Friday, 17 June 2016

Back to School: Week 6

It's Friday: Yay!
I have a one year old: Up at 5 am it is then!

I'm not going to lie - the course venue I am at isn't the greatest.  The lesson plan went a bit off track today where two of us spent a good twenty minutes sorting out a sound issue with the computer.  I feel a complaint coming on (I have become quite the Victor Meldrew).  The course administrator had done a runner so with a bit of trial and error - that is pressing everything on the computer that looked remotely like a speaker - we were able to sit back and watch a movie.  Ten minutes into Far from the Madding Crowd I'd forgotten I was in an advanced writing class and was engrossed.  So I was dissapointment when the film was stopped - cue booing and popcorn throwing (just kidding, there was no popcorn!).

Here we looked at how the film makers picked up on Hardy's style of writing and character development.  It was interesting just how much we learn about the two characters in just the first ten minutes.  Having said that we are a writing class and not a film studies class so on with the writing I say!

We then compared the opening paragraphs of Thomas Hardy's Far from the Madding Crowd with Andrew's Marr's Children of the Master.  Both writers give little snippets of character description rather than huge chunks.  We are rewarded with little crumbs along the way.


  • Read sections 2, 3 and 4 of Stephen King's 'On Writing'
  • Review the Hodder and Stoughton website - if you like me decide to do this now, do so at you own risk.  Somehow I found myself on facebook and then shopping for clothes.
  • Review handouts on dialogue and psychology of character

Wednesday, 8 June 2016

The art of letter writing is not dead

I wanted to share a recommendation of my own - a tried and test one.  Ages ago I got a copy of Writing for Magazines by Diana Cambridge and was impressed by its simplicity, layout and straightforward tips.  I read it cover to cover and decided to work from the letter writing section.  I emailed my letter (my first) to Psychologies Magazine over a month ago and forgot all about it.  I'd heard nothing back but I was writing again so I was happy with the outcome.

Then I spotted this yesterday whilst casually flicking through the magazine during a quick lunch break:

Not bad for a first go.  This wasn't a paying gig but then if I wrote for the money I'd have given up a long time ago!

Back to School: Week 5

This week we reviewed section twenty of Stephen King's 'On Writing'.  Here he is saying that we should only take so much notice of what other people say.  It also gives a good quick lesson on self editing and also finding a good one!

Building Characterisation

Here we looked at Maslow's hierarchy of needs:

Group activity
Complete two lists for a character.  One with traits that the outsider sees and one that the individual feels.  I used Jim Parson's character Sheldon Cooper as a good example of this.

Outsiders view                       Individual
A show off/arrogant               Intelligent/genius
Rude                                       Struggles with empathy
Stand offish                            Doesn’t get social queues
Cold in emotion                      Anxious
Untrusting                               Trustworthy
Blunt                                       Honest
Not flexible                             Reliable


Complete Christmas short story if time.  Focus on developing your character(s) in as much detail.  Write this in narrative style.  Complete a plot outline in bullet point format.

Back to School: Week 4

This week we have the night off as our tutor is invigilating.  We also had last week off due to the school being closed for half term.  As a result I managed to complete my Christmas story which was started in this particular lesson.

I am choosing tonight to catch up on my class notes:


  • The Cambridge Guide to Literature and English
  • Hogans Heroes - well written episodes.
  • Hodder and Stoughton website
  • Nora Ephron
One of my classmates shared a good analogy: there are two types of writer: 
  1.  The architect - plans the story out.
  2. The gardener - Plants the seed and watches them grow and nurtures them

Important elements of a short story
  • Length - defining the structure
  • Number of characters
  • Start as close to the end of the story as you feel you can
  • 3D emotional characters the reader can empathise with - in particular ones that are quirky.

Class Activity

Sketch a few ideas for a Christmas themed short story.

We had ten minutes for this particular task.  I think I spent seven of those minutes freaking out about my blank page and three frantically scribbling down my brains idea transcript.  Amazingly I came up with something to write about.  In fact we each came up with something which showed our individual interests.  We will later enter these stories into this competition by the end of June.