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About this book

This stimulating workbook is aimed at committed writers and students of Creative Writing who want to engage with ideas about writing and develop their craft and practice. Drawing on the expertise of a range of professional and award-winning contributors, the focus is on writing as 'process', moving from practical guidance on 'form and style' through to using themes such as 'body' or 'house' as a creative springboard. Including specially designed writing exercises and illustrative extracts, this innovative guide will inspire and challenge. It is an essential resource for anyone who wishes to master the art and practice of Creative Writing and galvanise their talent to professional and publication level.

Contributions by: Linda Anderson, Theodore Deppe, George Green, Graeme Harper (aka Brooke Biaz), William Herbert, Lee Martin, Jenny Newman, Jayne Steel and a Foreword by Patricia Duncker.

Table of Contents

Introduction

Introduction

Abstract
Wordsmithery is a text book for university students who are embarking on an advanced stage in their Creative Writing studies. The book is composed to provide an invaluable resource that is practical, stimulating, non-didactic, challenging and, sometimes, refreshingly witty. An outstanding cohort of professional writers from the United Kingdom, Ireland, and North America, all of whom also teach Creative Writing in higher education, have contributed chapters. All these writers have been dedicated to providing this key text for students wishing to develop their creative work and ignite their creative energy.
Jayne Steel

Mastering Technique

Frontmatter

1. Creative Space

Abstract
This chapter is about getting into the creative space in your head, and what you might do when you’re there. It examines not how we write, but what it feels like. This may help you establish the difference between writing as an obsessive vocation and the amiable doodling that is its amateur counterpart. Any of us may already be or can become a writer. All of us are in constant danger of reverting to the doodler.
William Herbert

2. Form and Style: Grasping the Tools of Fiction

Abstract
What is the Western notion of cutlery all about? And what does it have to do with creative writing?
Graeme Harper

3. Hanging Together — Structuring the Longer Piece

Abstract
There isn’t a template for structuring a novel — at least, not unless you are writing something like the type of romantic fiction for which your publisher supplies you with a list of possible situations, occupations and characters, beyond which you are forbidden to stray (there’s nothing wrong with that, of course, as far as it goes, and you may wish to take satisfaction from such small epiphanies as you can insert within the prearranged story-grid, but there isn’t much room for changing things around when the Muse strikes). Even a novel that aims to stay within a very narrow and clearly defined genre will have its own demands, will always keep suggesting to the writer that there are alternatives that might repay investigation. So let’s not look for an exact formula or a definitive map for structuring a novel. It isn’t that easy.
George Green

4. Making Fiction from Fact, Making Fact of Your Fiction

Abstract
Very rarely, nothing happens. Real and genuine nothing, that is. A nice stretch of nothing might be quite a relief! But it’s pretty elusive. Most often what’s happening is something. Naturally, not everyone notices all of it, although the bigger things, they’re pretty obvious. The spectacular successes, the terrible disasters, the monstrous acts, the mighty achievements: they’re noticeable. But how often have you read fiction that is based only on these things? Different kinds of fiction have different relationships with what’s happening around us, with what we might call ‘fact’. That’s what this chapter is about.
Graeme Harper

5. Narrative Point of View: Who Tells the Story?

Abstract
A few years ago I gave a reading of one of my stories at a literary festival. The story was about a woman whose child was killed in a motoring accident. I used the first-person point of view: the woman’s ‘own’ voice telling her story as ‘I’. The character-narrator was very different from me in appearance, background and life history. But afterwards, two members of the audience came up to commiserate with me about the tragedy I had endured. They looked shocked when I told them that I had never had a child — it was as if I had duped them. Spanish author Javier Marías describes a more intensive experience of a similar kind in his book Dark Back of Time (2004 [2003]).1 He set his novel All Souls (2003 [1989]) in Oxford where he had earlier taught at the university for 2 years.2 He was dismayed when real people, including Oxford dons and antiquarian booksellers, mistook themselves for his fictional characters and confused him with his nameless narrator, ‘the Spanish gentleman’ (Marías (2004 [2003]: 23). Everything his narrator said was in danger of being ascribed to him personally. One of his first intimations of this happened when a woman student enquired solicitously about his baby. When he replied that he didn’t have one, some other students joined in, with the air of being victims of a fraud: ‘But you say so in your novel, the one that’s just come out’ (28).
Linda Anderson

