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A Writer’s Notebook

One of my favourite writers is  Virginia Woolf.

Woolf on Modern Poetry from “Mr. Bennett and Mrs. Brown” (1924)

Grammar is violated; syntax disintegrated; as a boy staying with an aunt for the week-end rolls in the geranium bed out of sheer desperation as the solemnities of the sabbath wear on. The more adult writers do not, of course, indulge in such wanton exhibitions of spleen. Their sincerity is desperate, and their courage tremendous; it is only that they do not know which to use, a fork or their fingers. Thus, if you read Mr. Joyce and Mr. Eliot you will be struck by the indecency of the one, and the obscurity of the others. . . . Again, with the obscurity of Mr. Eliot. I think that Mr. Eliot has written some of the loveliest single lines in modern poetry. But how intolerant he is of the old usages and politenesses of society–respect for the weak, consideration for the dull! As I sun myself upon the intense and ravishing beauty of one of his lines, and reflect that I must make a dizzy and dangerous leap to the next, and so on from line to line, like an acrobat flying precariously from bar to bar, I cry out, I confess, for the old decorums, and envy the indolence of my ancestors who, instead of spinning madly through mid-air, dreamt quietly in the shade with a book. For these reasons, then, we must reconcile ourselves to a season of failure and fragments. We must reflect that where so much strength is spent on finding a way of telling the truth, the truth itself is bound to reach us in rather an exhausted and chaotic condition.

LINKING WORDS

Linking words help you to connect ideas and sentences.

Giving Examples

For example, For instance, Namely

The most common way of giving examples is by using  for example or for instance, namely refers to something by name.

Adding Information

And, in addittion, as well as, also, too, furthermore, moreover, apart from, in addition to, besides.

Ideas are often linked by and. In a list, you put a comma between each item, but not before and.

I will write more about linking words in future posts.

Have a great writing week,

Elise x

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A Writer’s Notebook

 

Persephone Books is a bookstore in the UK. When I was in the UK I didn’t know about this wonderful bookstore and I will certainly visit it next time I’m  there. I’ve  had contact with the staff through email and  have found them always to be courteous and helpful.   Persephone Books reprints neglected fiction and non-fiction by mid-twentieth century (mostly) women writers. Each one of their collection of 110 books is intelligent, thought-provoking and beautifully written, and most are perfect presents or a good choice for reading groups.  I am always so excited when I receive my copy of the Persephone Bianually. I have recently recieved the Biannually for Autumn/Winter 2014-15 with a portrait of Nina Hamnett painted by Roger Fry (A member of the Bloomsbury Group) in 1917 on the cover. She is wearing a dress desighned by another Bloomsbury member, Vanessa Bell and made at the Omega Workshop.

Persephone Books now have twenty e-books. To quote from the Biannually: We know that our readers like the beauty of our books, and they like to feel a book in their hands; nevertheless we feel it is important to offer some of our titles electronically – partly for readers abroad who do not want to pay the cost of postage, partly because an e-book reader is so much lighter to carry than a book, partly because we would look old-fashioned if we eschewed e-books entirely.

But do we like them? Well, we do not dislike them.

On their list (110 books) no. 33. The Far Cry by Emma Smith, is a beautifully written 1949 novel about a young girl’s passage to India: a great Persephone favourite. R4 ‘Book at Bedtime’ in 2004. Preface: author.

Have a good writing week (with Christmas fast approaching time may be limited).

Elise x

 

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A Writer’s Notebook

I read an article recently in a writing magazine about getting so bogged down in the research for a book that the author didn’t think he would every get round to writing the actual novel.

The first place you search is your imagination for ideas for the story you intend to write. You might have heard of a real-life happening from the past or a story from your own family or a newspaper story that can be used as inspiration. You will know where your story is set so read fiction or non-fiction set in that part of the world. If you want to place a character in an enviroment you are not familiar with find a book set in a similar place. No detail is too small to overlook. I read a book once by an author from the nineteen-forties  who wrote about Australian aborigines and had obviously never read about our indigineous people because the scene she wrote came out of darkest Africa. It took much away from what was otherwise a page-turning novel.

