Poem: Recipe For a Writer

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Poem: Recipe for A Writer

 

Ingredients:

  • 1 Child
  • 1 Overactive Imagination
  • 1 Laundry Basket
  • 1 Swing
  • 1 Decent Sized Vocabulary
  • 100’s and 1000’s of Good Quality Notebooks
  • 1 Dollop of Encouragement
  • Books to Taste

 

Step 1:

Take child and add your overactive imagination and a laundry basket. They may initially start by pretending to be a Darlek. This might seem derivative, but fear not. Soon they will discover that the lid of the basket makes for an interesting shield. They will take on the role of a warrior who’s spirit has been trapped inside the shield by their father. They will fight for honour and peace, but they will quickly forget who they’re fighting against, because keeping track of the storyline is not yet the child’s forte.

 

Step 2:

Add to your newly inspired child, 1 swing. Allow child to swing as high as they want, or spin themselves dizzy. They will then invent a world in which sparkly slivers of coloured light are under attack by Balloon Heads. The Sparklies know that the child is their chosen one, destined to save their people, but the Balloon Heads want to chop off the child’s head an turn them into one of their people. Pinkie is a noble Sparklie who will lay down his life for the child. Yellow is a traitor and a coward, who will sell the child out. Your child now understands plot, but will never like yellow again.

 

Step 3:

Stir in a decent sized vocabulary and sprinkle child with 100’s and 1000’s of notebooks. Your child will now begin to write down the words that they’ve been wittering to themselves during steps 1 and 2 and will develop an ability to describe what it is they’re seeing at the same time. Do not judge the terrifying way in which the child’s mind works, even if they: create dragons to set fire to bullies hair and save the day, end a war between men and women by having everyone die, or have a man murder a friend because ghostly voices taunted him into it. Instead, add a dollop of encouragement to really enhance that prolific writing bug.

 

Step 4:

Once your child has begun writing furiously add books to taste, but not necessarily to your taste. Ask the child what books they like, and try to give them a steady flow of reading material. This will bring the flavour of that vocabulary out and make those 100’s and 1000’s of notebooks seem all the more attractive to the child.

 

Step 5

The final step is to place your child at a desk, and leave to work until golden.

 

 

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Dissertation Drama Week #5

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Dissertation Drama Week #5

Writing that number, number 5, makes my stomach feel a wee bit queasy. I can’t believe how fast things are going.

This past fortnight has been a bit of a douzey. After spending a weekend in London, my motivation took a bit of a nose dive. Getting back on top of things has been a real uphill struggle, but I’m getting there, and today’s supervision session has certainly set a fire underneath me.

Thus now, to work! What have I learnt this these two weeks gone?

  1. There’s a difference between taking a break and avoiding work – After the first few weeks of working, I felt pretty pleased with what I’d achieved, and my supervisor was happy as well. So, I felt like I deserved a break. I scheduled some social stuff. And then some more social stuff. And pretty soon that nervous itch that signals I’m procrastinating raised its ugly head. It’s good to take breaks, breaks are incredibly important to keep your energy levels up. However, let it teeter over into just messing around because you “don’t feel like working”, and you’ll find yourself struggling to get back to work when you need to. Try to find a balance.
  1. Internet ethics are more troublesome than you would think – When dealing with ethics, there are a few standard considerations that spring to mind. Do you have consent? Are your participants over 18? Will your research cause harm? Easy to answer right? Nope. Step online and things get blurry fast. Someone has published something in the public domain, so that’s fair game right? Not necessarily. And how are you supposed to know someone’s age when you can’t see their face? Also, you might think that citing your fanfiction source is giving credit where credit’s due, but what happens if someone recognises the username, and it gets the writer into trouble? As for Terms of Service…let’s not go there.
  1. Being proactive is never a bad thingI left the above queries about ethics with my supervisor, who said that he’d have a chat with some of the other staff in the department. But what I also should have done was message the folks of fanfiction.net, and the writers whose work I’d like to use. Instead, after having my lack of proactivity highlighted to me today, I’ve only just messaged the relevant people, and will now have to wait however long for them to get back to me before I can start my proper data collection and analysis. I’m kicking myself, because I’ve taken an unnecessary chunk of time off the clock. But I guess it’ll give me time to read.
  1. The narrower the focus, the better – I’ve said before that I’m a little nervy about the fact that this is my first extended piece of research. As a result, I guess I’ve gone a bit overkill on the amount of ideas and work I was intending on packing into this study. My supervisor today pointed out that I was planning on analysing the comments, analysing the original source text and analysing the fanfiction, not just once, but multiple times, for multiple linguistic attributes. I balked, and suddenly understood why he was so keen on me picking a specific model. My approach was far too broad, and he was trying to get me to narrow it down. So I have a loooooot of thinking to do this weekend.
  1. Plans may change, but that’s okay – If this course has taught me anything, it’s how to be flexible when the wind starts blowing. The fact is, you can start one project and land on something quite different. Now my data sample will undoubtedly be the same, and I’ll stay in the same stylistics ball park, but the model I found this week, I’ve already realised I can’t use. And that’s fine. This is definitely one of those stories that’s going to end in a way I couldn’t have predicted at the beginning, but that will just make sure that I spend time editing and editing and editing. As long as I stay flexible, the pieces will come together by the end.

