Tag Archives: creative writing

Writerly reflections…

I think this month I’ll begin with the most recent bookish happenings and work my way back to when I last blogged. We’ll see how that goes, anyway…

Giant’s Causeway Book Club

First up, we enjoyed another Giant’s Causeway Book Club meeting last night at the Causeway Hotel. It was dark, rainy and a little bit windy – with some unexplained noises floating along the hallways – so the perfect place to discuss our October read, The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson!

Although, for me and most of the group, I’m afraid Ms Jackson just didn’t spook us quite enough, as we gave this book an overall rating of 6/10 and really would have liked a few more scares. General consensus, bar one, was that it had an interesting premise but didn’t deliver on the frightening front – and a few would have liked a clearer ending with all loose ends tied up. I personally found it very funny and a bit of light relief after reading Josh Malerman’s Bird Box before I turned to this. (PS If you do want a spooky read, then Bird Box is my recommendation).Nov book front

Anyway, our November book choice is a non-fiction title: Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race by London-based journalist, Reni Eddo-Lodge. I’ve heard this spoken about a lot on Book Tube and I know many people recommend it, so we’ll see what our book club thinks in a few weeks’ time! We have five weeks until then, however, so we’re also going to have a quick chat about Anna Burns’ Milkman, which just won the Man Booker Prize, as I know a lot of people in Northern Ireland especially are reading this right now and I don’t think we can skip over it. I’m really looking forward to reading both of these books myself. 🙂

Crumlin creative writing course

CW classSince we last spoke, I’ve enjoyed delivering four of my eight creative writing workshops in Crumlin, to a great group of scribblers.

We’ve been looking at various techniques to help improve your writing, and doing all sorts of exercises and whatnot, so it’s going well and will hopefully help them craft those words the way they want them when it comes to writing their stories and novels.

National Trust ‘Meet the Makers’ DayKids pic with MM

I also enjoyed taking part in the National Trust’s ‘Meet the Makers’ Day on October 6. The Giant’s Causeway Visitor Centre invited a variety of local crafters/makers who have their products stocked in the centre to come along and show customers what they do and have a chat with them.

I had a table full of Magical Masquerade and had a great time meeting visitors  (mostly from the US!) and signing books for them. It was lovely to see who was buying the book and to have a conversation with them, as normally, you don’t know who’s picking it up. Hopefully all recipients enjoy the story!

Phantom Phantasia book launch party

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And finally… October began with the launch of book number two, Phantom Phantasia, at the Portrush Coastal Zone and I’m delighted to say that it went swimmingly! There was a wonderful turnout, including lots of younger readers, which was lovely to see, and I think they all enjoyed searching for the little gossamer party bags the fairies had hidden around the centre for them to find…

We enjoyed refreshments in the form of elderflower cordial and other fizzy delights, as well as some homemade star-shaped shortbread and top hats and, of course, a celebratory cake, which was brought out after the bookish chat. For that, Denis McNeill kindly interviewed me and then I gave a short reading before signing lots of books. IMG_2774

It was great to meet everyone who came along, and to chat to the kids about their writing and the books they like to read. It was a bit of a whirlwind really, but a very good evening. (PS I have almost 200 photos of the launch so if you want a nosy then pop on over to my FB page, which is linked to the right of this post!)

The question is – now that it’s all over, just what will I write next..?!

In the meantime, I have a school visit pending after Hallowe’en, which I’m looking forward to, along with the remainder of my creative writing sessions. There’s also another secret bookish project in the pipeline so we’ll see how that progresses in the next few months too!

More as I have it. 🙂

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Autumnal events

Book launch

dfw-cs-pp-cover-smallAs I write this it’s just a few days until the official launch of Phantom Phantasia, so hopefully in my next blog post I’ll have some lovely pics from that to show you!

There’s been a lot more to organise for this book launch as I was keen to make it into a more social event/book party than previously, and that means sorting out refreshments and lots of other bits and bobs. It’s all the little details that you might not really notice, or that you take for granted on the night, which actually, take a bit of time to create!

