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May 2012
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July 2012

June 2012

Comma-nd Performance

In my grumpiest moments, I wonder why I bothered to spend four years of work and hair-tearing to get a PhD in Creative Writing, when I now spend so much time explaining comma splices and other minutiae to students, only to find them still doing it in the next assignment. But, of course, comma splices and other conventions of punctuation are only minutiae in the way that molecules are minutiae: barely discernible, but without them the story couldn't exist. So I reassure the new, nervous writer that a text-book, testable knowledge of punctuation and grammar is not a requirement before... Read more →

Real readers won't notice?

Shortly after a bunch of aspiring writers start wrangling over the rules (which aren't rules, but tools, of course) someone will say, "But real readers won't notice, so why should I worry?" This is particularly true if some professional feedback has indicated that something technical is awry: point-of-view, say, or showing-and-telling. One way of fending off such feedback is to say that it's missing the point: who cares, if it's a good read? And it's backed up by the first handful of books you grab off your shelf. If it was good enough for Woolf/Rowling/Dickens/wotsername-who-wrote-50-shades-of-grey then it's good enough for... Read more →

How would you describe it?

Aspiring writers often seem to agonise about the thing they call Description, as if it was a whole, separate kind of writing from the rest of the narrative. They know they should have some, but they can't seem to get it right: it's "floppy" as one such writer put it, or "slows things down" as one of my students said. And most of all, there's the looming fear of clich√©, of off-the-peg words or settings, which every aspiring writer knows they should be trying to avoid, without actually knowing how to do so. I think the problem has two faces.... Read more →