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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
You're so welcome, Jessica. I'm really glad it's so useful, and very best of luck for the next stage!
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Rob - ridiculously late to come on this, apologies! But, yes, that'll teach the folk who think Hemmingway is all about short-and-simple...
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I'm so glad you agree with me! I think when either long or short becomes a fetish, or even just a default, it's bad news: each has its uses, and the things it's not so good at. The mistake is to make a blanket rule in either direction. Except that, of course, by mathematical definition, there are many different ways to build a long sentence, and only a few ways to build a short one.
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I think "wouldn't've", though exactly how we say it, takes perhaps a bit too much unpacking for most readers' eyes? We do read whole words - experienced readers read whole sentences almost all at once, I gather research has shown. So it could just be that they tripped up on it, as any of us can when accents are rendered with too many, too variant, spellings.
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So glad it's been useful, Joan! And do check out the series on Narrators and PoV, if you haven't already. You might also like the PoV episode of my latest Starting Your Novel series - that series is for beginners, so it breaks it down into smaller bites still: https://emmadarwin.typepad.com/thisitchofwriting/2020/04/write-your-first-novel-part-seven-point-of-view.html Good luck with it!
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Emma, you're very welcome! I think "how about you send me a proposal" is a good place to start, even if you're not sure when you want to do a PhD at all. There's nothing like trying to shape and write things down in actual sentences, for revealing what you think... Good luck if you go for it!
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Yes, I think people who are used to learning to do things where it's clearer what the outcome is going to be, and what the path will be to get there - which is most people - can find it very weird, spending time in the ambiguous, uncertain spaces of creative work, where you have to keep going forward with faith, as it were, even though you're not at all sure which direction "forward" actually is, let alone whether you will figure it out, even though you don't know what "is" is, but somehow, sort of... A friend of mine did a Creative Writing PhD based on taking one of those Novel in a Month books, and doing exactly what it said, and seeing what happened. I think they may work, in a way, if you embrace the Shitty First Draft principle - the NaNoWriMo idea of sketching out a plan, and then just diving in and scribbling, "Building without tearing down" as the NaNo folk put it. What you won't get in a month is a book that's anywhere remotely near being worth sending out to find a publisher...
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In Part Nine we're going to look at how you turn a second draft ("for your reader") into something closer to a third draft ("for the person you need to persuade"). Each post in my Write Your First Novel is a series of short prompts and exercises which are designed to lead, step by small step, towards the first draft of a novel. It doesn't assume you already know the technical vocabulary that writers use, and the full series to date is collected together here. One more thing before we start. Everything on This Itch of Writing is free; I... Continue reading
Posted May 15, 2020 at This Itch of Writing
"The best conversation I've ever had about writing with someone I've never actually met." - Joanne Limburg "Here is the humility, naked courage and fiercely intelligent understanding of what writing a novel takes, and costs." - Jenn Ashworth FRSL "This author of historical novels would seem to have a rich ancestral seam to mine. But, as she reveals in this refreshingly frank, witty, eloquent memoir-cum-biography-cum-rumination, it isn’t that easy." - Saga Magazine Just a quick post to say that if you have a bit of time on your hands and like the sound of all that, This is Not a... Continue reading
Posted May 12, 2020 at This Itch of Writing
Heather, you're welcome, and I'm so glad you're finding it useful. To my mind it's helpful to separate them: it genuinely is a different mindset from slapping Draft One into shape, and then making it work for the reader... Very best of luck with this new project!
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So glad it was useful, Priscilla - I hope the reading was fruitful!
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Hi Ellen Oh, my sympathies! It's annoying enough when automated systems don't understand that sometimes passive voice is the clearest and most elegant way to put things. It's infuriating when they flag things which aren't even grammatically passive! Which is why I tried to put some ammunition in at the end of this post. I'm so glad it's useful. And good luck with Flesch! As you say - it thinks you're writing for children, half the time.
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In Part Eight we're starting to think about story-building. Each post in Write Your First Novel is a series of short prompts and exercises which are designed to lead, step by small step, towards the first draft of a novel. It doesn't assume you already know the technical vocabulary that writers use, and the full series to date is collected together here. One more thing before we start. Everything on This Itch of Writing is free; I don't monetise it through advertising or clicks or affiliations or anything else, but simply put it out under a Creative Commons Licence (and... Continue reading
Posted Apr 27, 2020 at This Itch of Writing
In Part Seven we're thinking about point-of-view. Each post in Write Your First Novel is a series of short(ish) prompts and exercises which are designed to lead, step by small step, towards the first draft of a novel. It doesn't assume you already know the technical vocabulary that writers use, and the full series to date is collected together here. One more thing before we start. Everything on This Itch of Writing is free; I don't monetise it through advertising or clicks or affiliations or anything else, but simply put it out under a Creative Commons Licence (and if you'd... Continue reading
Posted Apr 14, 2020 at This Itch of Writing
In Part Six we're starting to think about revising your writing. Each post in Write Your First Novel is a series of short(ish) prompts and exercises which are designed to lead, step by small step, towards the first draft of a novel. It doesn't assume you already know the technical vocabulary that writers use, and the full series to date is collected together here. One more thing before we start. Everything on This Itch of Writing is free; I don't monetise it through advertising or clicks or affiliations or anything else, but simply put it out under a Creative Commons... Continue reading
Posted Apr 7, 2020 at This Itch of Writing
You're so welcome, Barbara. Very best of luck with it!