Anyway, if you’re coming along, then you can expect a Q&A as I chat with Denis McNeill (formerly of Q Radio) and then I’ll do a reading from the book and the audience can ask me questions and whatnot. coastal zine

After that, it’ll be book signing and mingling  as with any party – with some little treats thrown into the mix… If you’d like to come along and celebrate launching PP into the world, then please do!

PP scrollsEntry is of course free and the more the merrier. The kids will also enjoy exploring the Coastal Zone itself, as it’s full of interesting aquatic objects and displays.

As well as my online invites to the launch, I sent out some written invitations to family members and then got creative with some messages in bottles, which I hide along the North Coast at the weekend. Girls PP

One woman posted this lovely pic (right) on Facebook after finding a bottle, so I’m very happy that it worked! 🙂 And the Coleraine Chronicle also printed an article about the launch, which is always much appreciated (see below).

Free Magical Masquerade e-book

dfw-cs-mm-cover-ebookTo celebrate the pending launch for Phantom Phantasia, book one – Magical Masquerade – is currently free to download as an e-book for Kindle, so if you want to grab a copy of that, please do! You can download it here: https://amzn.to/2DGhjmO

The offer is running until Wednesday noon (UK time), so there’s still a few days left to get your hands on this. If you read it, let me know what you think!

Love is Blind ARC

Speaking of books, I was excited to receive an ARC of William Boyd’s latest novel, Love is Blind, earlier in the month from Viking Books UK. The book was published on September 20, so you can get a copy of that now if you’re interested. I’m a big Boyd fan, after being introduced to his work by a friend a few years ago. I particularly enjoy the novels where he tracks a character’s entire life (e.g. Any Human Heart, The New Confessions, Sweet Caress) and, while this one didn’t quite do that, it did follow a sizeable chunk of Brodie, the protagonist’s life. WB book

This was a bit of a slow-burner of a book and centred on Brodie’s obsessive love for a singer called Lika Blum, taking us around the world as Brodie worked as a piano tuner, first for a company and then exclusively for an Irish pianist. I enjoy Boyd’s richness of writing, as he spends two years before writing his books just researching everything. Personally, I always learn something from his work – this time around it was mostly to do with pianos – and as a reader, you trust that what he is telling you about places is how it was at that time. I enjoyed this book and am glad to add it to my Boyd collection. 🙂

GC Book Club

hill houseOnto last month’s Giant’s Causeway Book Club then! In September we read Yoko Ogawa’s collection of short stories – Revenge – and I’m happy to say that it went down very well with the group! Only one reader didn’t like it (and didn’t finish it) – saying that it was a bit too dark for her, while one other also thought it was fairly dark and creepy… Quite a few of the rest of us, however, thought it wasn’t as dark as we’d expected, but we all agreed that it was well-written, engaging in its style of linking the stories together, and yes, was a bit weird. But then, aren’t most good short stories ‘a bit weird’? 🙂

Our overall book club rating was a healthy 7/10, which is the highest score yet! For October, we’ve decided to read a spooky book for Hallowe’en and have opted for The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson…

Creative writing workshopscreative writing

From books to the writing of! I’m looking forward to delivering a series of creative writing workshops for Antrim & Newtownabbey Borough Council, beginning October 2 at Crumlin Leisure Centre. These will run for eight weeks and will hopefully inspire those who come along and get their creative juices flowing! You can book via council – Tel: 028 9445 2733.

I’m also doing a workshop at the Irish Writers’ Centre on marketing for self-published authors on Saturday, October 13. You can sign up for that here: https://bit.ly/2Oph9UV

Craft Day at the Causeway

Meanwhile, on October 6, the Giant’s Causeway Visitor’s Centre is hosting a craft day, where members of the public can come along and meet some of the crafters and creators whose work is sold at the centre. I’ll be heading to this for a short while in the morning to sign copies of Magical Masquerade, so if you’re in the area, call in!Chronicle PP

And finally…

Once the busyness of the PP launch is over, I intend to start thinking about my next writing project – though as yet, I’m not quite sure what form this will take. MM and PP is being left as a duology, so Felicity and her friends are being set aside for now. I do have a previously half-written manuscript which was abandoned when I decided to publish MM a few years ago, so perhaps I’ll finish that. Or maybe I’ll start something completely new… We will see!

