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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
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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Carrie, yes, that's a good point too - one probably for another post about where to find support for all those things you mention. Even I know a blog-post has to stop somewhere! And I love your depiction of the loving but oh-so-unhelpful feedback from friends...
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Hi Kate - thanks for dropping by. And yes, of course publishers use freelancers all the time - I certainly wasn't suggesting they don't. As for the unpublished writers ... In my grumpier moments I think that anyone who's got any drive towards being a professional writer should be learning to do the copy-editing and proof-reading processes for themselves to the level that an agent or publisher expects to see in a manuscript. Otherwise it's a bit like being a chef but never bothering to learn to chop your own vegetables or plate the food up perfectly. But I do take Susannah's point that some people really do try, and really do fail... And I'm honestly not trying to do you out of business. From what I gathered at the SfEP conference on Editing Fiction, which I did a session for, business is splendidly brisk, anyway!
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Yes, that's a good point - perhaps akin to my point about writers with dyslexia, who also find it VERY difficult to pick up detail consistently. In fact, I always wonder, when I have a student who I show this kind of thing over and over again, and they understand it at the time but can't put it into practice, whether in fact is is a case of undiagnosed dyslexia. But it's quite a big thing to suggest to someone, if it's never occurred to them, so I usually don't! Mind you, I have also had students who, at bottom, didn't really know how to make themselves do this kind of work. They were wedded to the glorious swoop of first-drafting, and didn't have the drive to do the final, last, very boring nitpickery.
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Martin, you're welcome - and I'm so glad the fog is starting to clear! Good luck with it!
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I'm so glad you enjoyed it, Kath. And, yes, he married Lucy and they had sons. But, of course, there's Idoia, too ...
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Fiction writers often talk as if we have to write in two completely different modes: dialogue, and everything else. There is a basic difference: while narration is, clearly, the writer's choice of words to convey a story, dialogue is trying to evoke how people who are not the writer actually speak. But if you've ever listened to recordings of real conversation - all ums and ers and going round in circles - you'll know that even the most naturalistic written dialogue is in fact very different. And by no means all fiction-writers and playwrights - who deal chiefly in dialogue... Continue reading
Posted 4 days ago at This Itch of Writing: the blog
I often get enquiries asking if I would do "a copy-edit" of a writer's manuscript. The answer is No, because it's a specialist job which I'm not trained for. But almost always it turns out that what the writer really wants is nothing like what the book trade calls copy-editing, but something much more developmental. So, first let's be clear: unless you are intending to self-publish, you don't need to have your book copy-edited. But there are all sorts of other processes that writers and publishers put a book through, and it's worth understanding them - especially as NaNoWriMo heads... Continue reading
Posted Nov 18, 2016 at This Itch of Writing: the blog
Marthat, a VERY belated, you're welcome! So glad you enjoyed York, and best of luck with the next stage.
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Ooh, good idea - I'll have a think!
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Hi Martin - I see what you mean, and maybe this isn't the best example, because in this case he is actually wondering about the past: If it's the reported-thought equivalent of him actually asking "Have you gone decaff-only?", it would be "Had she gone decaff-only?". But, in fact that isn't what he's thinking: he's assuming her shift away from caffeine happened at some time in the gap between her leaving him, and now. (He is, presumably, jealously wondering if it's the new boyfriend's influence...) So - I'm slightly surprised to realise - I think if his directly-quoted thought would be "When did you go decaff only?", then his reported-thought is one step backwards in tenses and still "When had she gone..." "How long can you stay?" I ask. She slings her jacket over the back of a chair. "My bus doesn't go till six." "Good. I'll put the kettle on." We sort out the business of coffee - when had she gone decaff-only? - and I wait until the kettle has boiled and the dog been let out into the garden before I say, "Did you get my letter?" As I say, maybe not the best example to try. If you think about this one, and put it into first person, it's easy in past tense. (though for clarity, since "put" is the same in present and past tense, I'm changing it: I was one of those people who hated confronting liars. I slammed down my coffee cup. He was a bastard! He was obviously lying! I picked up my coffee again. "How sweet of you to be so honest." You could even have the character-narrator rather more explicitly telling the story about the past, from some kind of "present": I am one of those people who hate confronting liars. I slammed down my coffee cup. He was a bastard! He was obviously lying. I picked up my coffee again. "How sweet of you to be so honest." If it's ALL present tense, it gets a little less clear: I am one of those people who hate confronting liars. I slam down my coffee and think, he's a bastard! He's obviously lying! I pick up my coffee again. "How sweet of you to be so honest." No big deal, you might say, and of course lots of books get written like this. But I - and David Jauss - would argue that by losing the separation in time of character-narrator and character-actor, by the more commenty-narratory-type explanation of "I am one of those ... think", things get a little creaky.
