15 Things to Tell a Writer

Okay, so it has been a while since I have added anything to my blog post.

I have been busy working on my first novel, which is also my portfolio for my masters degree. I thought I would have a break and update my blog. This blog post has been sat in my drafts folder for a while, so I guess point number 1 should really be ‘finish things.’

The last session we had on the masters was a visit from the lovley Jenn Ashworth. One of the things she talked about is her ’15 things to tell a novelist’, which I found quite interesting. Some of the points were things I probably take for granted, but it was nice to see them written down and they are often things that as a writer you forget.

It was mentioned that we could write our own list of 15 things, and I thought that it might be a nice idea. There are some things that I have come across and/or struggled with in my writing that it may help other writers to see. I’ve not called this a 15 things for novelist as I also write short stories and I think the disciplines apply to all types of story whether prose or otherwise. This list is in no way a rulebook, but merely some thoughts that might help you to either produce more, or better work.

Here is the list, in no particular order.

1. Plan your Work. 

There are two main writer paradigms, the ‘planners’ and the ‘seats-of-pantsers’, and either method is fine, but I think in any story there will come a point where the writer needs to know where they are going. This could be a fully outlined synopsis, or chapter breakdown, or by simply researching and knowing your world well enough to wing it. Synopsis have definitely helped me when I’ve got stuck with a story, even if they are the devil to write.

2. Know your Characters

I think that in order to qualify the names you have written in your work as characters then they need to have a backstory. You need to know as much about them as possible. That way when you write them, you will a) know where they are going, and b) give your readers something to care about. It doesn’t need to be a character-driven story, but the reader wants someone they can invest in.

3. Don’t be a Slave to your World-Building

Along the same lines as character backstory, world-building is important. In some genres more than others. But if you do create your own world, as much as you should know everything about it, it is there to serve the story, not the other way around. Don’t let what you want the world to be hold you back in writing the story you want to write. The latter is always more important.

4. Don’t Edit as you go Along

One of the biggest ‘mistakes’ a new writer can make is to try editing as they go along. I even tell this to my academic writing students. Get to the required word count (or end of scene/chapter is probably fine) and then go back and edit it. Otherwise you will spend hours berating yourself over one sentence and never getting anything finished. You may have one perfect sentence, but a sentence does not a story make.

5. Always Show your Writing to Someone Else

One of the main things we learnt on the masters was to be less precious about our work. We were all writing for it to be read, but even then it was a struggle to give it to someone else. One of the most valuable parts of the masters was the workshops we regularly engaged in, and we still meet as much as possible to carry them on outside the course. A reader can tell you things about your work that you take for granted, or simply miss. It may require having a thick skin, but it will definitely improve your work.

6. Set Yourself Targets

Writing regularly is an absolute must if you are serious about writing. Of all the advice I got from published writers when I was starting out that was what they all said, without exception. Obviously, the day job and other commitments can get in the way and things like family always come first. However, if you can set yourself targets then this can ease the pressure. I have a daily word count that I need to meet, which varies depending on the project. Others I know have a monthly word count, or simply set themselves a deadline for having something finished. This allows you to add an element of professionalism even before you have been published, or have a book deal. It will be important then.

7. Allow Yourself to Write Crap

I guess this sits with my ‘not editing as you write’ point, but one of the most difficult things to do as a writer is not worry about the writing. I honestly believe the best way is to turn your internal editor off and get the words down on the page. An analogy that I always use with my writing students is ‘a sculptor cannot sculpt without stone to chip away at, and a writer can not make good work without the words in place.’ I once went to a seminar on ‘Fear and Writing’ with the excellent Kim Newman and the one thing she said that has stuck with me is ‘Give yourself permission to write shit. The first draft is always shit, but you can improve it.’ Excellent advice.

8. Draft and Redraft

Never hand in your first draft for anything. For most editors – and I find the same in an academic setting – a first draft is very obvious. Often you need the first draft to get the story on the page and then use it to figure out your POV, key themes and subplots, to name a few. At the very least you should read it through once and make any obvious edits. I’m not talking spelling and grammar mistakes, everyone makes typos, but glaring story problems, etc.

