Monday, 4 December 2017

Switching to Fiction

For the first two-thirds of this year I've been focussed on poetry, working with a mentor, writing new poems constantly, editing, submitting them. In October I started an online fiction class through Strathclyde University in Glasgow, Scotland and now my focus is entirely fiction. I've had 2 or 3 poems that I've been finishing up, but since then my brain has run dry of inspiration for new pieces. 

I'm rewriting and editing my second novel Imprint in Gold. I finished the first draft back in 2010 but it's festered in silence until last year when I took the novel class again. I've attended the course several times over the past 10 years or so, twice on campus in Glasgow with the original instructor and 2 or 3 times online with other tutors. 

It's a brilliant course which I'd highly recommend, there are 3 levels from complete beginners to those who have a novel in mind or on the go. All examine practical techniques and tips for writing, but also offer feedback on your writing from the tutor and your peers. While the course provides tons of material about writing which is invaluable to improving your writing, it's the feedback and deadlines I need most. There are 3 assignments from 2000-3000 words each term and these get me working again. Then the feedback helps me edit and refocus my writing. 

There are a few online writing courses from the Open University to Gotham Writers in New York, but this is the only one I've done myself. A little research will help you find one that fits your needs.

But now that I have the writing group here in Finland, I probably won't sign up for the course again in the near future. The writing group gives me the same kick from the weekly deadline and feedback. I'm also able to give them the whole novel, a bit at a time, rather than just 3 random chunks. I've been using the course this term to work on one specific problem I'm having and the writing group to just start from the beginning with editing and rewriting.

Fiction is not my strong skill, it is hard work in a way that poetry isn't. For some reason I can't write short stories. It comes out either as novels or poetry. I love diving into the world of my characters in novels, getting to shape it all and to flesh them out. I tend to write through what I've learned is called the discovery method, no plan for what the novel will be, no plot before-hand, just let the characters show me their story. This is a fun way to write, but it's not good for the second draft, editing stages because I've had to go back and stitch things in to the story, develop bits that have become important as the story goes along. It's exhausting, thinking of how the two plot lines are working out and getting it all to flow. 

As a result I haven't written many new poems for a few months, after churning them out the first part of the year. I'm still submitting constantly and trying to finish a few stragglers that just won't come together. I know that focus will come back to me, but at the moment I'm enjoying my novel. It feels like I'm using a different part of my creative brain, much more in-depth and rigourous. 

So I'm under a blanket and a cardigan, editing and rewriting spring in the Iowa as Finland heads into the darkest part of the year. Hope you've found a way to keep warm. 


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