More as I have it. 🙂

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All about books

It’s been a busy old summer so far and I’ve lots to share with you all, as there have been lots of bookish goings-on which I should have been blogging about!

Giant’s Causeway Book ClubGC book club 1

First up, the Giant’s Causeway Book Club has enjoyed two meet-ups since last we spoke, with the next taking place on Thursday, August 30 at the Causeway Hotel (7.30-9pm). Our first book was Ruth Hogan’s The Keeper of Lost Things which we scored an average rating of 4.5 out of 10 (with scores ranging from 6 to 3/4). The general consensus was that it was a light summery read but maybe a bit too neatly tied up for our readers and perhaps a little too schmaltzy. We also wanted more about the lost objects and their stories!

GC book club 2]Our second book was this year’s Pulitzer Prize-winning book Less by Andrew Sean Greer, which scored a bit higher at 5/10 (we’re hard to please, lol). Generally, it seemed to divide our group – most felt frustrated by the main character Arthur Less and a bit perplexed by his actions, but we felt he sort of redeemed himself by the end of the story. I quite enjoyed this myself, as I like reading books about authors and I enjoyed his travelling escapades. The scores fluctuated from 2-9 though, so you can see how much people differed in their opinions! iam

Our August read is a book by one of my favourite authors, Maggie O’Farrell, and it is of course her memoir, I Am I Am I Am: Seventeen Brushes with Death. I’m hoping this will go down much better, but we shall see! If you’re local to the North Coast and want to come and chat about it on August 30, then do! Sign-up details are over on the Giant’s Causeway Facebook event page for the book club here.

Tishani Doshi reading

Tishani

In June I enjoyed a reading and dance performance at the Seamus Heaney Homeplace Centre in Bellaghy where poet/author/dancer Tishani Doshi read from her latest poetry collection, Girls Are Coming Out of the Woods. 

I’d heard good things about the collection on YouTube and having now read it, it certainly didn’t disappoint. These are very topical poems and very relevant to women (and men) everywhere – definitely worth a read.

Magical realism workshop

I love reading magical realism literature and some of my own short stories for adults are within this genre. With my next children’s novel, Phantom Phantasia, now complete, I’m now planning to write more short stories again and so, I decided to book myself into Jen Campbell’s online magical realism short story workshop. (You can find out more about Jen here: http://www.jen-campbell.co.uk/)

I really enjoy Jen’s BookTube channel and also, her writing, so I knew this would be a very useful workshop and so it was. I took part in a group workshop, which basically meant that she sent us all some exercises to work on, along with writing our own short story, and then we had a Skype chat afterwards, where we received line edits on our work and general writing feedback. I found this very useful and it was also nice to read the rest of the group’s work. I would definitely recommend her workshops and might do more of them myself in the future!

Irish Writers’ Centre self-publishing workshopScreenshot (6)

Speaking of workshops, I was delighted to be asked by the Irish Writers’ Centre to deliver a workshop in the autumn on marketing for self-published authors. This is an all-day event at the IWC in Dublin, with the morning session covering the A-Z of SP with Castrum Press. I will then deliver the afternoon session on marketing, so it should be an all-round informative day! If you’re interested in self-publishing, are in the process of self-publishing, or have already published books and want to keep learning, then this is for you.

The link to book is here: https://irishwriterscentre.ie/collections/all-courses/products/mindshift-the-art-of-self-publishing-day

Magical Masquerade at the Giant’s Causeway Visitor Centre

NT BOOK CLUB 4I also had some exciting news – or rather, I was able at last to share exciting news that I’d been sitting on since last December – in July as well. Which is to say, having submitted Magical Masquerade to the Giant’s Causeway Visitor Centre buyers last September, the order for the books finally came through and it is now sitting pretty on the visitor centre shelves. 🙂

This makes me very happy as MM takes place in and around the landscape of the Causeway and indeed, the Giant’s Causeway also features at the end of the book. It’s the perfect place for it to be and it’s great to have the book supported in this way by the GC team.

