Monday, 25 February 2013

Learn your Craft


Writers need to learn the craft of writing. No matter how good we were at writing essays at school, no matter how well we entertain our friends with stories, no matter how many of the classics we’ve read, we still need to practise and learn. Key advice from all the experts:

  • Write every day
  • Read a lot, including books that are not in your comfort zone or favourite genre
  • Keep an ideas notebook
 And more specific advice...
  • Lose the adjectives
  • Make the verbs stronger
  • Learn how to use punctuation
  • Know whose point of view you’re in and don’t head hop
  • Plot--know how, and when, to include a hook, trigger, first plot point, crisis, climax, 3 acts, rising action and downtime
  • Action--use it to move the plot forward
  • Backstory--know where, and how much, to include
  • Dialogue--limit the beats, and use ‘he said’ rather than ‘he muttered, shouted, whined, or asserted.'
  • Show don’t tell
 Plenty of good tips to be found at Daily Writing Tips

Over the past year, I’ve been sitting down every day to write, and feel more confident and organised. So, am I capable of applying it all? I'm sure I could take another run through punctuation at the very least, but how much more is there?  

How do you know when you’ve grasped enough to start sending out queries?

Monday, 18 February 2013

Crusty bread and a jug of wine

One of my favourite restaurants is hidden away in a hilltop village, with 350 inhabitants. And all along the street under the arcades flanked by a 14th century castle, and a 16th century covered market, there are mismatched and rickety tables and countless diners happy to spend a long afternoon in the dappled sunshine.

There’s no menu. On the table, they place a big pot of soup, usually a wholesome garbure, full of cabbage, meat, beans and goodness. The entrée is a platter of cold meats, salad, and hard-boiled eggs, or sliced tomato, Bayonne ham and melon in summer. A big basket of crusty bread, a jug of water, and a jug of table wine complete the first uninterrupted hour. 

The waiter eventually takes the order for our meat. It's served on a large platter, with garlic potatoes or chips or French beans or whatever vegetables are in season, and probably picked in their own garden. The region provides plenty of beef, veal, pork and, above all, duck. We don’t count calories around here, but they say that the particular combination of duck fat and red wine is the secret of the locals' longevity.

Dessert is ice cream or fruit. The fruit comes in a huge basket with a plate and a knife. Help yourself.

12€ for the 4-course set meal, including wine. Where is this paradise? In the picturesque village of Bassoues.

Sunday, 10 February 2013

Listen! A book!

I’ve avoided e-Readers until now, because I generally only read in bed. And I like the feel of a real book. But I was tempted by the idea of listening to books when out walking, or driving so I subscribed to and purchased a few Audio books.

The first snag, when I downloaded ‘Canada’ by Richard Ford, was that I don’t have the right kind of device to listen to it on, other than my laptop. So that scuppered my plans to read when out and about! 

I was laid up for three days over Christmas and decided to listen to Canada. A wonderful experience. It’s hard to say if it would have been the same book had I read it using my eyes rather than my ears, but I loved it.

So I’m now listening to Stephen King’s '11.22.63’, another hefty book, and am finding it a pleasant way to read. I read many of King's earlier books many years ago and have only recently returned to him, and I appreciate his talent all the more. Great to watch his talks on youtube too. He's a natural comedian.

However, my bedside reading has to remain in paper format for another while because I keep falling asleep when I try to listen to an Audio book in bed.

Sunday, 3 February 2013

All you need is...

... on the world wide web!

I was preparing to spend a year in Japan on the JET Programme. I tried to learn the language from a book. But I knew very little about Japan or the Japanese. I'd read 'Shogun' and that was the extent of my knowledge of the country. In pre-Celtic Tiger days there were very few foreigners living in Dublin, so I had never met or spoken to a Japanese person.

Learning is much easier when you can find what you need on the internet. To learn Spanish I've been following an audio course, but grammar and vocabulary can be dull, let's face it! So I asked for music recommendations on the web and was offered suggestions with links that lead to other links. I spent hours on youtube discovering Spanish and South American bands. Amaral's 'Como hablár' was a happy discovery.

The next phase may be to watch Spanish films, I'll purchase the DVD from the comfort of my sitting room. Then I may try to participate on a forum, and look for recommendations on where to stay this summer. Speaking to real people will be the final phase. There are many Spanish people looking for language-exchange via skype.

The danger though is getting lost on the internet. It's easy to look up one thing and find yourself clicking hither and yonder and soon you realise it's four o'clock in the morning and you still haven't checked the weather forecast. That's the real challenge these days - staying focused when there's so much information out there.