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Oh, lovely! The best feeling!
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Sounds good. Anything that can be useful in pre-first-draft or training mode can also be used later, to sort out something which isn't work. Good luck!
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Glad you like it, JR. I think it depends entirely on each writer's individual relationship/response to deadlines. With anything which is important, but not in one sense urgent, it can be very hard to hold on to its importance and its need for your time, in the teeth of things which may not be more important, but are more immediately and directly demanding - or just easier and more fun. In which case, saying "But I promised myself I'd have the first draft done by Christmas" or "I will have 100 writing days by the end of the year" might be what you need to stick to your resolution. Some people find that saying they must write 1000 words an evening, say, has the same effect. But no one knows how fast a new writer will be able to write - and only you know how counter-productive it will be if you find yourself not meeting a self-imposed deadline or word-count; some people find the self-loathing that the "failure" to meet such a deadline toxic and in itself procrastination-breeding. I tend to think - each writer's mileage may vary - that the best kind of goal is one which you know you can, actually, meet. Whether the words come isn't entirely in your gift, but whether you give them the chance to come if they're going to, is. So a goal like "I will spend four hours every Saturday morning" or "I won't do anything else for one hour, every single day", is always achievable. For what its worth, when I'm in first draft mode, I write for four hours a day. Because my first notebooks fitted 130 words a page (double-spaced, big handwriting), I decided that 20pp was do-able, and so I would hope for 2,600 words, and that's still what I hope for in that time longhand, or 2,000 on the computer because it's less efficient: it's hard not to tweak more. But wordcount is only a hoped-for side effect of the time I commit. The funny thing is, except very occasionally when I hit a major plot snag, the 2,600 words always do arrive.
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Hooray! SO glad it was what you needed - and you're very welcome. Good luck with post-sticking-point stage.
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In Part Five we're exploring how to read like a writer. Each post in Write Your First Novel is a series of short(ish) prompts and exercises which are designed to lead, step by small step, towards the first draft of a novel. It doesn't assume you already know the technical vocabulary that writers use, and the full series to date is collected together here. One more thing before we start. Everything on the Itch is free; I don't monetise it through advertising or clicks or affiliations or anything else, but simply put it out under a Creative Commons Licence (and... Continue reading
Posted Apr 3, 2020 at This Itch of Writing
In Part Four you're going to try your hand at drafting a scene. Each post in Write Your First Novel is a series of short prompts and exercises which are designed to lead, step by small step, towards the first draft of a novel. It doesn't assume you already know the technical vocabulary that writers use, and the full series to date is collected together here. One more thing before we start. Everything on the Itch is free; I don't monetise it through advertising or clicks or affiliations or anything else, but simply put it out under a Creative Commons... Continue reading
Posted Mar 31, 2020 at This Itch of Writing
Stephen, you're welcome! The learning curve is massive, but in a good way too, I hope. As a writer you probably learn more between starting your first novel and finishing it, than you ever will again. And don't forget that one of the things you have to learn to do is "leave the research behind", as Rose Tremain puts it. More on that here: https://emmadarwin.typepad.com/thisitchofwriting/2011/11/yours-to-remember-and-mine-to-forget.html
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This new series on The Itch is aimed at people who've always wanted to write a novel, but have struggled to get going. I'm not sure exactly how it will pan out as it wasn't planned in advance, any more than anything any of us are doing at the moment was planned - though, since nothing in creative writing is wholly predictable in time, length or topic, I'm used to uncertainty, in writing at least. I am aiming to keep the posts short, concentrating on prompts and processes that will lead step by step, towards the first draft of a... Continue reading
Posted Mar 28, 2020 at This Itch of Writing
This new series on The Itch is aimed at people who've always wanted to write a novel, but have struggled to find the time, or the way in, or the courage - or all three. I am aiming to keep the posts short, concentrating on prompts and processes. And since this is only one possible recipe, of hundreds or even thousands, I'll try to give options that leave room for you to work in ways that suit you and your material - and I hope, too, that some of these may be useful new ideas or prompts for more experienced... Continue reading
Posted Mar 25, 2020 at This Itch of Writing