9. Read Aloud

When I’m reading through a draft I find it immensely useful to read the work aloud to myself. I can’t remember who first told my this tip, but it has been useful to get things like dialogue right. Feel free to put on accents, but simply reading the words aloud helps you to see if the dialogue is wooden or unnatural. I also find that if you stumble over a sentence, or have to read it twice then that highlights that there is something wrong with that sentence and it needs a fix. This obviously can be difficult if you live with other people, but if you are serious about writing then I am sure they will understand. I often have conversations with myself to test dialogue. I’m not mad, honest…

10. Know your POV

One of the most distracting things for a reader is when they don’t know who is telling them the story, or is the prose is confused. This can often be caused by the writer not really knowing what POV (point of view if you don’t know the term) they are trying to employ. Third person past tense is very common these days, but that doesn’t mean you can’t write it in another style. Just make sure you know how you are trying to write it and stick to the same narrator and tense. That way the reader can get inside the characters head, or follow the story in the way you intended. It can also help you avoid story mistakes.

11. Think about the Function of each Scene/Chapter

Yes, fiction should be fun to read and that is the most important part. But to have a truly effective and fun story the reader needs to know why they are reading. We could talk about character development, arcs and such things, but it can be simpler than that. What is this scene doing? Is it designed to show us the character’s motivation? Is it simply setting out the world? Thinking about it lets you know what you need to include and what is unnecessary information. It will make the writing stronger and more focussed, not to mention fun.

12. Keep Reading

Never stop reading. Well, okay you can go have a wash, books get wet in the shower, yes, but you should always have a book on the go. A writer can learn so much from their peers. If you want to write Science Fiction see what other writers are doing and how they tackle issues. If you want to write historical fiction see how other writers get across the setting and dialogue. See what works and what doesn’t work. Even if you are reading ‘just for fun’, you are always learning. It can be worth trying to pinpoint why you really enjoyed a book, or what it was that meant you put that book down after fifty pages.

13. Don’t take all Feedback as Gospel

At the beginning I stated that these are in no way, shape, or form a list of rules. Find what works for you. If you show your work to others don’t always make the changes that they suggest. Learn to way the good and bad suggestions and edits. The more people you show it to the easier this will be, but there will always be subjective stuff that others don’t like. Be true to the story you are trying to tell, but take on board suggestions and see if you can compromise. If a few people are giving you the same feedback, then maybe you really should delete that needless sex scene…maybe.

14. Research is Key

You might think that certain genres of fiction require more research than others, but that’s not really the case. Readers of science fiction are just as particular as historians, or readers of historical fiction. If you have sound in space then someone is likely to put down your book and go read something else. Research is absolutely key, and it helps you to build a true world, whether it is fantastical or not. It helps make the characters more than just pronouns you have moved around on a page, but actual characters.

15. Always Backup

Almost two years ago I had my Macbook stolen at work. On this laptop was over 15,000 words of un-backed up writing. You can imagine how devastated I was. Sufficed to say, I am yet to return to those stories because I can’t bring myself to realise the loss. The most annoying things is that even then I used a word processor called ‘Scrivener’, that can automatically backup to dropbox. Only, I had not ‘got round’ to setting it up yet. Now I have and every single word I type on my laptop, or my iPad is automatically saved there, as well as a cloud storage device I have at home. Don’t make the same mistake I did.

(I almost lost this blog post because my internet connection keeps dropping on my Mac and I hadn’t realised when I clicked ‘publish’.)

Well I hope some of these rules help you, feel free to comment with your own suggestions, or maybe make your own list. I would love to read it!

Thanks for reading.

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I’ve been busy, write?

Well, look at that, it’s been ages since I made a blog post. I don’t really have any excuses except for that one that everyone always has ‘I’ve been busy’. Well, I have, but I really should have updated this blog more. I guess another reason that I had no updates is because I had no writing exercises to post from my masters course as the first year has now come to an end.

I spent most of May being very busy, coming towards the end of the first year of the course. As part of Liverpool’s ‘Writing on the Wall’ literary festival, they held a ‘Pulp Idol competition’, and I was encouraged to enter by the Master’s course leader. It was a completely nerve-wracking experience. I may stand up in front of a group and talk on a daily basis, but when it comes to reading out my own work it’s completely different. No matter how much I tried to convince myself I would be okay and it wasn’t too different to lecturing, I still got nervous. In the end I think it went quite well, I got up, read well and, I believe, answered the questions from the panel of judges well, but unfortunately I didn’t make it through. In fact, no one that had entered that heat from my class got through, which is disappointing. I did continue to follow the rest of the competition, going to the next heat and final, and I was pleased when my good friend Rob Knipe came runner up in the competition. Look out for his name as he’s now in contact with some agents and with any luck there will be some well written, hilarious sci fi and fantasy books coming to your shelves soon.