Visitor centre

Visitor Centre

I’m also very happy to have a few copies in the lovely independent bookshop, Books Paper Scissors, on the Stranmillis Road, Belfast too, which is great. Again, big thanks to them for also supporting MM!

Eastside Arts Festival reading

Moving on to Phantom Phantasia, the sequel to MM, I did my first public reading from this last week at the Eastside Arts Festival in Belfast, as part of the Women Aloud NI Prose, Poetry and Pastries event. I think it went down well… It was certainly nice to read from it at last! There was a great mixture of readers at this event, including poetry, short stories, novel extracts and the like, and it was lovely to hear such an array of talent from a wide range of local women writers. 🙂

Phantom Phantasia update

dfw-cs-pp-cover-large

Which brings me to my latest update on novel number two aka Phantom Phantasia. I’m pleased to say that I have now confirmed the book launch venue – which is on the north coast and is the location I was really hoping to get! More details on that soon, but it is a perfect place for the launch, in my opinion!

I also now have my cover quote and have sent the book off to have the interior professionally formatted and laid out (I tried my best again – what can I say – but you just need someone who knows what they’re doing to get these things sorted properly!). So, once that is done and I get my cover back with quote inserted, I can order my physical book proofs and then get cracking with the next stage.

I’ve provisionally set the launch for the beginning of October, so hopefully this will still be ok. Shipping books from the US eats up weeks but I think I’m still just about on track! More on that as I have it…

Heaney poetry anthologyheaney anthology

My last piece of writing news is a lovely note to end on, I think. About four years ago, shortly after Seamus Heaney’s death, a call-out was made for poets to contribute poems in memory of – and celebrating – Seamus Heaney, for an anthology to be published in his memory. As with any project like this, it took a lot of hard work by the editors – Angela Topping, Bethany Pope and Grant Tabard – to pull everything together. They sought permission from the Heaney family to go ahead with the anthology, which was granted, and although the original intended publisher was unable to take things forward in the end, Dennis Greig from Belfast-based Lapwing Publications very kindly stepped in to publish the collection.

Suffice it to say, the anthology – entitled Be Not Afraid: An Anthology – is now available to purchase, with official book launches in the pipeline – both in Northern Ireland and also in London, I believe. I’m delighted to be one of the contributors in this anthology and am awaiting with anticipation my copy in the post as we speak. If you’d like to order a copy then you can do so here: https://sites.google.com/a/lapwingpublications.com/lapwing-store/editors-angela-topping-bethany-pope-grant-tarbard

Anyway, I think that is all my news for now! I’m also working on a few other things which I will share at a later date, including some writing workshops and whatnot, so hopefully I can tell you about those in the near future.

More as I have it. 🙂

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What’s in a word?

IMG_0676Yesterday, I made what has become my annual pilgrimage from the north coast to Carnlough – a beautiful little seaside village nestled beneath the cliffs where, every Spring, the John Hewitt Society’s Spring Festival takes place.

The route I take to get there hugs the coastline; the road winding through quiet villages; stretching over sparse, windswept hilltops, and twisting and turning beneath canopies of crooked trees – all against the backdrop of a glittering blue ocean and sweeping blue sky. In short, I relish the drive almost as much as the Spring Festival, and for the past three years, I’ve been blessed with wonderful weather each time.

Stephen Sexton reads from his debut poetry pamphlet, Oils.

Stephen Sexton reads from his debut poetry pamphlet, Oils.

I’m writing a review of yesterday’s poetry readings – which came from Belfast poets Stephen Sexton and Ciaran Carson – for Culture NI, so I won’t go into that now, but I did want to pick out something that both writers mentioned when it comes to writing poetry.

Apparently, Ciaran Carson, who lectures at the Seamus Heaney Centre for Poetry at Queen’s University in Belfast, always tells his students to ‘look every word up’ when they write. A lot of the time, he said, you’ll find the word doesn’t mean exactly what you thought it did. It will help your poetry, was the implication.