6. The Journey A Poem Makes

Abstract
There is, of course, no single way to write a poem, but the journey is a suggestive metaphor for how a poem can unfold. Many good poems end up in quite different places than where they began: the writer discovers something she didn’t know she felt about her subject, or — as the poem moves down the page — the true subject reveals itself to the poet and the reader.
Theodore Deppe

Mastering Themes

Frontmatter

7. About A Life: Writing from the Self

Abstract
Fiction writers tell lies for a living. If a travel writer tells you that there is a magnificent cathedral located in the centre of Manila, then you can buy a ticket to the Philippines sure in the knowledge that it will be there when you arrive. If a fiction writer tells you the same thing then it might be true, but I’d suggest you check carefully in an encyclopaedia before booking your flight. Of course, a lot of fiction writers do go to great lengths to check their facts. The point is that there is no obligation upon a fiction writer to ‘get it right’ factually. There are now guided tours available in Paris that will take you to all the places mentioned in Dan Brown’s Da Vinci Code.1 Those locations physically exist; he has been to them, he has described them as accurately as he is able. That is something he has decided to do. He could equally well have made up a city, or described a part of Paris that does not exist. He chose to ground the setting of the book in concrete reality, as to some extent most novels do, but that was his choice, not what he had to do. To put it more accurately, fiction writers have the option of telling lies for a living.
George Green

8. People Under Pressure: Making Your Characters Choose

Abstract
Fiction explores what it means for characters to make choices — or fail to make them; not only in classic and literary novels, but in love stories, thrillers, spy stories, detective novels and thousands of plays and films. A choice may be romantic, moral, sexual, comic or tragic. It can stand alone or lead to a bigger, more complex choice. It may be stark or subtle, hasty or deliberate, a last resort or willingly embraced at the height of the chooser’s powers. It might be an individual moment of destiny, or shared by two people or a group. A choice can be shrewd or misguided, selfish or altruistic, right or wrong. Unlike a decision, which can seem straightforward and obvious, a choice involves at least one real alternative, and is likelier to have a moral dimension.
Jenny Newman

9. Writing Food

Abstract
From John Keats’s gustatory experiments with wine and pepper to Franz Kafka’s obsession with starving, for centuries creative writers have shown a fascination with food. And this fascination is imaginatively inscribed in their work in a concrete and significant manner. Recipe books achieve this twofold function all the time: they list the concrete, culinary details of a recipe (‘3 cloves of garlic’) then make these details significant (the resultant meal). Let’s look at how creative writers deploy food in a similarly twofold way.
Jayne Steel

10. Children in Fiction

Abstract
‘Never work with animals or children,’ the comedian W. C. Fields once said, though word has it he secretly admired kids.1 Maybe he was only trying to help, then, the day he slipped a dose of gin into Baby LeRoy’s milk bottle when the two-and-a-half-year-old got fussy while filming the 1934 comedy, It’s a Gift.2 A gift indeed. Baby LeRoy passed out and couldn’t be roused.
Lee Martin

11. Writing Home: How to Use Houses in Fiction

Abstract
In everyday life, home-dwellers can misunderstand or wrongly mistrust those with no fixed address; perhaps because the homeless cannot easily be ‘placed’. Likewise in novels and short stories, if you fail to give your characters ‘a local habitation’, you may leave your readers suspicious or confused.1 Cold Comfort Farm, Bleak House, Jalna, Manderley, The House on Mango Street: these are more than mere backdrops. The home you create in your fiction can be, like them, both character and stage, fuelling conflict, thwarting desire or triggering crisis points, while building a sense of your characters’ private lives.
Jenny Newman

12. Bodily States

Abstract
Have you ever wept over the fate of a fictional character or cheered at their triumphs? Have you become so involved with their predicaments that you have sat on the edge of your seat while they were in trouble? Maybe you have even wished you could go on a date with one of them? These are such common reading pleasures that we forget how astonishing it is that writers can conjure up characters who seem like living, breathing people, real enough to make us care about them.
Linda Anderson

13. Writing the Landscape

Abstract
American rocker, John Mellencamp, calls Bloomington, Indiana, home. For those of you unfamiliar with the geography of the United States, Bloomington is what we’d call ‘a hop, skip, and a jump’ from where I grew up just over the state line in the agricultural land of southern Illinois.
Lee Martin
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