The rest of may I spent frantically trying to get ready for the end of the first year of the course. As per usual we had an assignment due. I used mine as an excuse to get the first part of a novel I am writing about the Great War done. It was a great idea at first, a hugely rich period of time and I definitely feel I have a story to tell (more about that in the future. I don’t want to give too much away now do I?), but I was somewhat naive to the sheer amount of research I would need to do. Of course I was aware of the fact of research and I had already been reading about the subject before I had the idea for the novel, but when I wrote something I had to make sure it was correct. The first scene is also set in Liverpool before the war, so I had to make sure that the feel and surroundings were correct. Everything I read unearthed more questions and more lines of research, and as usual with research it grew larger and larger over time. Thankfully I was able to get a edited draft in, and it’s in a state I’m quite happy with. It’s no means perfect, and there will definitely be some factual errors that till need ironing out, but it’s a start and I feel it’s quite compelling. Hopefully it will see the light of day.

So what else have I been doing that has kept me so busy? Well, amongst all that I was learning to drive. I had taken two tests when I was 18, but the examiners in Eastbourne, where I lived at the time, were the most grumpy people I have ever met (which is saying something for Eastbourne) and I failed them both for silly little reasons. So I gave up until now. I had forgotten how much time it took up, not just physically, but also mentally. Anyone that says it’s just two hours a week is underestimating. I may have had one hour lessons the first time, I can’t exactly remember, but two hours are intense. I had to repass the theory test, so that required preparation and the closer I got to the practical test the more nervous I became, and the less I could concentrate on anything else. Thankfully, on the 5th June I passed and I now sit here with a shiny pink driving licence (now to get a car…). But I have to make a note, I couldn’t have done it without the excellent tuition of Autonomy Driving School. If you’re learning near Liverpool then I thoroughly recommend Jan.

After passing, I then spent the entirety of the week, when not at work, recording guitars for the Lazarus Syndrome album. I’m a bit behind on this as everyone else (bar the vocals) has done their part. But, I’ve been busy, right? We all could do with a few more hours in the day. If you want more info on that check us out on Facebook.

So, that’s what I’ve been up to. I hope to have more updates for you soon. I’m currently waiting on someone to get in touch with me on a very important project, but I can’t really talk about that yet. I’m off to write…

Thanks for reading.

Dickens in Space

I’m ill.

I’m supposed to be editing a second draft of a story due to its deadline being on Saturday, but I can’t concentrate. So, I thought the best writing I could do in this state is to tell you about something I did in class last week. I also just wrote this once and Google Chrome, in its infinite wisdom, decided to quit. So here is attempt number two. Probably quite apt, as I’m sure what I typed before was better.

In class last week we analysed a piece of prose in a group, discussing everything we could think of from sentence structure and rhythm to semantic feel and the metaphors used. At the time we didn’t know who our piece of prose was written by, but after our lecturer suggested we read it out loud, I noted it reminded me of the start of a Dickensian film where there is narration and the camera is zooming into the scene. The piece was actually the beginning of Dombey and Son by – you guessed it! – Charles of the Dickens clan. It raised an interesting point, Dickens actually made more money from reading his work than from writing. So, if you struggle reading his work, try reading it aloud, or try and audio book. It makes an interesting difference, particularly to rhythm and pacing.

As homework from this we were tasked with taking a scene we had written and writing a pastiche. In basic terms, every story has a scene, but stories vary in style, so we had to take a scene and write it in the style of the author we analysed; Charles Dickens. It was one of the hardest things I have had to write so far. Thankfully I have read Dickens (I hadn’t read any of the others the other groups looked at), but I have a very contemporary style, that is influenced heavily by modern science fiction. This led to the title of this blog as myself and the other members of my group (all science fiction and fantasy writers) shared our pieces. I suggested Rob should turn his (excellent) piece into Dickens in Space using his usual hilarious comedy stylings. So keep an eye out for that one!