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David, thanks so much for that, and I'm glad you approve of the post - and it's great to know that there's support for genre writers out there!
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Tim, you're welcome - and yes, so many people are thinking about it, aren't they. Many thanks for sending them this way.
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Deborah, you're very welcome! I think online courses can be great, but you are a bit stuck if the materials don't cover what you specifically want. A particular problem, I think, when you're more advanced, because the problems become more specific to each individual writer. Good luck!
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Yes - go on - take a brick or a baseball bat to him and those chains, and free yourself! ;)
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Melissa - "get the gunk out" - yes, exactly! I can add you to my list of writer friends who use freewriting in that way.
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I've blogged about whether, and when, a course in Creative Writing might be a good idea, and about how to choose the right one for you. And if you're wondering whether, and how, Creative Writing can be taught, this unpicks that hardy perennial of a question. But a quick search on the UCAS website shows 459 Masters-level courses in Creative Writing. True, part-time and full-time versions of the same course are being listed separately, but the darned things cost a fortune these days (though student loans are these days available for both part- and full-time study). So, assuming you're thinking... Continue reading
Posted Nov 8, 2016 at This Itch of Writing: the blog
Whisks, glad it's useful. And thank YOU for reminding me that one of the advantages is that you can work on an aspect of the story without messing with the actual text - either because it's too early, or just because you don't want to mess with it. As you say, if it turns out to be a blind alley, it doesn't matter!
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Clara, that book sounds great - thanks for the recommendation. And yes, it's joyful when there are suddenly riches pouring from one's pen. But I think that most of us resist the work it takes to let go - just as we resist the immersion of jumping into the cold swimming pool of working on the draft itself. You have to put up with cold and effortful swimming for that first ten minutes ... which is even harder to push through when you don't have an actual story growing under your hand, or a deadline to meet, or a mortgage to pay. As you say - one's brain refuses to keep on remembering why it's nonetheless worth doing!
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Glad it's a keeper, Roz! I think writers have always used something like this - although maybe less lavishly in the days before cheap paper! I've been listening to Claire Tomalin's biography of Dickens, and he wrote so staggerinly much it sounds to me as if he must have been in near freewriting mode for much of his working life.
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Yes, I think Although another option is to put up with the top stuff coming out, and keep writing until you're through it. Indeed Jenn Ashworth, for one, likens the warming-up kind of freewriting as the bit at the beginning of the washing machine or dishwasher's cycle, where it starts by pumping out the dribbles of the old water from last time, before it starts the actual washing.
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And yet I know others who love that ending!
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That's exactly how I structure that little bit, so as to make sure the reader's view, as it were, was anchored in the character before we had the FIS sentence, and how to slip out of FIS, if you like, while staying in the character's point-of-view. But it's really all part of the wider context of how you're handling point-of-view. If the whole of a chapter or scene, say, is firmly in a certain point-of-view, then you can slide to-and-fro with nothing but the voiciness of certain sections to key us into them being actual thoughts. I've written whole (short) stories in FIS, just for the fun of it. And, of course, if you're in first person then you can get away with even more, because the PoV is ALWAYS the character's, even if they step back from the immediate moment into narrator mode.
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