I do this now and again when I’m reading. A word might keep cropping up that I read all the time and roughly know, in context, what it means, but then I’ll think – if someone asked me, I couldn’t give them a definition. So, I’ve looked up a few words in my time (!) and have usually found exactly as Ciaran said – that the word will mean something slightly different from what I thought it did, or it will have multiple more meanings which immediately make it more interesting and give me more ways in which to use it in my own writing.

Belfast poet, Ciaran Carson, chats about writing and reads some of his work.

Belfast poet, Ciaran Carson, chats about writing and reads some of his work.

Both Stephen and Ciaran (Stephen is an ex-student of Ciaran’s) have done this in their work, and both are very successful poets. I’m not saying everyone has to use this technique, I do think it’s a good idea, as words can change their meaning over time, or still have meanings that we’ve forgotten about or never really knew.

When it comes to language, we never know it all. Language is full of twists and turns, and is always metamorphosing, so there are endless possibilities, I think, when it comes to weaving those words together…

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Irish Fiction Fortnight

HOME-THWIH-2There are great authors scattered across the world but recently, a lady called Margaret Madden has been championing the Irish writer, as of course, well she should 🙂

It’s been said (probably by the Irish!), that Irish writers have a unique way with words and, whatever your opinion on that, it has to be said that our little island does produce an astonishing amount of quality authors for so small a place.

I could list some but, well, it would take a while, so I’ll let you think on that yourself…006 (2)

As it happens, I’ve been reading quite a few Irish writers recently – Dublin Express by Colin Bateman, The House Where It Happened by Martina Devlin, Shroud by John Banville, The Thing About December by Donal Ryan and now, Hello Mr Bones by Patrick McCabe. I then discovered Margaret’s ingenious #IrishFictionFortnight idea on Twitter, where she’s encouraging people to tweet about their favourite Irish authors and post pics, to help readers find new Irish authors to enjoy. She’s also giving away free books, which is doubly brilliant!IMG_0374

I have to admit though, reading all these great books usually inspires me in my own writing, but it does also sometimes make me have those moments of – ‘I’ll never be able to write as well as them’!IMG_0378

With each writing style, I also find I want to emulate the author’s approach i.e. first person narrative, full prose etc. in my next story. Diverse reading reminds you that there are many great ways to write – which may seem obvious, but I think we often fall into the same style in our writing and think it helps to change POV every so often.IMG_0386

Anyway, feel free to join in with what’s left of #Irish FictionFortnight and keep it going on past the two weeks if you like. Why not pick an Irish writer for your next read and let me know what you thought! I picked up a nice little haul of Irish and other authors yesterday after browsing the bookshelves of my local charity shops , so I’ll be doing the same 🙂

 

 

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Innate, is it?

I recently read an interview with an author/creative writing tutor where the journalist asked The Question That Must Not Be Asked – ‘Surely you can’t teach people how to write?’

The author was rightly (in my opinion) a little prickly in his answer, giving a curt, ‘of course you can’, response. Writing is just like any other craft, he said – you work at it, you improve… or you don’t and then perhaps maybe it just isn’t for you.

Yes – there are bad writers. And yes – you need to work at it to be good and to get better.

I know that for many, this is not News but, given the journalist in question bringing the matter up, it appears that maybe it is. Art is taught – people go to classes, learn it, practice it and improve. Music is the same, as is craft work, engineering, medicine, baking, designing… I could go on, but I think I’ve made my point.

IMG_1982Just because the majority of the population can pick up a pen and physically write – can log onto a computer and tap away at the keys, does not, I’m afraid, a writer make. Is this harsh? Well, maybe for some, but it is my belief that if you want to be a writer, you read a lot, you write a lot, you hone your CRAFT, you take advice, instruction – as you would with any other art form/career – and you make yourself good.

You go to classes – perhaps a creative writing course and you say to those who proclaim that writing can’t be taught, that you are learning the tools of your trade – what you create with those tools afterwards is where the creativity comes in – the actual art that is personal to you.