I don’t feel my piece was as good as the others, but I tried none the less. What follows is a scene written for the story I mentioned earlier, re-written in the style of Charles Dickens. Be prepared to laugh, to cry and the throw your computer out of the window in disgust! Without further ado (What is ado?) I give you Endaris by Michael J. (Dickens)

Endaris in the style of Dickens

Michael J. Hollows

The royal court, home to the godly, powerful, and undying king, sat in the heart of Endaris; where the houses lined the city in rows, short, thin, and narrow, like precessions of match sticks, although the inhabitants seldom matched; great grass courtyards grew in splendid colours, like the grasping tendrils of the forest that lay to the south, but controlled and trimmed, synonymous with the populace of the city. Those in power lived in mansions, around the houses, housing the round. They longed for the decorative comfort of indoors, past shuttered doors, and jealous stares.

One such man was Rao, the councillor of councillors, and he shut the door behind him, the door that resembled a wooden face. The hallway was closed-in, like a burial chamber, and claustrophobic in its likeness; where the surfaces were covered in blood, but not the blood of men, rather, merely the suggestion that blood had, could, or would be spilt, as the flickering candle of illumination cast its red-orange hue on the stone steps that led, threateningly, up towards the audience chamber, like the steps of a throne, towering above lesser men. Rao ascended the steps, though his heavy heart passed the other way, ever towards the audience and his doom, through blood-casting candles, and through rooms filled with judging portraits, he continued, forever up.

In the court, the room overflowing with people, like a lake in midwinter, water rushing away, free to its path, his erstwhile colleagues, less erstwhile than colleagues, laughed and joked at Rao’s expense, but he would have the last laugh.

Once again, thanks for reading and I hope you enjoyed!

Taking the Scenic Route

It’s mad that this is my first blog post of 2014, but then the year has started off massively busy. My New Year’s resolution was to write every day, which so far I have managed, even if only a few words, or I have done some editing. This worked out pretty well until I realised that I had a week to paint an army for a tournament in Nottingham next weekend. Life is about challenges right?

That’s kind of what this blog is about. I haven’t done any proper writing in the last few days because I’ve been knee deep in paint. I also felt that I needed to type up the writing we did in class this week as, once again, I didn’t feel like reading it out in class. (Turns out someone wrote a similar story to me, but did it better – such is life!) It’s also, partly, what the title is about; taking the scenic route to finishing my tasks for this week.

This week we had the external examiner, Carol Clewlow (I had to research that spelling!) who is a novelist in her own right, come in and talk to us. At first it seemed as if she would just talk us through the assignment, but that was only a brief introduction. What followed from that was a very interesting workshop about editing and scenes. We discussed the importance of bridging scenes – just getting a character where they need to be without boring the reader – and crucial scenes – where the detail is included – and their differences. Carol also talked about how it was quite often a shame that a scene was used as a bridging scene when it had the potential for some much more.

I just realised I’ve been typing this in silence without music. Sometimes when you get in the flow that just happens, other times I need music to help me concentrate. If you’re a writer, what do you write to? I tend to favour soundtracks as I find I often end up following lyrics if I listen to anything else. They also help me imagine the drama. I think today’s choice is Game of Thrones season 2, though it’s now making me want to watch it.

Carol gave us a bridging scene:

We left home at 6.30. Not long after turning on to the motorway we hit an accident with a long tailback. A wrecked car was still on its roof as we passed. Despite this we managed to reach dover by late afternoon and by evening we were in France.

We discussed that this scene has so much potential for detail which could add to the story. So, Carol gave us a task, turn this scene into a crucial scene. What follows is what I wrote in that task and also a later edit where she asked us to find that one part that needed more. Rather than splitting it in to two of what is essentially the same thing, I give you the finished version (I may also have cheated and added more as I typed it up – oops!):

We left home at 6.30 in a hurry to put everything into the car. The car screeched as the wheels spun off the driveway under the heavy way and we were away. Not long after hitting the motorway we hit an accident with a long tailback. It wasn’t uncommon given the circumstances. Everyone was in a rush to get away and rushing made people careless. A wrecked car was still on its roof as we passed, glass smashed across the carriageway. The poor people were still trapped inside the crumpled mess of the vehicle. The incessant cacophony of beeping horns wasn’t helping and there was no sign of the emergency services. They had enough to do right now. they would have a job getting through this crowd in time. The victims weren’t worth worrying about. No one could help them now, it was every man for himself.

