted, I think finding the way that's best for oneself is key.
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Good to know it rings true. I do my best to think about how other writers think, but can't ever be sure till the post is up there!
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So glad you like it!
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Glad you like them, Mary, and you're welcome - and YAY to even notional bonfires!!!
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I agree that discipline - the power to get on with it when you decide to get on with it - makes a huge difference. There was Jenn Ashworth's #100daysofwriting idea: just show up to the page... And the idea of the "writing sprint" is very interesting too, though it's the opposite of your large blocks: very small sections of time, very often, with very little censoring of what you do... The Wait but Why blog is fantastic, isn't it - so glad it's useful. The Instant Gratification Monkey who sits on my desk is waving at you - he's changed (like any good character in a story) and is now guardian of my not-procrastinating: I praise him when I've done a good day's work.
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You're welcome - and yes - what those folk are saying is nonsense.! It's like saying that at the moment white sourdough bread is what everyone's eating, so we should only make white sourdough bread. I love white sourdough bread, but it's only one kind of loaf, and for some sandwiches not even the best kind ... Although one thing I notice about the people who write and talk with great authority about "what's passé" in terms of storytelling are the people who don't expect their writing to last more than six weeks. Those of us who want to write with a bit more substance need to think a bit more widely. Which isn't to say that one can ignore the wider literary context of one's work. All agents and editors (and teachers of writing) have read the manuscript which is a really nice version of something that would fit nicely on the equivalent of Amazon in the 1940s: "If you liked Stamboul Train, you'll love this." I adore Graham Greene, say, but there's scarcely a sentence in him which his equivalent now would write the same way. It's like a post-Stravinsky composer writing excellent Mozart...
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Andrew, I'm so glad the post is helpful. And yes, I agree, the idiotic command "show don't tell", faithfully followed, can make for some incredibly tedious writing. I often talk about learning to "make your Telling Showy" - i.e. make even your swift exposition of context vivid and individual. It's not actually that hard, once you've mastered the trick of the telling detail. It's arguably a good deal harder to "make your Showing Telly" i.e. make even your apparent leisurly evocation of places and people actually a forward-moving force for the story...
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It's part of what I've called the schizophrenia of the writer - the fact that we are always divided between being in the moment (or the emotion, the experience) and being outside it, observing it: "Ah, so this is what it feels like to have one's heart broken..." And, similarly, both making creative and ethical decisions about writing awful things, and diving into the awful things to recreate the moment and the experience... That, I think, is what creates the sense of a splinter of ice, Plus, o fcourse, that it means we draw on things which may be different from what we draw on with family. My young-teen niece, reading The Mathematics of Love, said afterwards to her mother, "Aunt Emma's book is very RUDE!"...
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Well, we all are that in some ways, aren't we. There's an undercurrent (I hope) in the book is about how my situation in terms of trying to write about my family is only an acute attack of what we all suffer from to some extent: how to find our own way of being, as ourselves, while still staying, as it were, in relationship with where we come from.
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