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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
Judi, that's really interesting - and yes, I think you're right: another form for "If you can't beat 'em, join 'em and do it better". Ah, yes, the bliss when someone says, "I didn't find it a problem at all!"
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It's lovely, isn't it. And yes, though I wouldn't quite put it in the same class as Jane Eyre, but classic in passing the really-good-book book test of being differently rewarding to read at all stages of life.
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A couple of days ago, on Twitter, @joseordonezUT asked if I had any tips for a new writer. As you may have noticed, I don't really do tips on here, partly because as soon as I think of a tip, I think of a reason why it's not always true, and before I know where I am two more paragraphs and a set of bullet points have unrolled themselves out of my fingers. But of course, as soon as I thought "I don't do tips", I remembered a good one. Write your first draft for yourself, your second draft for... Continue reading
Posted 2 days ago at This Itch of Writing: the blog
What do you do when the right word - phrase - action - scene - is something which the reader might take the wrong way? Anything from tripping up on a word, to hooting with laughter at a moment of high drama? The other day, writer Graeme Talboys posted this on Facebook: OK. I know this is very first-world anorak writery stuff, but in my latest work I have a psychic who is also illiterate. The problem is, I keep using the term 'read' to describe what she is doing and it is beginning to jar in my head. Is... Continue reading
Posted Jul 20, 2015 at This Itch of Writing: the blog
Gorgeous, isn't it! Such a treat - and doubly-so for hawk fanciers. And yes, it's very high on my list of highlights of the last year's reading.
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So glad you're enjoying the blog, Katherine, and it's being useful!
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It is lovely, isn't it. I still quote her definition of not liking "a brick-wall happy ending", when I'm talking about structure: that need to feel these characters will go on having lives of equal interest and complicatedness.
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Glad you enjoyed the post, Katy!
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Yes, the humour is a delight - and so many layers: the jokes that Cassandra sees, and the ones that she doesn't, even though she's the narrator, but we do.
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How lovely! I think it's been de-YA'ed, though: the Virago edition my daughter's just bought herself looks perfectly grownup, as does my older one. YA is a label to allow books sold to teenagers to have sex, smoking and violence in them, I gather from Tamsyn Murray. "Teenage" books can't especially in the prudish (about sex, anyway) US market, even though real teenagers know plenty about all of those things, because the target age of readers is 10-14.
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Ah, a late discoverer! It gets (almost) everyone in the end.
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Heavenly book - it's one of my 'flu books. Yes, I think it was a Peacock at one stage, but it's now A Virago Classic...
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"The story matters more than the map". So true. You can do what you like, as long as it gets the story to work. Of course, part of working is keeping your reader willing to suspend their disbelief - which does mean dealing "honestly" with them. But, yanno, do you care about the rare reader who a) notices you've moved something, and then b) decides it invalidates the book? That's not many readers...
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Yes, it's hard not to feel that the author Could Try Harder!
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Ooooh, yes, I can imagine that really making your teeth hurt. And you're right - it's not difficult to get a bit more right than that, even with a map or Google Street View. Although I think sometimes it's continuity errors, more than not doing the research. They're horribly easy to do, and if it's not your native heath they don't shriek at you so loudly. (Rather as proof-reading in a foreign language, even one you speak well, isn't so easy).
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So sorry your novel didn't sell, Carlie - as you say, gutting! And yes, it's like having a big bruise, isn't it: hurts each time you touch it. And yes, I'm a great believer in using paper to help your imagining - sketch maps, even topographical maps of where roads go, all sorts. And however little gets into the final text, I think the reader senses when things are plausible and when they're not, even if they never do the math.
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Yes Hemingway is often traduced by his fans. He's such a technician that, like all great technicians, the technique passes the reader by unless you're looking for it... The filtering "he saw" or whatever is about whether you just want to directing the reader's attention towards what's happening, or actually towards character's act of attention
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I had a lovely day on Sunday at the Romantic Novelists' Association Annual Conference. The RNA are a glorious group of professional authors who have been at the forefront of fiction for fifty years. They have a remarkable history and a vast appetite for writing, talking, drinking, wearing great shoes and professional development, and supporting new talent on the New Writers Scheme. I was asked to give a workshop on The Writer's Voices, and, as is the way of such things, I ended up mentioning various blog posts, as places where there was more detail than I could go into... Continue reading
Posted Jul 13, 2015 at This Itch of Writing: the blog
Click here for the full (or, rather, rapidly filling) Itch of Writing Bookshelf, and if you're looking for books to help with your writing directly, then click through to Books for Writers. I CAPTURE THE CASTLE, by Dodie Smith Cassandra Mortmain is seventeen, and has decided to keep a journal to practice her speedwriting, in the hope of being able to get a job. She, her older sister Rose and schoolboy brother Thomas live in a tumbledown castle in Suffolk, which their writer father moved into in happier times, after the succès d'estime of his Finnegan's-Wake-like novel. Then he succumbed... Continue reading
Posted Jul 9, 2015 at This Itch of Writing: the blog
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Lorna, you're welcome. Showing and Telling works just the same in first person. When you're Showing, you'd normally pick things which would come naturally for your narrator to notice, given who they are: the kinds of details and physical and mental experience that is natural for their personality. When you're Telling, it would be Told in the way that this character's personality would make them Tell it: what's important, what they wouldn't mention. You might find my post on point-of-view with this kind of narrator helpful: http://emmadarwin.typepad.com/thisitchofwriting/2011/10/point-of-view-narrators-2-internal-narrators.html Good luck!
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You're welcome, Rowena. And many a great book has been built on a sea voyage ... Treasure Island?
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Jan, I think one of the arts of writing a novel is somehow finding the way to make the along-the-way stuff vital and interesting without losing our sense of the journey. Easier said than done, I know, but I think that's where the sense of trying to reach a distant port is helpful, because it can draw in more diversions and so on than other metaphors. The other art is to pick a journey which WILL allow you to see interesting along-the-way stuff, without being diverted!
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Tom, that's such a great quote, thank you! Definitely one for my collection on this topic.
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Jemma, you're welcome. It's certainly helped me to clarify what needs to be going on. As you say, "conflict" gets defined either so widely that it's no help, or so narrowly that it's no help...
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Thanks so much for forwarding it, David. And yes, my head might explode now...
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