Despite the crush we still managed to travel the 60 miles from Bromley to Dover by late afternoon. It’s amazing that even in an emergency most Brits wouldn’t drive on the hard shoulder. Its against the rules! But who needed rules now? The port got pretty desperate and fights were breaking out everywhere as we snuck our small car onto the ferry. By evening we were in France, a bit of money changing hands could get you anywhere. The badge didn’t hurt, but showing that around everywhere would raise too many questions. It’s a shame the ferry wasn’t going further, but I didn’t have that much money.

The crossing went relatively calmly, once people were onboard the hysteria had died down.

Driving down the ramp into the yellow ramps lights of Calais, I breathed a sigh of relief and thought about those trapped at home. Poor old Britain. For now though, we were safe.

 

Some of the group decided to completely change the original scene we were given, but I saw this more of an editing exercise. So what you can see here is a typical example of how I might edit. I’ll take a piece I have written and see if I can embellish the sentences that are already there. Sometimes I may need to take out a superfluous word and others I may need to alter the tense slightly, but as the scene we were given was already quite tight I didn’t feel any need to.

My scene could probably be edited further, but then isn’t that true of everything?

On another note, as anyone noticed that no one really talks on Facebook anymore? All that appears on my news feed is people sharing links to videos and various surveys that tell you which character from that poor remake of  that dodgy sci-fi film you are most like. What happened to people typing and having conversations, you know, social networking? Maybe it’s just my Facebook, but I was curious if anyone else had noticed a similar trend?

On that perfectly 1000 word count note, I shall leave you.

Once again, thanks for reading and any suggestions, comments or thoughts are welcome.

 

F is for fu- Poetry?

So, this week was immeasurably better than the last. To my knowledge nothing was stolen from me and I even managed to have a few days off work. My mum and my brother came to visit, and while avoiding punching my brother in the face for being one of the most infuriatingly unbearable people I’ve ever known, I’m not in as bad a place as I was last Saturday.

Still no news on my laptop for those asking. Thanks for asking, but I’m sick of talking about it now.

Straight on to this weeks class, as you can probably tell from the (witty?) title.

This weeks class we had a guest poet come in and talk to us. You may sense a bit of impatience, as I’m not overly fond of poetry, but this week was actually really interesting. As I said last week, I am interested in studying it, if only to improve my prose. And that is where the slight impatience comes in, I’m hoping next week that we study some more prose, or even something along the lines of screenwriting or another form, just to break up what has been predominantly poetry so far.

The guest poet was the immensely interesting Clare Shaw, who also works as a mental health care worker (I believe that was the correct title, but I may be doing her a disservice!) She is incredibly approachable and for the first time I was able to join in quite pro-actively with the discussion. Despite my evident lack of poetical knowledge.

The first thing we looked at was the texture of poetry and even managed to compose a giant list of the elements that make up a poem.

After that we were asked to chose our favourite vowel and to write it large on a piece of paper. This was a hard choice, every vowel is precious to me. I use and abuse them all! But as we had been talking about the ‘sound’ of poetry I chose:

A

This is because most musical notes, sung properly, form the sound ‘ahhhhhhh’ and that was the first thing that came to mind. The other thing I like about it is its unique, singular connotations; A…

The next task, we were given a letter. We had to get to know the letter, look at it, roll it around our tongues. Then we had to write about that letter as i) a landscape, ii) a colour, iii) a weather, iv) an occupation, v) a time of day, vi) a food type, vii) a music. I edited a couple out because they were bad, but here is the rest:

F

F is a farm with lines of irrigation leading

to each other,

sectioning off

parts of land in a rectangle,

with a lower

case river

running

through it.

 

Fog is the weather that f would be

clogging up the landscape and

making it difficult to see.

Farmer f in its farm,

working hard from

the front,

the beginning.

Filling the land

with fruit.

 

F is the morning, when

the dew is on the ground

and an early sea mist is rising,

to block out the land and

slowly give way to day.

 

The music for F would be

folk,

living off the land, and

for the people.

Finally,

for all to

hear and

enjoy.

 

I found that quite difficult, and what happened in my head was basically a game of word association. The good thing about this is that it gets the writing ‘muscle’ working, which is a great thing. Hopefully my poetry will improve over time.

We were each given an object and asked to get to know it in the same way as the letter. The touch it, feel it and to taste it. You will see why, from the object I was given, that I refrained from tasting it. Here goes:

A Pound Coin

Polished smooth by the hands of time,

ridged in order to give form and purpose.