And so ends Dissertation Drama Week #5 . I hope these are proving interesting. I know I’ve been scaring some of you with how much I’ve written, but I can promise you…it’s mostly garbage and I will end up hacking it to pieces by the end of this mess 😉

As always, if you enjoyed this article, likes, shares and comments are met with a warm welcome!

I hope you’re having a great weekend and I will catch y’all again next week 😀

Best,

EM

Writing Writ #1: Find Your Own Voice

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Writing Writ #1: Find Your Own Voice

You hear this a lot when you’re a fiction writer. You need to find you voice, write with vision, have a perspective. And when you hear those words you think, Oh, go away, you pretentious git. And I don’t blame you. The people who tell you that you need to “find your own voice”, without any further guidance, are pretentious gits.

But the fact still remains, if you want to write well, you do need to write with your own voice.

So, how does one find this voice?

 

Step 1:

Start keeping a journal – This sounds almost as pretentious as telling you to use your own voice, but please, trust me for a minute. By a cheap ass notebook, and just scribble some thoughts down. Don’t make them frilly. Don’t pretend some great literary historian is going to end up reading them when you’re famous (~coughs~ totally didn’t do that myself ~coughs~). Write like you’re talking to a friend. Be as colloquial as you want to be and just word vomit onto paper a few times a week.

Step 2:

Copy the voices you love – Make a short list of the writer’s you really love, and trying mimicking their style. Don’t go for a full novel. Dream up a character and a short scenario, and write with the voice of a writer you admire. One of my favourites to copy was Douglas Adams, which you can see in Moving Day. His jovial, semi-sarcastic wit is so specifically him, but it’s great fun to play with.

Step 3:

Pin point what it is that you like – Once you’ve had your fun playing with that voice, it’s time to get analytical. What is it that you like about that voice? Is it the wit, like myself with Adams? Is it the simple, clean prose, like myself and Graham Greene? Or is it the fluid presentation of thoughts …like me and every modernist I’ve ever loved?

Step 4:

Blend those voices – Now comes the tricky bit. Now, you need to take all the bits you like about the work of other writers, and apply it to your own work. Sounds complicated? How can you mix Adams’ wit, with Greene’s prose, and Woolf’s stream of consciousness? First off, relax, because here’s the thing; you’re never going to sound like all of them. And that’s fine, because that’s not the aim. The aim is to sound like you, but to develop the bits that you like the most about their writing in your own. That diary you’ve been keeping (right?) get that out, and have a read through what you’ve written. You’ll likely find you’re already doing some of those things you love so much. However, you may also find you sound like you’re up your own arse (thanks, Woolf) or that you’re close to murdering everyone (cheers, Adams) or that you manage to write a whole paragraph without giving any context for what’s happening (Greene! My man!). Once you see these things, you can start to blend the voices together better. Ease up on the 1920’s English, tone down the sarcasm and pop in a few more adjectives.

Step 5:

Figure out what you bring to the table – This isn’t exactly easy to do for yourself, which is why I always advocate sharing your work with trusted friends/ family/ writers. In my case, it was my lecturer, Dr Richard House, who made me realise what I added (although I’m fairly certain my mum had told a very small Emma something similar). When Richard read the opening to The End of Atlas, he said to me that I had a very filmic writing style. At the time, I thought this was really odd way to describe it, but I’ve come to realise that it’s how my mind works. When I’m writing fiction, I see things as if it’s a film playing in my head. I see the shots, and the look, and I target the elements of the scene to describe which I think will have the biggest impact. Knowing this helped me see how I was holding three very different voices together. Simplicity, fluidity and hella humour, woven together with a filmic structure. That is how I like to roll.

Step 6:

Acceptance – Finally, there’s one small thing you need to know and accept. You’re never going to stop fiddling around with your voice. Mainly because, if you’re any good at writing, you’re never going to write the exact same character twice (unless you’re writing a novel series). Even if you don’t write in first person (like myself), and you rely on a third person narrator, your characters will inevitably have some influence over the tone of your narration, and you will certainly need to be able to adapt your voice for dialogue. Writing is as much about acting as it is about prose. However, don’t be disheartened. Having a sense of your own voice will 1) help you pick the projects that you’re going to enjoy the most, and 2) figure out when your character is just you in disguise (I’m looking at you John Green).

