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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, memoir, historical fiction, academic writing, writing, reading, editing, teaching
Recent Activity
Carole, you're so welcome, and I'm so sorry it's taken me so long to reply. I do hope things have eased for you, and it's lovely to know that the Itch is helping.
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Glad you like it, Priscilla. I think Page 57 is amazing - such a simple little mind-trick, but it works.
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I'm so thrilled to have that Mark Billingham reference to quote!
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Hi Neil - great question. I think this is a clear instance of where the basic rule should yield to how you want the storytelling to work. The passing mob is all one unit in a way, isn't it. Since it doesn't much matter which of the speakers says what, or how many of them say anything, or any of the other things that our conventions for paragraphing dialogue try to help with, I'd certainly be tempted to put them all in one paragraph.
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Yes, I think a good many people rely on this - but I wonder if it's actually the source of confusion too, since "Effect" can be an action or intended action.
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You're welcome, Priscilla!
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One of the most common word confusions I see, even in writers who aren't easily confused, is between "effect" and "affect". It's very understandable - both can be a verb, and both can be a noun - and sorting it out is a bite-sized job, so here goes. Continue reading
Posted May 27, 2022 at This Itch of Writing
Birds are wonderful for mindfulness, aren't they: wonderfully transfixing. And how lovely to have such a variety. Having moved to a more urban bit of South London, I'm missing my heron, and the jays (and hedghogs and frogs), but there's still a remarkable range of birdsong to be heard..
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Oh, how fantastic. Your Date sounds excellent. I do hope the ARtists Way goes well for you. I've never done it in a systematic way, but I know people (not just writers) for whom it's been absolutely transformative. And for any of us, it's full of brilliant ideas and inspiration - and comfort when things go wrong.
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It's so good, isn't it. Julia Cameron is sooo good on all sorts of things about writing.
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It was Julia Cameron who started the idea of the "Artist Date",* in her book The Artist's Way. The idea is that any creative work draws on a well - or a larder is a more useful image, I think - and if you don't want to run out of creative food and therefore fuel, you have to fill the larder and keep refilling it. But how do you fill it? Continue reading
Posted May 13, 2022 at This Itch of Writing
Yes, alas. The only comfort is that gradually, doing it as editing trains your writing brain to spot it in first draft, as you go - and ultimately, mostly, usually, except on a bad day, not to do it in the first place...
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I think we all do it at times. Often there's one or two of them which do need to be in there - just not all the rest.
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Yes, it surprises me every time: "How on earth did I miss THAT!???" And sometimes, especially on the last-read-before-sending, "OMG, that was nearly a car-crash! Phew! Just in time."
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Glad it helps!
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You're welcome!
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Yes, I think that's very common in any kind of creative work. When I set out for an afternoon taking photographs, I have to take some very dull, ordinary ones, before I start seeing better things. The weird thing is - if I don't get through the dull ones by taking them, I never start seeing the good ones. And your 2. is a bit like saying to the Inner Critic: "So what? See? I don't care what you think!"
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You're welcome, Deborah. Yes, they're not always obvious - and of course sometimes they're just what you need. It's often the cumulative effect which is the problem, not any individual instance.
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Hi Litlove - I do think anyone who's tangled with scholarly write may be particularly prone to that sort of hedging. Interestingly, Steven Pinker talks about how it's not actually necessary - anyone who's reading the piece knows perfectly well the parameters, the not-quite-absolutely levels of the discipline. In terms of introspection, try this: https://emmadarwin.typepad.com/thisitchofwriting/2011/08/thinking-introspection-and-spilling-tea-on-the-dog.html I think the key is to make sure that the thinking doesn't to-and-fro, but, like a scene, actually leads somewhere: the end of the paragraph has reached a different place from where we started at the beginning of it. It's actually really quite like structuring an academic essay - leading the reader through a chain of ideas to where you need them to end up.
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Oh, yes, that can be very confusing. As with not using speech marks, there *are* ways of making it work - but you *really* have to know what you're doing, and have readers willing to go with you.
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Hi Mal - I'm so glad you're enjoying Bitesized. And two terrific ideas for pieces, too - thank you. I'll definitely put them on the list!
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Yes, that's a good point. And yet I've also come across books where that kind of character (or indeed place) shows up again, and is solemnly labelled as if I'd never met them before. (I am quite a fast reader, I should say) - which is really a failure of line-editing, I would say. The art of giving the reader just enough of a re-cap to bring the character back to mind, without making us feel as impatient as one is being told the same story all over again, is quite subtle.
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I think not having other punctuation under one's fingers is definitely one reason for people defaulting to commas, and that even vaguer mark - the dash.
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You're welcome, Alastair! So glad it's helpful.
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Another thing I frequently find myself writing on students' work is "Don't pull its teeth!". Here, "it" is a scene, a sentence, a character's thought, or a character's action, which has all the ingredients to be compelling, but somehow falls flat. Continue reading
Posted May 3, 2022 at This Itch of Writing
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