Round and round it goes,

always giving,

never taking.

Its two sides the same, but a choice.

The bridge of journey or the regal lines.

The metallic tang of manufacture.

A collection of senses,

smell like sweaty hands holding it

and considering its worth.

As it rolls along the table trying to escape,

a steady, controlled sound,

that clatters when control is lost.

The taste, forbidden,

of cold metal sticking to the tongue,

lingering, unforgiving,

like the taste of new fillings.

Shiny and used,

brought to a purity of style

and purpose.

Important,

the Queen’s head looks calm and authoritative,

but the sign of age, it tells us.

2005, the year.

No latin on the sides.

Pure lines.

I quite like that, I’m not sure why. Despite my usual distrust of poetry, it is quite satisfying when you write something readable. For me its the conscious effort to avoid the cliche, the pretentious and the overly abstract. Keep it plain, but poetic.

I talked to a couple of classmates about a poem I wrote in school, which always reminds me of Baldrick’s poem in Blackadder. so much so that it makes me cringe. But if you are lucky, I may share it with you. Once I get a copy off my mum.

once again, thanks for reading and making it this far.

Comments (and praise) are always welcome!

Defining the Despicable

Well after quite a week it is finally time for me to sit down and to put into words what has happened and to reflect. Those of you that follow me on Twitter, Facebook and down darkened roads might know that I’ve had quite the week. I should probably cut to the chase and cut the hyperbole, which is actually what the majority of this post will be about.

On Wednesday, after delivering a class to around 45 student, I had my laptop stolen. It still hurts. Not only is this a horrible thing to happen, to have your possessions taken from you, but it also could (I stress the possibility, not the accusation.) have been one of the students I have just given my all to teach. That’s too close, too despicable to really describe how I felt. I forced myself to go in the day after and teach them, but the very thought made me sick and I have to say it is one of the worst lectures I have ever given.  But despite all that, there is the fact that that laptop was a core of my life, a pillar if you like. It is where I wrote everything. It was full of personal stuff, some of which I’m sure I can’t even remember, but at some point the sickening memory will arise and add to the pain of its loss. Since I started using Scrivener on 1 September, I had written at least 15,000 words, I believe, which I stupidly hadn’t backed up yet. (I wanted to organise the folder and back it up, I hate mess! More fool me) Now, that’s all gone. Unless by some miracle of police work or honesty the laptop works its way back to me.

There is plenty of other things I could talk about the situation of the theft, but I have talked enough and as I say: It still hurts.

I had planned to spend that afternoon, before my MA class, in the library writing and revising some work for that evening. Of course that was all scuppered. I refused to let it affect my uni work, so I went to the class regardless of my emotional state. Everything I wrote that night turned out very angry and I apologise in advance.

Wednesday night was about poetry. I hadn’t written poetry since I was in school, and despite my mother’s insistence to the contrary, I always thought I was pretty bad at it. Never the less, as I said in class when we were asked our opinions on poetry, I was determined to give it a go. I think that learning the pacing and style can help with prose writing. The teacher also managed to dispel the myth that poetry need be overly flowery or pretentious. It is just another style of writing, and can be as simple but as powerful as prose writing.

The first exercise was to write an overly complicated and descriptive piece, then a very basic piece. I wrote prose because I was finding it hard to concentrate and I think I missed the point. But here follows:

Part 1

The boy sat waiting, like a defendant awaiting his time in court. He calculated and planned, a thing so devious it would not be forgotten. When the man would leave, carefully placing his papers like a stack a time, and exit the room. He, the boy, with the whole of his devious experience and cunning would take from atop the desk, the computer of the man. He would never know that it was that boy and not any of the others that snuck away like a ghost in the night, no not he.

Part 2

The boy sat waiting in the classroom, planning the theft. He waited for the teacher to leave, after he stacked his papers. The he stood and quietly placed the teachers laptop in his bag and left. No one would know.

Part 3 (We were then asked to write a combination of both)

The boy sat waiting in the classroom, planning the theft. A thing so devious, so wrong it would not be forgotten. He would wait until the teacher left, stacking the pieces of paper like a timeline of the class edging back into the beginning, and exiting the room. Then he would sneak and place the computer in his bag. Like a ghost in the night. No one would know.