The depth of research should be seamlessly intergrated throughout your story. I research the most important historical facts and leave the smaller facts until I am writing. If I want to know the type of hat a person would wear in a particular scene I  spend a half-hour on the internet or a relevant book from my library to find out. The reason is that small scenes are often added along the way and I might never need to know about the type of hat. It saves time.

I am not sure about visiting places that you are researching, some authors do, some don’t. If it is historical research often the place your are researching is changed beyond any recognition. It might now be a carpark or a new housing estate might have built and all the old buildings demolished.

I have visited America but never been to Northern California where one of the chapters from my completed novel is set. I researched on line, read diaries and books written in the era I am writing about, and asked two friends that I workshop with, one Canadian and one who spent many years in America, to give me their opinions on the chapter. I asked them if the writing transported them to the time and place the chapter is set in. I also asked if they noticed any jarring notes or incorrect facts. They did and after listening carefully to their comments I changed or added a few words here and there. Their constructive, helpful and thoughtful advice made this chapter all the better. But be careful who you share with as you have to be able to discern what comments or suggestions will help your work without changing it too much. It’s your story after all.

A short excerpt from my Northern California chapter:

Robert  turned left at a bend in the road and drove up a short trail bordered by tall oaks, a cascade of purple bougainvillea blossom spilling from their highest branches. He slowed and Vivien followed his gaze to a one-storied silver-grey cabin on a rise bordered on three sides by pine trees. ‘Well, this is it,’ he said. 

The cabin to which they came, built in the late nineteenth century of straight pine logs that once must have smelt of resin, was roofed with silvered cedar shingles; it had a wide porch and a fragrant hedge of fading lilac blossoms. It was a place where a hundred generations of feet had padded across the soft brown pine needles. Vivien imagined gold-bearing rocks beside dry trails, meadows and wild bees, and the smell of wood-smoke laced with maple branches.

I have a feeling that I captured the essence of this beautiful part of the world.

Have a great writing week, keep your fingers tapping on the keyboard, or your pen (or pencil) racing across a notebook,

Elise x

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A Writer’s Notebook

I am pressing on with the research for my new story. I want to  absorb the feeling of the period I am writing about which is the latter part of the nineteenth century. The story  is steeped in mystery, women’s rights (in this case a women with no rights at all) the goldfields of Ballarat and a small country town in South Australia. I usually don’t discuss the story I am working on but a few words here and there on this blog might lead the curious reader to discover who and what I will be writing about.

A wonderful discovery recently is  The Journals of Mary O’Brien 1828-1838 edited by Audrey Saunders Miller.

The journals (to quote from the inside cover of the book) belongs immediately on the bookshelf alongside the works of Anna Jameson, Susanna Moodie, and Mrs Simcoe as a colourful and fetching portrait of life in early Ontario.

Her journals record the immensely varied life of Upper Canada – visits to Niagara Falls and the bustling town of York, Treaty Day among Indians at Lake Simcoe, household life and friendship.

Excerpts from the journals.

May 26 (Spring 1829) – The apple trees are in blossom. The wheat is six or seven inches high and very promising, and the oats which Bill sowed are quite green. Cucumbers and onions are coming up in the open ground; asparagus in perfection, early potatoes just sprouting. My mosquito bites are still numerous – six active and eight dying away.

June 11 (Spring 1829) – Pleasantly warm again. After dinner I rode with Fanny through some of the most magnificent woods. Our business was to order some butter tubs to be made by a cooper who lives there. Fanny was startled to see a pedlar with his bag of drapery and little mahogony box in so wild a scene, but I believe no inhabited spot is beyond this class of adventure.

A few lines on an excursion to Lake Simcoe, July 1829.