Writers have historically always come under a bit of flak, I think. It’s the profession which everybody thinks they can do and which most aren’t, therefore willing to put much proper time and effort into. ‘Sure anyone can write’, is a frequent proclamation. ‘I could have written better myself’, ‘I’ve a book in me somewhere – just waiting to get out…’

I think everyone should consider how lucky they are to have the potential to write and I think, perhaps, that if there’s a book in there – let it out. If you could have written it better – go ahead – try it. If you are that ‘anyone who can write ‘ – get stuck in. See what’s it like and put in some effort, but don’t pretend you won’t have to work at it or improve it along the way. We all do.

The best thing about writing is that yes – it is open to anyone at any time – so dive right in…

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Poets and painters

‘The English sonnet has the simplest and most flexible pattern of all sonnets…’

So began the third and final week of my peace poetry workshop in Derry, which saw us take on the sonnet and free verse to inspire our submissions for the project. As it turns out, most of the poems I write are in these two forms, and it was nice to look at some professional examples, including Shakespeare and Christina Rossetti.

An interesting way in which we have begun a few sessions, is doing 10 minutes of free writing before we start – i.e. this week, we wrote about a favourite place before using the writing to inspire a subsequent sonnet. It’s a good way of getting ideas onto the page before you begin, and is different to my usual method of writing on the hoof – refining and reshaping as I go.

In terms of the free verse, there was a bit if a debate over what constitutes poetry, when we were presented with Charles Bukowski’s ‘gamblers all’ piece. Most of us loved it, but there was a little contention as to whether it should be called poetry or prose – what made it poetic? True, if you put it into the style of a story, it reads more prose-like than some poems, but, my theory was just that – it is laid out poetically, and it evokes a wealth of imagery which prose would perhaps take longer to do. My favourite explanation of what poetry is, however, came from Catherine, our facilitator (and, I summarise):

‘Poetry makes you consider something you see on a daily basis (or are so used to, you don’t give it a second glance) in a more meaningful way – it makes you see it afresh, through new eyes – as if you’ve never seen it before. That’s why poetry often appears difficult or abstract.’Ewagorals

I love this description – and it’s worth being reminded of. Poetry refines our senses – it can take a simple moment or a seemingly unimportant object and elevate them to something beautiful and wonderful and fresh and new. Seamus Heaney of course, is one such example of a poet who captured ordinary moments perfectly in his writing by doing just this.

Poetry makes us think of things in a different way – presenting the world to us more creatively and more potent with energy.

I liked ‘gamblers all’, as it provides a perfect snapshot into the mundane drudgery of a 9-5 lifestyle – where we are all sucked into the inevitable rat race whether we like it or not, and have no choice but to ‘enter the arena once more’. This line in particular, is perfect poetry – it says so much in just five words about the state of so many people’s working lives…

I similarly loved the next poem we studied – Advice to a Discarded Lover by Fleur Adcock, which was deemed a little harsh by some, but was, I thought, a wonderful description of how someone felt about – well, a discarded lover. Comparing them to a dead bird – ‘eaten up by self-pity/crawling with unlovable pathos’? The imagery is just brilliant!

I won’t include any of my own offerings this week, as they are being refined ahead of being sent into the project co-ordinator, Leon Litvak, but suffice it to say – I gained a lot from the workshops and have plenty of inspiration for writing my own peace poetry…

Staying on the subject of poetry, I was delighted to discover this week that a poem I submitted to the Community Arts Partnership in Northern Ireland on the theme of ‘still’, is to be included in an upcoming anthology. The book launch is on March 23 in Belfast, so I am looking forward to that! I only hope my peace poem is as successful…

Cherry Smyth

Cherry Smyth

Meanwhile, at the end of a rather busy week, yesterday, I enjoyed a book reading by the lovely Cherry Smyth at Flowerfield Arts Centre in Portstewart. A talented poet, her debut novel, Hold Still, is my current reading material, and it was particularly interesting to learn more about the painters she refers to in the novel, in between the extracts she read. Well worth checking out…

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‘The Elements of Style’

We’ve all had the occasional struggle with words. Be we writers by choice, ambition or otherwise, everyone does write (or type) and, while some may argue that today, pretty much anything goes in terms of the written word (I allude here of course to ‘txt spk’ and other such social jargon – yes, I’m calling it jargon, as to the uninitiated, it can be slightly confusing!), in certain situations there are standards to be upheld – namely in newspapers, books and any officially published piece of work.

