Sometimes on the way to your dream,

you get lost and find a better one.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Creative Writing Class part 4

The final class. 

Poetry and experimental writing styles.

There was quite a bit of discussion about Lewis Carroll and how great the poem is and the movie too.
I added my two cents worth by saying this is the sort of poetry that is completely incomprehensible to me and I would never willingly read it. 
We didn't have the whole poem, I believe it is quite long, we had four verses and for me that was four too many.

We learned that this is called nonsense verse, (they got that right), where the author has fun with language, experimenting with the sound, the rhythm and flow of language. The love of language is the thing. It isn't supposed to make sense, or have meaning.
I don't get it.
There was one other poem, equally nonsensical to me, but to more literary persons is probably fun to read.
I did learn that these poems have no meaning, they are just pure nonsense, so if I don't understand them, that's normal. 
Which didn't make me feel any better. 

There were a few more short pieces, not stories by any stretch of the imagination, but experimental pieces written to explore the content, sound, symbolism, of abstract writing.
I have to confess I tuned out. Listened with half an ear.

A large part of the lesson focused on 2 major problems for new writers.

1. time management

2. quality control

A quote written up on the whiteboard was "Nulla Dies Sina Linea" which translates to "Never a Day Without a Line" by Pliny The Younger.
If a line a day is all you write, that is better than writing nothing.

The other quote for the day was "Just Do It"- Nike. We also learned that Nike is the name of the Roman Goddess for Victory. 

* if you want to get published, writing is your job*

 Time Management

Go to work! Set up a routine. Don't have time? Make time.
You make time for other things, make time for this. Schedule your writing time and keep to your schedule. Don't aim too high at the beginning, schedule 15 minutes a day to start with and gradually build that up to perhaps an hour a day. You may find that once you start writing or typing you will go one way past your allotted 15 minutes. this is good. Write until the words run out.
But don't forget to eat and sleep.

We learned that having too much time on your hands is as bad as too little, this is when procrastination sets in. Because you have "all the time in the world" you may tell yourself you'll "do it later"
Hmmm, I'm rather good at that.

Creativity needs to be disciplined and a schedule that you can stick to is the best way.
Work out, through trial and error, the time when you do your best writing, or the time when it is most convenient for you to sit and write. Schedule everything else around that if you can, or fit that time into your regular routine.
As always, if ideas come to you, write them down straight away, on any old scrap of paper or the notebook you conveniently now travel everywhere with. Don't kid yourself you'll remember them later. 
It may be easier for you to aim for a daily or weekly deadline of so many words. Scribble out a chapter or paragraph wherever, whenever you can.
*Whatever works for you!*

Quality Control.
Your first draft is just that. A draft. It isn't supposed to be perfect, it is just getting the words down on the page.
The perfection comes later, after editing 2, 3, 5, 7, a dozen times.
Sitting staring at a blinking cursor on an empty page will not get your novel written.  Write something. Anything. The first things that pops into your head. Don't over think things, just get started. Write stuff down, keep it going.
The editing can start when the first draft is finished. If you edit as you go, you may never finish.
A good idea is to print out your first draft and edit it with different coloured pencils, for instance use a red pencil to edit anything about your character, a blue pencil to edit a setting and so on.
Also edit one thing at a time. Go right through the first draft and edit everything to do with your character, before you start editing anything to do with your plot, or your timeline, or your setting etc. Once you've done this a few times, perhaps you're writing your ninth novel, you can probably edit several parts at once, but for beginners, simplify it as much as you can.

Retype the first editing of your draft which ideally should be way too long, so that you can then go through it and rework it. Cut out unnecessary detail, parts that just waffle along without adding anything to the story, filler pieces that just don't work. Fixing the story is far more important than fixing your grammar at this point. Grammar can be left to the final edit, or even to the publishers if you trust them enough.
(I personally wouldn't, I've seen too much bad grammar everywhere these days).

*You'll never make it as a writer if you stubbornly refuse to change a single thing* 
If your publisher says "meh-maybe you should cut or change such and such,"  listen to him/her.
They know what sells.
You need to be ruthless if you want to see your books on the shelves in book shops.

*Editing is the backbone of your work*
Editing may well take you twice or three times as long as writing your first draft took.
Make sure you are able to rework, revision, cut, add, alter your story if necessary.
And it usually is.
You may love Aunt Milly and her eccentric ways, but if she isn't necessary to the story and your publisher says cut 1000 words, then ditch Aunt Milly into the ideas folder. 
While doing all this editing, you still need to keep your storyline intact, your characters believable and your timelines constant. There's a lot more leeway with fantasy or science fiction writing, but you still need to be aware.

