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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
You're welcome, MDZ - so glad you're finding the blog useful, and, it sounds, inspiring!
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That's a good tip, I think. "What job is this doing for the overall storytelling?", as it were. As long as it's doing something, you can slide all sorts of things in with it. One of the earliest alarm bells I worked out was that "Well, it shows her character" isn't really enough ... And yes, it's so frustrating when people basically wish your book was something else, and only have those spectacles on!
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Wow! But, yes, it's amazing what people don't see when they think their job is something else! They put the wrong spectacles on, as it were.
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Yes - non-fiction is different, isn't it. Though I guess there's an overlap in the research. (Although researching fiction works better when the fictional world is very alive, perhaps!) Sorry the new novel's being slow - it's a tiresome patch, isn't it!
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Emily, great that it hits the spot with you! I'm all for a bit of junk food, but at the right moment ... And you're welcome!
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To celebrate the publication of Get Started in Writing Historical Fiction, which is now also out in the USA, I thought it would be fun to have a little competition. There are two copies of the book available to win, and I'll sign them to you the winner, or to the friend, family, enemy or pet of your choice. I thought it would be good to do something in the spirit of This Itch of Writing, but I'd hate to ask you - or me - to do lots of work. Publisher Scott Pack suggested getting my lovely blog-readers to... Continue reading
Posted 2 days ago at This Itch of Writing: the blog
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I blogged a few years back about how to process feedback, but the funny thing is that many writers find giving feedback more difficult than receiving it. Often, they're some of the nicest people: they're worried about hurting their fellow thin-skinned writers' feelings and know that hurting their confidence can be be genuinely damaging. Sometimes they're some of the most self-centred people: they can't be bothered to put in the mental work to understand what another writer is trying to do, and can only "correct" in terms of how they'd do it themselves. I've also given general tips about how... Continue reading
Posted May 16, 2016 at This Itch of Writing: the blog
Melissa, you're very welcome, and I'm so glad you go on finding the blog useful. Thank you very much for all the RTs and support.
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Interesting about exams - hadn't thought of that. But I do agree about things like walking and gymming being good: there's something about the rhythm of physical movement. I think it mops up the censor/left-brain thoughts (music does something similar for many of us) and then one's open to the creative thinking going wherever it will. I record ideas on my phone, if I'm out on a walk with no notebook. I have a friend who has what she calls her "plotting walk" - nice and familiar, the dogs enjoy it, and the solutions have an uncanny way of showing up about 15 minutes in ... There's certainly a place on the far side of the pond in my local park which I associate very strongly with the idea/solution suddenly arriving in my mental lap.
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Yes - thinking time of that sort is so valuable, and you need to keep the world out perhaps even more than you need to once you've got the momentum of some writing actually going: you can sustain the latter against interruptions, as one sentence leads fairly naturally, most of the time, to the next. Not so with the flow of the real creative thinking - that's too easily interrupted.
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You're welcome. The book's very good because it's aimed at adults - doesn't teach a particularly style of good-looking writing as we were taught at school or by our parents, but a way of working towards a handwriting which is personal and characteristic, as well as swift, sustainable and not painful!
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April, you're welcome. I think you're absolutely right that one of the key things when you're short of writing time is to do whatever it takes to keep it fairly near the front of your mind. That's why "little and often" works so much better for most of us than the exactly equivalent number of hours, but in fewer, larger chunks - because you spend so much of the beginning of each chunk getting back up to speed.
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As with most writers, my income and my heating bill have an uneasy relationship, and a day which can start with me writing in bed is a good day. It's best of all if the current project is at a longhand stage: first-drafting, or revising and editing on hard copy. But although I don't like working on my laptop (flat keyboard, RSI, bad angle for head and neck, etc. etc.), and my dodgy back doesn't like me writing in bed, it's worth it to be away from my desk: overall I usually write 10% more words, and find that many... Continue reading
Posted Apr 26, 2016 at This Itch of Writing: the blog
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Rachel, I'm so glad the post is good for you. Getting back out of non-fiction writing isn't always easy, but it sounds as if your reading the right stuff to help you re-find your fiction voice. THis might help, or raise a smile: http://emmadarwin.typepad.com/thisitchofwriting/2015/05/write-a-lot-for-work-how-do-you-get-your-fiction-voice-back.html
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Bonnie, you're welcome. I think in the general way it's true that ANY one length of sentence, if you use it all the time, will make something a bit monotonous. Variety matters too - but there's more scope for variety in working with longer sentences. But it needs to be a variety based on what you're trying to say. It may be that you're falling into a very similar sentence-structure each time, so all the sentences have the same rhythm, when in fact you need to dig a little more to find the variety in how you make your points - the rhythm will then naturally get more varied. For one thing, in academic writing one is usually setting up a contrast, comparison, or something about the consequences, and so of course sentences often need to come in two or more sections. Since I wrote this post, I've done a lot of work with academic writing, and you might find some of this more recent post helpful: http://emmadarwin.typepad.com/thisitchofwriting/2013/05/twenty-top-tips-for-academic-writing.html And if the English department isn't complaining, stuff the others! If they can't follow a well-constructed long sentence then they don't belong in a university. ;)
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You're welcome, Mary! Glad it's useful.