Now Mr O’Brien has got into our canoe and paddled out to get a water lily which is spreading its beauty to be admired by the frogs. Now we get into the lake and make way. The Indians’ canoes cast off and I, casting my eyes on the water, see the whoe verdant carpeting of its bed – every leaf and insect distinct. Now I am attracted by the Indians on the bows who are singing in a rich soft voice a common psalm tune to Indian words.

The best part of any research is to read diaries from the time and while Mary’s journal is not connected to my own research I have enjoyed reading them for the vivid word pictures they paint.

Have a wonderful writing week, Elise x

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My Writing Journey

Finally finished my WIP (work-in-progress)! I have had time away from my blog and now look forward to writing it again each Sunday morning. I have put the finished novel aside and will re-visit it in a week or so. It’s amazing what fresh eyes pick up in the manuscript. The publisher who asked to see the finished novel has resigned from her position and kindly let me know. She is not working in publishing at the moment but I have a feeling she will return to it one day. I have an idea for a new story but not sure if I will pursue it. I have a busy three weeks coming up so time to enjoy the thinking stage of writing. I’ll let you know how it all goes. Have a good writing week, Elise x

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Clara Reeve-Gothic Literature

Clara Reeve was born in Ipswich, England, in 1729, one of the eight children of Reverend Willian Reeve, M.A., Rector of Freston and of Kreson in Suffolk, and perpetual curate of St Nicholas. After the death of her father, she lived with her mother and sisters in Colchester. It was here that she first became an author, publishing a translation of a work by Barclay under the title of The Phoenix (1772). She was the author of several novels, of which only one is remembered: The Champion of Virtue, later known as The Old English Baron (1777), written in imitation of, or rivalry with, the Castle of Otranto by Horace Walpole, 4th Earl of Orford, with which it has often been printed. The first edition under the title of The Old English Baron was dedicated to the daughter of Samuel Richardson, who is said to have helped Clara revise and correct the novel. Her novel noticeably influenced Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. She also wrote the epistolatory novel The School for Widows (1791). Her innovative history of prose fiction, The Progress of Romance (1785), can be regarded generally as a precursor to modern histories of the novel and specifically as upholding the tradition of female literary history heralded by Elizabeth Rowe (1674–1737) and Susannah Dobson, d. 1795. One of the stories in this work, ‘The History of Charoba, Queen of Egypt’, was the inspiration for Walter Savage Landor’s first major work Gebir. Clara Reeve  led a retired life, leaving very little biographical material. She died at Ipswitch,in 1807,  and was buried by her own direction in the churchyard of St. Stephens, next to her friend the Reverend Derby.   Clara Reeve, best known for her work The Old English Baron (1778), set out to take Walpole’s plot and adapt it to the demands of the time by balancing fantastic elements with 18th-century realism.

I wonder if Clara Reeve was in love with the Reverend Derby?

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My Writing Journey

Literary Tip

Linking words help you to connect ideas and sentences, so that people can follow your ideas.

The most common way to give examples is by using:  ‘for example’ or ‘for instance’

Adding information

And, In addition, As well as, Also, Too, Furthermore, Moreover, Apart from, In addition to, Besides

Setting the Scene

Last night, I dreamt I went to Manderley again. It seemed to me I stood by the iron gate leading to the drive, and for a while I could not enter, for the way was barred to me. There was a padlock and a chain upon the gate. I called in my dream to the lodge-keeper, and had no answer, and peering closer through the rusted spokes of the gate I saw that the lodge was uninhabited.

No smoke came from the chimney and the little lattice windows gaped forlorn . . .

The drive wound away in front of me, twisting and turning as it had always done, but as I advanced I was aware that a change had come upon it: it was narrow and unkempt, not the drive that we had known . . .

Chapter 1 of Rebecca, by Daphne du Maurier.

This famous opening sets the scene immediately, it is disturbing, and starts to tell the story.  The reader can only wonder and turn the page. The storyline of this novel is bound up with the geographical setting of Cornwall, I can’t imagine it set in any other place. But the setting is there to serve the story. A story filled with dull people and a boring plot cannot be redeemed by an evocative setting.

Thanks for your emails, I hope to answer all of them eventually!

