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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
Today is supposed to be a writing day, and the morning is my prime writing time. The project is going well, I've got Scrivener fired up, and I've run my eye down yesterday's work to remind myself where I've got to. And yet ... I've just spent the last hour not-getting-on-with-it: faffing about with useful-but-not-urgent work and domestic things, consoling a Facebook friend who's struggling with the outcome of a nasty book contract clause, doing a bit of necessary professional tweeting, and making cups of tea that I then forget about. This is nothing to do with serious procrastination: I'm... Continue reading
Posted 7 days ago at This Itch of Writing: the blog
Hi Julie - It certainly makes sense, and it's a very common problem, I think, with commentaries on a part-of-a-novel. But the fact that you don't know them very well yet, and why that should be so, is itself relevant to the commentary! You are talking about work-in-progress, so where you are in that progress is part of the story you're telling in the commentary, if you like. If you think "aims and outcomes, choices and changes", (or, rather, 1)aims 2)choices 3)changes 4)outcomes) that might help: 1) What were you trying to do with this opening, bearing in mind that it's setting the reader up for the rest of the novel? 2) What materials/ideas did you start with and what decisions did you make about how to handle them? And what could you not decide - or had to decide only provisionally, because of what you don't yet know or haven't yet developed? (for instance: Why start the novel at this point in the story you've imagined? Your opening decisions about e.g. tense, first/third. How you were "educating the reader" in how this novel works.) Whatever you, actually, spent time worrying away at, in other words!. How did that actually work out in the writing? 3) What changed as you wrote your way along, and why? What did you realise in reviewing that first draft, must now be changed and why? 4) What have you got now? What does in mean for your sense of the novel and later work on it? Hope that helps!
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True about wrongly used - but then, 'twas ever thus. When it comes to art, though, "popular" is neither here nor there, is it, until we get to the point where no one will understand something at all: there's just whether it's right for the piece, or not.
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Oh, duh! Thanks for pointing that out, Clara. Fixed now, and here too: http://emmadarwin.typepad.com/thisitchofwriting/2016/01/ten-new-year-ideas-for-everyone-who-reads-this-itch-of-writing.html
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Happy New Year to you! The Tea House Theatre IS a tardis! But we do advise booking, especially now that we're past Christmas, and everyone's getting to grips with their January diary. Hope you might make a Salon some day: one reason we use the Tea House is because it's super-accessible to all known mainline stations...
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Jenny, sorry, the link was wonky, as Tim pointed out. It's fixed now! On point of view - if you tend to use an internal ("first person") narrator, you might find it helped to explore how to get the reader to understand what's going on in the head of non-viewpoint characters: the tell-tale physical things, the hints, the way a viewpoint character might say something about them which we'd disagree with (the VP character thinks an action is cowardly, we think it's pragmatic and sensible. Or vice-versa). Don't forget - for example - The Great Gatsby, which is not narrated by the person the novel is really about ... Have a look at how we read through Nick's take on Gatsby, to what really drives him... I do agree that under-writing, like over-writing is quite a personal and subjective thing, and depends on the voice, above all, and the genre. But there's much more macho blah out there on the forums and platforms, about over-writing as a crime - whereas I see just as much under-writing, where everything's threadbare and merely functional. And it can be as much about the rhythm that's built into the pace: http://emmadarwin.typepad.com/thisitchofwriting/2008/06/dancing-with-bach.html even James Bond gets a breather, lying on a beach, catching his breath, and warming in the sunshine, every now and again ...
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Oh, thank you for spotting that! Fixed now - and here it is as well: http://emmadarwin.typepad.com/thisitchofwriting/2016/07/filtering.html
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Happy New Year! My post from this time last year collected Ten New Years Ideas For Everyone Who Writes, Or Wants To Write, and I though that an equivalent for the actual nuts and bolts of writing might be useful. Of course, every writer has their own specific strengths and weaknesses, and on a bad day the strengths feel awfully feeble, and the weaknesses depressingly strong. Indeed, it can be instructive, even encouraging, to make a list of what you think you're relatively good at and what you think you're relatively bad at, especially if you refuse to think "bad... Continue reading
Posted Jan 3, 2017 at This Itch of Writing: the blog
You're welcome, Chandra. I'm delighted it's useful, and very best of luck with the rest of the PhD. I don't know if you've spotted that there's also a post on surviving a PhD or MPhil Viva? Not yet necessary, I imagine, but it's there if you need it nearer the time: http://emmadarwin.typepad.com/thisitchofwriting/2016/07/surviving-a-phd-or-mphil-viva-how-to-finish-your-degree-in-style.html
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Hi Zarifa - I'm so glad you're enjoying the blog! And if you are, you'll know that one of its mottoes is "Never say never". I agree - being startled awake by something which is literally and symbolically a "call to action", is a very different thing, perhaps...