Those who know me from my old weekly newspaper job will agree that I am a stickler for good spelling, punctuation and grammar (so, of course, any errors here are simply as a result of my over-enthusiastic typing…). With that in mind, I thought I’d reflect on ‘The Elements of Style’ – a handy little grey book I picked up a few years ago, which contains the bread-and-butter basics of good grammatical writing.

As a journalist and now also a full-time sub-editor, I have to write accurately and I have to admit – you start to second-guess even the most basic ‘elements of style’ when you’re subbing a story, zoomed up close to you, on a screen. Is it basically correct? Is it the ‘house style’ of this newspaper (or the paper I used to work for?!)…. Doubt creeps in and I will argue that simply because you haven’t written the piece yourself, it makes the job more difficult. Things you wouldn’t think twice about typing, you now ponder in terms of spelling and so on.

Anyway, this is a blog aimed at creative writing, not journalism, but the same rules apply. Writing is writing. I have therefore decided to draw on some inspiration from great writers and thinkers, as well as ‘the little grey book’ and hope they similarly inspire my fellow writers and thinkers on writing, style and all that makes up the world of the wordsmith…

Literary inspiration from a New York sidewalk...

Literary inspiration from a New York sidewalk…

‘Style is the moment of identity between the writer and his subject’Marcel Proust

Will Strunk, co-author of aforementioned book, on brevity: “Vigorous writing is concise. A sentence should contain no unnecessary words, a paragraph no unnecessary sentences, for the same reason that a drawing should have no unnecessary lines and a machine no unnecessary parts. This requires not that the writer makes all sentences short or avoid all detail and treat subjects only in outline, but that every word tell.”

Approaches to style (ref: The Elements of Style)

  1. Place yourself in the background – ‘to achieve style, begin by affecting none.’
  2. Write in a way that comes naturally
  3. Work from a suitable design
  4. Write with nouns and verbs (not just adjectives and adverbs)
  5. Revise and rewrite
  6. Do not overwrite
  7. Do not overstate
  8. Avoid the use of qualifiers (e.g. ‘rather’, ‘very’, ‘little’, pretty’ – the, er, and I quote, ‘leeches that infest the pond of prose, sucking the blood of words….’)
  9. Do not affect a breezy manner – ‘The breezy style is often the work of an egocentric, the person who imagines that everything that comes to mind is of general interest and that uninhibited prose creates high spirits and carries the day’. (I’m sure they didn’t include blogs in that!)
  10. Use orthodox spelling
  11. Do not explain too much
  12. Do not construct awkward adverbs (e.g. ‘tangledly’)
  13. Make sure the reader knows who is speaking
  14. Avoid fancy words (e.g. ‘discombobulate’!)
  15. Do not use dialect unless your ear is good
  16. Be clear
  17. Do not inject opinion (in prose)
  18. Use figures of speech sparingly
  19. Do not take shortcuts at the cost of clarity
  20. Avoid foreign languages (‘no regard for the reader’s comfort’)
  21. Prefer the standard to the offbeat

‘Full of belief, sustained and elevated by the power of purpose, armed with the rules of grammar, you are ready for exposure.’

You may or may not agree with these tips, but there you go – some thoughts on the elements of style in writing. The key element of course, must be to write – corrections can come later…

 “The difference… between the person who says he ‘wishes to be a writer’ and the person who says he ‘wishes to write’. The former desires to be pointed out at cocktail parties, the latter is prepared for the long, solitary hours at a desk; the former desires a status; the latter a process; the former desires to be, the latter to do”Sir John Mortimer

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