‘We do not write. We re-write. Sometimes long after publication, in our fatigued heads. This is not a matter of initial sloppiness, or compensation for a lack of brilliance via hard work. Isaac Babel could write up to forty drafts of a single story. Sherwood Anderson said that some of his stories took him ten or twelve years to write. Re-writing is crystallization of a thought. Or excavation. Or – writing.’ So says Lee Kofman, author and writing mentor. – excerpt from Lee Kofman’s blog leekofman.com.au Yet today I read of a highly successful author who often writes 100 pages without either re-reading or re-writing. She is Elena Ferrante, whose novels have been described as ‘masterpieces’. Further bucking the trend, she refuses to self-promote by giving interviews, public talks, or other marketing strategies. Which just goes to show, once again, that rules, especially writing rules, were meant to be broken – if, like Ferrante, you can get away with it. In my own writing, I have completed draft after draft of my novel, Capriccio. Each new version is subtly different from the others. The aim is to have a perfect manuscript before submitting it to publishing houses. But I sometimes wonder, after all this work, are the earlier versions somehow fresher, because they’re less worked over? What are other writers’, or readers of this blog, thoughts on rewriting? Please share your writing practices here ! 📝📃📚
Geraldine Brooks’ latest novel, The Secret Chord . Geraldine Brooks is an Australian journalist and writer whose books include Nine Parts of Desire, March, Caleb’s Crossing and her latest, The Secret Chord. She spoke to Kate Evans as part of a special event for the Sydney Writers Festival at the Seymour Centre, in front of a large and enthusiastic crowd. I was one of the audience, seeing Geraldine from a long way away, so that she looked like a tiny doll, way down there on the stage, talking to ABC’s Kate Evans. What I took from her talk was her unfailing cheerfulness, her humility, and her sense of humour. She is obviously much loved, judging by the enthusiastic response from her audience that night. I was struck by her phrase ‘the swan-dive into the imagination’, describing how she works as a writer of historical fiction. As a writer of fiction based on fact myself, (faction) I understood perfectly what she meant by the need to have ‘a solid scaffolding’ when writing a novel such as ‘The Secret Chord’. Brooks began her career as a journalist in Australia and then a foreign correspondent. Her first book was the non-fiction Nine Parts of Desire, about women living in Islam. Eventually she turned to fiction, writing about the plague in Year of Wonders, about a native American scholar in Caleb’s Crossing and then about a pacifist philosopher during the American Civil War in March, for which she won the Pulitzer Prize. Her latest novel The Secret […]
I found this article called ‘How to Plan and Produce any Successful Project’ by Michael Sternfeld, in a magazine called ‘Living Now’. Here are the steps towards a successful musical production, which could equally apply to the huge task of producing a novel: 1. Carpe Diem – know when it’s the right place, right time 2. Know your core values […]
I’ve been shortlisted for the Essay Section of this award, and achieved second place as a finalist. A modest achievement, but still gratifying. A friend commented: ‘Your essay on Capriccio is a wonderful piece of literary criticism and a great explanation of your purpose in writing the book. Could the essay be a kind of prologue to your your ‘Capriccio’? Surely this essay should be published in some kind of literary criticism journal.’ In my essay, I argue that the poems in Capriccio have been largely lost to the public, and are not a true reflection of Hughes’ relationship with Assia Wevill. In fact, Hughes told Assia’s biographers that these poems ‘were perhaps not the ones I should have written’, So what’s my next step? Is there a literary journal out there who’d consider my essay? There’s a version of it on this Blog: see my Post ‘The Lost Poems of Ted Hughes’.
“To have a successful writing career you must be willing to sacrifice a great deal. The book, the deadline come first before anything else. Writing is not a job; it is a lifestyle, and it is a roller-coaster ride of highs and lows. You need self-confidence and an iron carapace.” ~ Virginia Henley Re-blogged from Mary Jaksch ‘Write to Done’ This is so true, but after a lifetime of looking after others, putting every mundane task first, before the writing, it takes a huge leap of faith, to say nothing of enormous discipline, to put the Writing first and foremost.
“The most compelling thing I’ve read online recently is Helen Garner’s piece in The Monthly, ‘The insults of age’. Garner’s writing is always emotionally intelligent and always delivered with a clear-eyed grace, but this piece – her perspective on what it means to be a 71-year-old woman – is a particular gem. The cultural assumption that the ageing are almost-dead […]
GIVING FEEDBACK The Sandwich Analogy: Say something positive before something negative, then finish on the positive or how to make it better. Give the positives first and say what works for you. Give the negatives next, and say what doesn’t work for you, and lastly, how you think it could be made better. Take on the task of critiquing with a positive and helpful intention; read carefully, trying to understand the writer’s point of view and creative goal. Consider the basic issues of narrative structure, characterisation, evocative and atmospheric language, vivid setting and believable dialogue. Be honest in your feedback; the writer needs guidance, not niceties! RECEIVING FEEDBACK Be prepared to receive negative, as well as positive, feedback. Separate the personal from the product, and see feedback as a valuable opportunity to improve your writing. While receiving verbal feedback, try not to interrupt the speaker. Be ready to respond to negative feedback, after speaker has finished. Give your reasons for your opinion. Rewrite your work in accordance with the feedback received, and see if it is better. If not, stick to your guns! A sure sign that you can write is that you keep going after knockbacks.
Our Randwick Writers’ Group has the following simple guidelines: Numbers are limited to five, so that critiqueing is detailed and resiprocal. Most of us are working on a novel or memoir, rather than short stories or poems. We hold fortnightly meetings of two and a half hours, allowing each writer time to give and receive feedbback. One of us is timekeeper, dividing time equally according to how many are present. We rotate venues from house to house as convenient – giving us a private and friendly environment. Word limits of excerpts max 3000 are submitted by the Monday before the meeting, which is held every second Wednesday morning. Submissions can be online, or on hard copy. if desired (and if time) we read aloud one or two pages. We keep feedback constructive, starting with a global review, then a more detailed look atwhat works and what doesn’t, finishing with positive suggestions on how to improve our writing. (See Post on Randwick Writers’ Feedback Guidelines)
Tomorrow our Randwick Writers Group meets for the first time in 2015. This group, which I first convened in 2013, has achieved great results. We have one member accepted for publication, another who completed a YA novel in only 6 months. All of us have seen huge improvements in our writing. The trick is to meet fortnightly, with the regular deadlines keeping us on our toes – or rather, fingertips. We rotate meetings in each others’ homes, and submit up to 3000 words for feedback a few days ahead of each meeting. Of course we allow time for delicious snacks and the latest literary gossip! Currently the group is full with five active members. For updates on RWG watch this space 📚