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Keith, you're welcome, and I do agree about it being partly about music. That's the expressive job of punctuation, which overlaps but isn't the same as the grammatical job... Having done a lot of acting and verse- and prose-speaking in my youth, I'm with you on wrangling commas and the like very specifically in terms of pattern and rhythm... I don't actually think it matters if a reader doesn't know what to do with a semi-colon. They can learn, of course. But, assumign they don't, then I don't think that's a problem (as, say, a word they don't know the meaning of might be a problem) because it's never going to confuse them or mean they don't understand the sentence. The worst that will happen is that they don't pick up on there being a link between the two sentences the semi-colon joins, and that's not the end of the world.
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Ah, I adore a well-placed Oxford Comma. Clarifies things so much. Must blog about it at some point. I don't know about not being willing to learn - although I do think a lot of potentially good writers feel very insecure about these things, and so react nervously and therefore defensively, to being told that the rules they cling to are wrong... . And the average writer truly isn't interest, then the Itchy cohort is WELL above average ;) ... We know that subtleties matter, but not be allowed to blind us to the bigger issues.
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Glad you like it, Paul. Although, with my punctuation-nerd hat on, and in case anyone's wondering, and for the avoidance of doubt - that last semi-colon should really be a comma, as "So superbly explained by your article", though extremely flattering, isn't technically a complete sentence. It maybe could be a colon, mind you.
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Merry Christmas! I think someone who doesn't really "get" them - as in, understands the rule but not the useful consequences of its special-ness - is never going to teach it well...
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Use 'em or lose 'em, I reckon. I can't save the village shop all on my own, but if EVERYone shops there ...
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Thanks for the recommendation, Angela, and for the Christmas wishes!
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Leila, thank you! Glad it hits the spot.
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You're welcome, Miri. Good luck with the writing!
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Oh, go you! with the Daily Page - 288 is amazing. And you do sound as if you're having fun. Congratulations!
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"the more I wrote them, the more natural their speech came. Because I knew them better, for one, and I was getting more practice at my craft. " I think this is VERY true. As you say, a bit of off-piste writing with the characters can give you opportunities - i.e. teach you things - which the main project, where you're constrained by the bigger needs of the project, may not.
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To add a little spice to the season of goodwill, may I propose that anyone who shouts at you that it's pretentious to use semi-colons in fictional prose is, themselves, being pretentious? As I was saying in Picked up a Bad Book? Think about it at as a Good One, if you want to widen as well as improve your craft it's good practice to assume that professional writers have good reasons for doing what appears to you to be a bad thing - and then ask yourself what that good reason might be. As my favourite handy punctuation site... Continue reading
Posted Dec 20, 2016 at This Itch of Writing: the blog
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Good question! I would say that FIS/FID is one of the things - not the only thing, but an important one - which makes the narrative feel deep inside a PoV, because not only is the narrative locked into their physical PoV and their 'take' on things, it's actually formed and conditioned partly by that character's own voice. The same thing written in a different character's deep PoV would use very different words very differently arranged ...
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Yes, exactly - covering the ground is one of the central purposes of telling. Althoughthat might be in the middle of the scene ... And it can still be "show-y"! Also, it does depend on the voice of the narrative: some narrators - the storyteller-narrators, the essayist-narrators - are more Telly than others. Elena Ferrante Tells all the time. Why not?
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Oh, Karen, I'm sorry your OCA course has been difficult, and I'm SO glad the blog has helped. Very best of luck with Assignment 3 and the rest of the course!
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That's very interesting - and yes, shifts of tense and/or person can be very helpful for both keeping the reader on track, and conveying the different relationship of the narrator to the events being narrated. (although I'd take issue with your implication that third-person-past is by definition Telling, and first-person-present is Showing... Not as simple as that, I think :-) )
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