Writing is like an iceberg. The finished novel is the tip of the iceberg, probably 15-20% of your work. The drafting, the editing, the hair tearing frustration, is the 80% of the iceberg that most people never see. 

So, to summarise just a little, get started, just write the words as they spill from your mind, get it down on paper. When the piece gets to be maybe 3-4000 words long, read it through and work out the core of your story, the personality of your character(s). At this point you could begin editing to smooth things out a little. A lot will hinge on what length of story you wish to write. A short story? 2000 to 5000 words? Start with writing 6000-8000 words, which will give you room for editing, changing, improving. A longer novel will take a lot more work.

But at least now you know how to get started. Take that idea and write it down.

One last tip. When cutting parts from your story, don't ditch them. Keep them in an ideas folder, on scraps of paper in a shoebox, anywhere you like, but keep them. They may come in handy for another story one day.


  1. The more I read about writing the more it sounds like work and the less I'm interested.

  2. Jabberwocky was recited often in our home as I was growing up. It is part of my childhood - and I do love it (and can still recite lots of it from memory). I can however well understand those who don't like it.
    I am with Delores on the work front. I knew I didn't have the talent, but I also don't have the determination. And am so glad that others do.

  3. I feel like I'm doing the lessons with you, a lot of it makes a lot of sense but agree with Delores it does sound like hard work.

  4. Delores; I'm not a huge fan of work myself, but I'll keep working on my stories, mostly for myself. If I ever get one to finished stage, I might enter a short story competition, but I don't think I'll ever get to manuscript-to-publisher stage.

    Elephant's Child; I'm also glad that others have enough determination, I love to read and there needs to be books out there for me. I can't read Jabberwocky, even the few verses we were given have been taken down off the fridge.

    Merlesworld; it makes sense now why we have to wait years sometimes for the next book in a series. But there are authors who can churn out a book a year, they've found a system and plot type that works for them. The only trouble with that is if you read those books for a few years, you soon realise they're all similar with only minor differences in plots and possibly place names. If you're writing a series based on the same characters, that probably works well enough, for instance Janet Evanovich and her Stephanie Plum series.

  5. Attributing Jabberwocky to CS Lewis is a huge blunder.

    Lewis Carroll wrote Jabberwocky.

    CS Lewis, a convert to Christianity, sold millions of books. I tried to read him once but had to give up. Mind you, CS is highly regarded; he's buried in Westminster Abbey and you can't do better than that.

  6. There is much of interest in developing writing skills. I quite enjoy writing quickly, then returning to edit what is written. You can always make improvements.

  7. R.H. you're right. I checked the poem later, but forgot to edit the post. I'll go back and do that now.

    Andrew; I write things down quickly too, then spend an hour or so with editing. Even then I miss something sometimes, such as CS Lewis instead of Lewis Carroll. oops!

  8. It wasn't really such a huge blunder.
    Your reports on these classes have been good.
    Well done.

  9. Your classes sound fantastic, but as others have written, it looks like so much hard work. And I'm far too lazy and undisciplined to stick with it for any length of time. But kudos to you for giving it a go and I hope you are happy with what you learned and the direction it might take you.

    I'm rather fond of Jabberwocky, but you do wonder what Lewis Carroll was sniffing at the time :-)

  10. R.H. thanks, I've learned quite a bit.

    Marie; it is a huge amount of work, and I'm not fooling myself thinking I'd be writing a best seller, I'm too lazy myself. But I know what to watch out for now, in my short stories. I have a number of beginnings, used here as 'Wednesday's Words on a Friday' posts; I've kept them all in a file so if I choose, I can open any one of them and try to turn it into an actual story.
    Jabberwocky, meh.

  11. It is all a little beyond me as I just write what comes into my head (as though I am talking to someone) and that's the way I've always been. Not to worry as I have no intention of writing an essay, yet alone a novel. In saying that though I have really enjoyed all you have posted about your writing classes and as you have a wonderful way with words I can see you making full use of what you have learned.
    As for Lewis Carroll...I love his poems and Alice in Wonderland is one of my favourite books. Strangely enough I've never read Through the Looking Glass and for some reason don't really want to. In fact I have just bought Wonderland on eBay and intend to read it as soon as I finish reading Patricia Cornwell's novel.
    I have finally managed to find some brown paper so another book should be heading your way soon.