 

As you can see all three examples were pretty close to home that night. It was indeed the only thing I could think about. I must stress that I have no idea if this is what happened, this is just where my upset and hurt mind went.

After that we talked a lot more about poetry and looked at some good examples, which I will definitely be looking to read more of. We looked at poetry that sought to discuss large, abstract topics, but in a human way. I liked that idea. I’ve always hated overly abstract writing, sometimes you need to get to the point. But it is always about balance. The next exercise that night was to write a poem about an abstract idea, while keeping it balanced and honest. Naturally, I chose ‘Anger.’

 

Anger

 

Red is often the colour,

of anger, but

it is so much

more than that and

yet, much simpler.

Not something to

overelaborate.

Something pure, vengeful.

Something plan, an emotion

of our minds

in reaction to something

that upsets, something

wrong.

 

I must admit I have no idea about the line structure of poetry, but that to me was how it should be laid out. It gives some of the lines other meaning if read in a certain way.

After that we discussed how reported speech/dialogue can also be very powerful in poetry. It doesn’t just have to be flowery description or abstract ideas. So for a final exercise we were asked to write a piece with reported speech at either end, to bookend if you will. I wrote two pieces:

 

‘Did you see it?’ she said.

From the look that accompanied the question,

he should have.

But he didn’t know what it was.

He had his own questions.

Where should I be looking?

What are you talking about?

What kind of conversation starter is that?

‘See what?’ he said.

 

‘Today sucked,’ he looked sad

and angry. Gone, the familiar smile, the easy

demeanour. It wasn’t the same.

Today sucked.

‘Tomorrow will be worse,’ he said.

 

As always thank you for reading. I appreciate any comments you might have about my writing, but go easy on me at the moment!

Mike

 

Write, Write, Right?

So last week was a mad-busy week and this is the first real time I’ve had to sit down at the computer and sum it up. With a new intake at work, which the resultant fresher’s flu I am now harbouring attests to, being absolutely busy. It was the first time I have had to teach more than twentyfour students in one go. I believe I had fortyeight in our new lecture theatre at capacity? That was pretty nerve-wracking to start off with, but I think I’ve got the hang of it now. It’s different, much like the new campus that we have only this week started using. (At points this week, I was finishing a lecture in one building then hot-footing it up to the new building to start another.)

Another new thing this week is that I started my Master’s course in Writing. It’s something that, admittedly, I have only been looking forward to for a short time. When compared to some of the people on the course who applied for it months ago I came across by pure chance in late August, I believe it was. And I lucked out. This was the first postgraduate course that has really caught my eye and inspired me, so I was delighted when I was offered a place.

To be in postgraduate education is really fun. Perhaps studying another course might have been different, but this was incredibly laid back and informative. We started by enrolling and while we waited for our course leader to come over and get us a few of us introduced ourselves. The great thing about the course is that it seems to be a group of like-minded people. While we may not all have the same interests there seems to be something that links us all, even if that is the very art of writing. Once we had gathered (almost) everyone, the course effectively started in the Starbucks on the ground floor of the building. This was a much better icebreaker than the usual, stand up, hi, I’m Mike, I do this and that, introduction that I dread. Even as a lecturer public speaking doesn’t come easily to me. We then moved on to the room in which, I presume, we will be spending the rest of the course. The facilities at LJMU seem fantastic, and much more than we need, with boundary mics on every table and a spectacular view of the city (complete with balcony). Here Jim, the course leader, introduced what we would be doing this semester and with a host of guest speakers and writing workshops, I’m really looking forward to it.

The second half of the class was a writing workshop with Andrew McMillan, and is the main reason I’m writing this blog.

We were given one of a selection of pictures from a magazine as a writing prompt. Then in our own style, be it prose, poetry or screenwriting, we were to write for ten minutes on each of the following:

1. From the viewpoint of the main person in the photo.

2. From the viewpoint of a secondary person in the photo (perhaps someone on the sidelines looking in)

3. From the viewpoint of an inanimate object in the photo.

On the night I didn’t get time to read out one of my stories, partly due to me being too shy and nervous. I think that will improve with time when I have a chance to gauge the level and style of everyone else in the class. Those that did, held up their picture and then read aloud their story. What I wanted to do, ever being a fan of suspense, was to read my story and then hold up the picture. To see if anyone had grasped what it was i was talking about. So here we go (perhaps with slight, typed editing from the written version): Continue reading