 

If I’m honest with myself, I do worry about where I’ll go after The End of Atlas is finally finished. I’ve become so familiar with the voice of Alec, my protagonist, that he kind of feels like home. But I know, when the time comes, I’ll pick up the parts of him that are me and develop a new character, and a new project which I’ll hopefully enjoy just as much.

Hope you’re enjoying your Saturday!

Best,

E.M.

P.S. Today’s featured image is a small snapshot of an essay I wrote before Easter…in which I sound like Dr Seuss.

Dear Future Me:

Dear Me
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Dear Future Me:

(Age 27)

I have an apology to make. Today, I opened your mail. I found a letter that 17-year-old me wrote to you, and well, I couldn’t help myself. I hope you can forgive me. Well, I know you can. Anyway, to make it up to you, I figured I’d write you another letter, from me, 22-year-old you. These pronouns are gonna get dear me, dear future mehella confusing, so I’m gonna stick to I unless I’m talking to you.

Unsurprisingly, I am in Startbucks, drinking a decaf venti iced mocha, with whip. Surprisingly, I haven’t spilled it yet. Oh, tell a lie. I forgot I managed to squirt some on the page earlier, when I was mucking about with the straw. I guess we never do learn to be graceful, unless you have something you want to tell me?

Life at the moment is just getting interesting. I’ve taken up a new motto, “I’ll make it work”, and things are going well. It looks like I’ll have a full time job soon, and I’m currently negotiating some freelance work too. After months of fretting, two at once, just like dear me, dear future mebuses. Things are looking promising. And of course, I’m writing again. For a week now I’ve managed to scribble out 500 words a day, and it feels amazing. I’m finally doing what I’ve always wanted to do. I wonder did you ever get Rimjhim published? Are you working on the next novel? Or even a third? Given that writing has been a craving of ours for 15 years now, I highly doubt it’s gone from your life altogether.

At present, I have just got back in touch with an old friend. I decided that it is impossible to be angry at a person who no longer exists. The conversation has only just started, but I’m excited about the possibility of having them back in our life. If it all goes to crap though, if  you end up having to walk awaydear me, dear future me again, know that you did the right thing. There are only so many chances you can give a person, but my fingers are crossed that it will all work out.

Love, love, what can I say about love? I’m talking to people, I’m mingling. I’m finally out of that weird teenage mindset where “will you go out with me?” means “we’re a couple now.” I still believe I can tell where a relationship’s going to go in the first five minutes of a conversation, but that’s because I’m a cynic. And I recon that’s okay.

Everything’s okay; my lack of grace, rogueish female charm, and immense knowledge of giraffe sex. It’s all okay. In the five years dear me, dear future mebetween 17 and 22, I’ve somehow figured out the tricky concept of being myself. As it turns out, it had nothing to do with my head or my heart. It was all about my gut, and my guts. I’ve started living bravely and instinctively, and it has done me more good than any of our other body parts ever did. It lead me to a great uni, the right course, and the best friends.

And now, I guess this is the point in the letter where I write some requests, or some hopes. I know that reading 17-year-old me’s letter made me smile, and gave me a shove, so:

  • I hope that if you’re stuck in a rough patch, this letter will give you a boot in the arse.
  • I hope you’re not mucking about; not writing a novel because it’s too hard, or too scary, or too much of a commitment.
  • I hope you managed to do a Masters and a PhD, because Dr Mort is a life goal, champ.
  • Don’t you dare settle for someone just for the sake of companionship.
  • Remember your mood is like the weather; storm clouds will always dry up eventually.
  • Don’t give up fiddling about with cameras. This is something we’ve only just started tinkering with, but it’s a lot of fun so far, and it’s getting you excited about the cosplay community again.
  • In general, live passionately. You are much happier when you’re busy, and the bigger the variety of things you are doing, the better.
  • Find a job that let’s you be you.
  • Stop comparing yourself to others; just because they look like they have everything figured out, doesn’t mean they do.
  • Travel to at least one country every year, or I’ll be miffed.

Now I’m going to go home to the flatmate and his missus, curl up under the coffee table, and do some writing. I break dear me, dear future me16,000 words this evening. It’s taken a long time, but it’ll get there. After all, something has to come out of losing your comb inside the printer, twice. (Has that count gone up yet?) Oh, there’s one more thing actually. An add on to something 17-year-old us said:

  • Remember, happily ever afters do exist. BUT they require work, and love, and commitment. Make yours a life worth reading about.

There, now, do you want a pretzel on the way home?

Best,

Mort.