Judging Your Own Work

4 September 2014 — 3 Comments

Judging Your Own Work - Brian McDonald

By award-winning writer and director Brian McDonald
Excerpted from Invisible Ink: A Practical Guide to Building Stories that Resonate

 

A writer is someone for whom writing is more difficult than it is for other people.
– Thomas Mann

Don’t write for other writers. People are drawn to writing for different reasons and many people do it to seem smart. If you have a good first act, most will never recognize it, because they’re not really clear on what a first act does. They know nothing of construction, but will turn their noses up at the idea of it anyway. The less they know about it the more they will object to it.

The one thing I have noticed about people who are exceptional in their creative work is that they are always trying to get better. That’s how they got good in the first place. These people judge themselves against the best work. They aim for the top.

Just worry about the craft and the art will take care of itself.

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I.

Eleanor Catton, winner in 2013 for The Luminaries
“Read everything. You can learn from everything that has a narrative—books, of course, but also films, TV shows, computer games, advertisements, conversations, speeches, articles, the news. Read things you don’t like, and try to figure out why you don’t like them. Ask ‘why?’ and ‘how?’ as much as possible, and don’t be content with an easy answer.”

 II.

Hilary Mantel, winner in 2012 for Bring Up the Bodies and in 2009 for Wolf Hall.
“Concentrate your narrative energy on the point of change. This is especially important for historical fiction. When your character is new to a place, or things alter around them, that’s the point to step back and fill in the details of their Continue Reading…

The Morland Scholarship for African Writers

Applications are now open the Morland Scholarship for Writers for 2015. Three scholarships of £18,000 (US $30,000) each will be awarded to writers who were born in Africa or whose parents were born in Africa. The 2014 scholarship attracted over 350 applications.

About the Scholarship
This scholarship is sponsored by the Miles Morland Foundation. The foundation’s focus is culture and education with a particular interest in writing. Other projects supported by the foundation include the Caine Prize for African Writing

The three successful applicants will each receive a grant of £18,000, paid monthly over the course of the 2015 calendar year. Each of the scholarship recipients will also have the opportunity to be mentored by an established author or publisher.

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Research Tools Every Writer Needs

In this guest post historical fiction author Kelly Gardiner shares some of the wonderful free resources that writers can use to make the most out of their research time.

‘Do research. Feed your talent. Research not only wins the war on cliché, it’s the key to victory over fear and its cousin, depression.’ – Robert McKee, Story

All writers need research. Whether you’re writing a memoir based largely on your own life, a story set in a neighbourhood you know well, a fantasy in a created universe, or a feature article, research can add depth, verisimilitude, and those telling details that further plot or character.

I write historical fiction, which involves more research than some other forms – luckily, I love the process of imagining, seeking, finding, interrogating and then integrating (or not) material that helps me populate an imagined past and draw its people.

So here are a few things I’ve learned that can help you, no matter what form your writing takes.

Find, don’t search

It seems so easy to look stuff up, doesn’t it? A quick Google search, and there’s a world of information at your fingertips. But is it what you really want, and is it any good?

Some tips on searching well: first, start with a broad query then refine it. You can add extra words to it if they are useful refinements, but don’t just keep adding terms. Think about what material you want to find. Who would write that? Try to imagine the words they would use to describe it. A good example is health information. If you want to see results from a whole lot of health forums on which people discuss their symptoms, use common words. If you want to read informed medical advice, search using terms a doctor or medico might use.

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“Criticism – however valid or intellectually engaging – tends to get in the way of a writer who has anything personal to say. A tightrope walker may require practice, but if he starts a theory of equilibrium he will lose grace (and probably fall off).”
– J.R.R. Tolkien

This infographic created by EssayMama.com draws heavily from a 2012 blog post by Roger Colby that we’d highly recommend to anyone wanting further inspiration. Colby himself refers to The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien which was published in 1981 and edited by Humphrey Carpenter assisted by Christopher Tolkien.

J.R.R. Tolkien's 10 Tips for Writers

Tolkien was close friends with C.S. Lewis, with both men working in the English Department at Oxford University. A movie about their friendship is due for release in 2015. Read the advice Lewis shared with aspiring young American writer here.

 


Short Story Masterclasses - Eight Successful Writers Discuss the Short Story Form

Short Story Masterclass is a specially commissioned podcast series produced by Thresholds, an online international short story forum based at the University of Chichester, in partnership with the Small Wonder Short Story Festival. Each episode features an award-winning author discussing their approach to short stories. The series is hosted by Steve Wasserman, creator of the Read Me Something You Love podcast, and K.J. Orr who was shortlisted for the BBC National Short Story Award in 2011. 

Episode 1: Sarah Hall and the sexiness of the short story form
Listen here
After writing four highly acclaimed novels, Sarah Hall published her first collection of short stories,The Beautiful Indifference, in 2011. The collection won the 2012 Edge Hill Short Story Prize and was shortlisted for the Frank O’Connor Prize. Hall is a tutor for the Faber Academy, The Guardian and the Arvon Foundation.

Episode 2: Joseph O’Connor and super-charging your language
Listen here
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The Twin Peaks Project Invites Contributions

“Making the pilot episode, we knew we were doing something different, must-see TV, but I don’t think anyone involved thought it was going to continue past a one-off. David Lynch comes to television? The inmates are going to take over the asylum! The plan was to make a movie of the week and then go home. But then it was screened – and everybody was stunned at how good it was.”
– Kyle MacLachlan who played FBI agent Dale Cooper

Broadcast in the United States between April 1990 and June 1991, Twin Peaks was a television phenomenon. The series created by David Lynch and Mark Foster received 18 Emmy nominations and gained a cult following around the word. Twin Peaks is seen by many as a creative turning point in US television drama and a foundation for the ‘golden age of television‘.

A new project seeks to explore the ways in which the program influenced and inspired a generation of writers. According to the official website ‘The Twin Peaks Project invites these authors to write about their experience with the show, its influence, and its impact. The result—everything from critique to memoir, personal essay to poetry—will be published on participating online journals and blogs.’

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