Itchy Bitesized 24: Five Thoughts About Thinking in Acts
This Itch Of Writing
by Emma Darwin
10M ago
I was wary of books about story-structure for a long time, because they all seemed to be written by script-writers, not novelists - and novelists are not in the business of writing a skeleton to help a group of actors flesh out their characters-in-action well enough to keep the audience sitting down in the dark for a couple of hours. We are in the business of story-telling. I only understood why thinking in acts is so useful to a writer when I encountered John Yorke's Into the Woods, and was encouraged by the fact that Yorke started in TV: a TV series, like a novel, is a multi-sitting experien ..read more
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Six Thoughts About Choosing Your Book's Title
This Itch Of Writing
by Emma Darwin
1y ago
A plea by novelist Lisa Medved on Twitter, asking for tips for choosing titles, has got me thinking about what makes a good title, and how you go about finding one. So far I've had very positive responses to the titles of my books (though one kind reader emailed because they were worried that I'd made a big mistake in titling a book with what it isn't). So forgive me if some of the examples are of my own work, because they do offer clues to what's going on. 1) Your title is part of your pitch (join me online at Blue Pencil next Thursday, the 30th, for more on pitches), and if you have a cracke ..read more
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Itchy Bitesized 22: Five Steps For Working With Feedback
This Itch Of Writing
by Emma Darwin
1y ago
Whether it's your sibling reading your first-ever story, or a professional review in a national newspaper, feedback is a fact of life for every writer. It's also an essential part of our training and professional development: there's no point in trying to communicate if you don't have a sense of the who/what/why of the receiver. Which is why almost all writers have beta readers of some form: fellow-authors, spouses, ex-coursemates, professional editors. But that doesn't mean it's always easy to make the best use of feedback: to taked on board and work with everything that will help, and absor ..read more
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New Events To Kick-Start Your Writing in the New Year
This Itch Of Writing
by Emma Darwin
1y ago
If you're hoping to work on your writing in the New Year - whether it's a specific project or a more general feeling that you need more tools, skills and inspiration - then let me help you kick-start your creative development. I've been busy planning new events, from an online evening about Showing and Telling with Blue Pencil, to a whole January learning to Make Your Novel Shine, with RNA Learning. They're all up on my website, and there are more in the pipeline, but here's a taster: it would be lovely to see you online, or in person! And if you're interested in one-to-one mentoring or tutori ..read more
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Itchy Bitesized 21: Three Thoughts About "Breaking the Fourth Wall"
This Itch Of Writing
by Emma Darwin
1y ago
Blog-reader and blogger Mark Harbinger emailed me to say one comment he gets from alpha-readers "is them dinging me for 'breaking the fourth wall'," when he goes for "meta-narration in first person": i.e. a internal narrator, telling a story which includes themselves, who sometimes talked directly to the reader. Paraphrasing his example, you might deliberately choose to open a story like this: I always say that "Make hay while the sun shines" is only a useful maxim if the sun above you ever does shine. And in my dungeon, it doesn't, and it wasn't shining on that Thursday. The idea of the "four ..read more
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Itchy Bitesized 20: Make it to the NaNoWriMo Finish Line
This Itch Of Writing
by Emma Darwin
1y ago
Today is 1st November, and all round the globe writers of every kind and every degree of experience and talent are embarking on National Novel Writing Month. The general idea - as explained on the NaNoWriMo website - is to spend November writing a novel of 50,000 words. (OK, for most genres that's a bit short, but the whole idea of NaNo is not to get stuck in the nitpicks). The website has articles and blogs full of advice, and forums offering support, fellowship and more advice from fellow-NaNoers. There are places to log your wordcount if that's your thing, and if it is and you make it over ..read more
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Itchy Bitesized 19: How Not To Commit Writerly Adultery
This Itch Of Writing
by Emma Darwin
1y ago
One of the most common difficulties that writers bring to our mentoring meetings is that they find it hard to see a project through to completion, so here are some quick diagnostic pointers which should help you to keep going when you're tempted by the Other Novel - or give you confidence that you really shouldn't. Of course, the fact that today's writing work on One is boring, effortful and not obviously rewarding is very possibly just business as usual, as it can be in marriage. Most people know that, so it seems to me that there are different kinds of person who are nonetheless drawn to inf ..read more
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Itchy Bitesized 18: Three Things About Chapters Breaks
This Itch Of Writing
by Emma Darwin
1y ago
I know writers who work in chapters right from their first thinking; I know writers who write their way forwards and just intuit when it's time for a break; I know writers who write (in order, or out of sequence) several drafts before they decide where the breaks go at all; I even know one writer who finds the decisions so impossible they get their editor makes them. This new blog in the Itchy Bitesized series is about how to make best use of chapter-breaks. 1) A CHAPTER-BREAK NEED NOT BE THE END OF A SCENE (unless you want it to be) There are many ways of getting from one scene to the next, a ..read more
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Itchy Bitesized 17: Writing Course or Festival Finished? What Now?
This Itch Of Writing
by Emma Darwin
1y ago
I hope all you lovely Itchy reader-writers have had a good summer (or for my Antipodean readers, winter). I'm just getting my balance again after a mad two months of teaching and talking about writing: first, two different residential courses for Oxford on life-writing, memoir and creative non-fiction, and then two conferences: the Historical Novel Society's in Durham, and Jericho Writers' Festival of Writing in York. And of course there's the four cohorts a year of writers from the course Self-Editing Your Novel.   Every author I know has their story of a turning-point moment: the f ..read more
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Itchy Bitesized 16: Three Things About Saggy Middles
This Itch Of Writing
by Emma Darwin
1y ago
If you've been told your novel or creative non-fiction has a saggy middle - or you've a nasty suspicion yourself about it - you are absolutely not alone. It's a perennial problem. Writing a novel may simply be a matter of "beginning, muddle and end", but as you discover every time you download an unabridged audiobook , novels are very long, and so the middle muddle is also very long. "Saggy middle" is one of the diseases listed in my Fiction Editor's Pharmacopoeia, but I've decided it's high time I unpacked it in a bit more detail. 1) Saggy middles may have different causes The stakes aren't r ..read more
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