Good writing, Elise

 

 

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My Writing Journey

This week was strange. My writing didn’t flow earlier in the week. I was ready to leave the computer, walk to the top of a mountain and stay there. Somehow though the tangle of a chapter set in New Guinea in World War Two suddenly came to life. I am writing slowly what is for me a difficult chapter to write:  war from a male perspective, it’s not easy.  I guess writing never is. I lose myself in books and that is what I want my reader to do with my  writing. I don’t usually share my WIP but this morning it came to me that I should.

It was still dark. She rose and went to the sash window and listened to the wind blowing behind the cracked glass. She’d not noticed the pane needed replacing when they moved in and now the landlord was away at the Front she couldn’t ask him to replace it. She opened the window carefully, the sharp night air flowed into the room. It was very still outside, and rather lovely, the full moon cast stripes of light across the pavement, power poles merged with the shadows. Across the street, a light switched on suddenly, followed by the sound of a dog barking. Mr Bacon emerged a few minutes later and rode off on his bicycle, speeding around the corner onto Royal Avenue, late for his job in the city fruit markets. Cathy turned away and returned to the comfort of her feather mattress and pillow. It was cold even for July. She shivered and pulled the woolen blanket up round her chin. Sleepily she started to think about Dave, hoped he’d be home by the New Year. She would not think of Robert, she told herself. She closed her eyes. Halfway between wakefulness and sleep she rolled over, reached out and ran her fingers along the gilt edges of the Rossetti on her bedside table—all was right with the world—at least for tonight.

My novel is set in wartime Brisbane and Sydney and one chapter is set in Northern California. I particularly enjoyed researching the American chapter because the action takes place in a silvered wooden cabin near a river surrounded by pine forest. I hope my finished novel has a touch of magic about it.

On research

I wrote recently about research. I went to Brisbane with the intention of walking the city streets to get a feel of the city as it might have been in wartime. I saw the buildings and I walked the streets but found it hard to capture the past. I realise now it was because the city had changed so much in the last seventy years. I also did some research further away from the city.   I walked with a friend to a place that embodied the past; it was all around me. This was a more rewarding experience. I found I could put myself in my protagonists place, enter the world as it was then, live the life, know thoughts and feelings. Know truth.  I picked up a few pebbles and dust  from a grave, they now sit on a small enamelled dish from Hydra on my writing desk. The siren song of another story is calling.

Have a good writing week, Elise x

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Anais Nin

► 9:14► 9:14
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E6ckT2YNSio

Anais Nin and Henry Miller in conversation.

I have read the diaries of Anais Nin. She was a woman who did not live a mundane life but always searched for the beautiful and unusual. I have been reading her diaries and other writings for over thirty years and still enjoy them immensely. I purchased several from the Arcane Bookshop  in Northbridge when I lived in Perth and worked at the Western Australian Museum. They now reside happily on my forever bookshelf with all her other diaries.

 

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My Writing Journey

This week I sorted out something in my novel that I always felt wasn’t quite right. The earlier drafts were fine but I feel this draft is much better for the changel! It now contains small elements of a fairytale which is not at all what my novel is about but adds something of enchantment: a forgotten story about WW2, a remarkable journey and the wonderful fact that the last part this story from the past was filmed at the time! I believe such serendipity is a gift! I am not going to discuss the details here as I have a rule not to discuss my WIP (work-in-progress) other than in general terms.  This research helped me edit two chapters to the last draft (which will be edited again before being sent to the publisher who has asked to see the completed manuscript). I have given myself three months from last week to have the final draft edited. Nothing like a deadline to get my fingers typing! I read somewhere that writing a novel (and I guess also a short story) is like pushing a pea up a hill with your nose . . . I agree. It’s wonderful when it all starts to come together. I write on a computer but could happily write on paper with a quill. I am researching Gothic literature and when the novel is finished I will  write Gothic short stories set in Australia. Australian Gothic has a long rich history which continues to the 21st century with writers like Elizabeth Jolley. Enjoy your writing week, Elise

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