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Glad it's useful, Nicki. And yes, it's not a topic that gets covered much and I really don't understand why, because it makes clear SO many different issues that writers struggle with. On the Self-Editing-Your-Novel course we get students to write the same couple of sentences at levels 1, 3 and 5, and then do a "slide": a single paragraph in either direction. It needs to be a bit more progressive than your example, perhaps, to mean we know that the grumpy consciousness with snow under their collar is the man we've just been shown. It might be the private detective observing him... But really, it's a matter of moving to and fro, depending on what the story needs at this moment. Do we need context, reflection, understanding? Or moment-by-moment experience. How far out, how deep in? It'll vary, according to the moment... Just ask yourself, decide, and then the 'how' of writing it is obvious.
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Oh, great that the page-a-day thing is working for you, Jennifer. I DO so agree that things sometimes come as a voice, which is great - such fun! - but that it can then be tricky to find the narrative drive. Once the voice is developed enough for you to have a sense of who this person is, you could try thinking out what event would put him/her particularly under pressure: what would mean they HAD to act... What might then get in the way of that action, so that the character has to overcome it/fight back/divert/change plans/give in, etc. I'd blog every day if I could, but there's too much else to do, alas...
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Miranda, you're welcome. PoV and Psychic Distance are very interdependent: the only mistake is to think of them as the same thing. But don't start thinking that you can't use the far-out levels in first person narratives. The key is to remember that your character-narrator has two, separate identities: they are an act-or in the story, and the storyteller of that story. The obvious example is when a character, old, is telling a story of what happened when they were young, but there doesn't have to be as marked a division as that. If you think of a book formed as someone's journal, then they might be writing about yesterday at one moment, and writing "Oh, help, someone's knocking on the door" at the next. So they can stand back as far as you like, as storyteller, from the events that they were involved in as a character. Have a look on the main psychic distance post, at my first-person examples, to see what I mean: http://emmadarwin.typepad.com/thisitchofwriting/psychic-distance-what-it-is-and-how-to-use-it.html And there's more here about internal narrators of this kind: http://emmadarwin.typepad.com/thisitchofwriting/2011/10/point-of-view-narrators-2-internal-narrators.html
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Alvar, I'm so glad you're finding the blog useful, and well done for sticking to that draft and getting so far with it. Best of luck with the next stage!
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Sinead - apologies for missing this - and Sandra's answered for me. I would say use a different font for this kind of thing if what you're doing is straightforward, and for a good reason - which obviously yours is. Having said that, most computer italic fonts are a little less easy to read than their roman siblings, so I wouldn't myself do it that way if I was doing whole chapters. Maybe a sanserif font instead?
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Sorry it's late, Kari-Lou - but I hope it's helped a little, anyway. But best of luck for finishing your course!
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You're welcome, Ian. I'm glad it's useful.
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Emily, you're welcome! You're right - writing for your own specialist audience is one thing, whereas writing about your specialist subject but for a general audience is much more challenging.
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When Debi Alper or I are trying to explain Psychic Distance (which we very often are, since it can make such a spectacular difference to someone's writing), we often use the analogy of a film camera. We start with John Gardner's examples, which take the same moment in a story and re-tell it at five separate points on the psychic distance spectrum, and unpack them thus: 1) It was winter of the year 1853. A large man stepped out of a doorway. is like a long-shot: we can't discern much about the man. If we were even further away, depending... Continue reading
Posted Apr 6, 2016 at This Itch of Writing: the blog
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