Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Exegesis Takes Over My Life

I had never heard of an Exegesis until I started my masters degree. The Exegesis is the academic portion of a creative degree, the analytical portion of the thesis. I have been buried beneath the research and writing so much that I haven't had a second to write anything for my blog. I am going to to a longer post about what the Exegesis actually is as soon as I have time to breathe. I haven't forgotten my blog. I'll be back soon with more regularity.

Monday, January 20, 2014


After spending a semester working on my writing project for my Master of Arts Writing degree, I feel like a new writer. I was also able to take an intensive class taught by an Australian author and professor of writing. She really helped us fine tune our works. The editing skills I learned in that class alone will be invaluable to me forever.

Let's talk about editing. I started reading a book the other day ( I won't say which one or by whom) and I have not been able to finish because the editing is so poorly done. Another lesson we learned in class is this: if you as a writer are not a good editor, your work will suffer. A lot of publishers are spending less money these days on editing. This fact is a sad reality, because you get wonderful concepts without the follow-through of the writing. Writing is more than just jotting down some story you've imagined. That's a part of it, but writing is very much about editing. So, you get the story down in that first draft. Great. Now what? Editing, that's what. The next draft should be a much better version of that first draft. The story premise probably won't change. If it does, maybe it was necessary. Things like plot holes, timing errors, and inconsistencies will show up when you read through for the next draft. There are necessary layers of editing as well. I feel the book I started reading and couldn't finish would have been greatly served by a severe line edit. The structure of the story seemed fine. I felt as though the editing ended there.

So, what can be done to remedy the editing failures happening out there? As writers, I feel it is our responsibility to educate ourselves about good editing practices. Shouldn't we be putting our best work out there? You probably wouldn't send a child out without a jacket on a cold day. Why would you send your writing out without a good edit?  We need to prepare the work before it goes out into the world.

See a helpful post by Rachelle Gardner on the subject of editing here.

Happy writing and happy editing!

Photo via Favim

Monday, September 16, 2013

You Said It: Advice I'm Following

I have reached the point of turning in my first draft of my writing project for feedback from my supervisor. This draft consists of the story I've written thus far along with a dot-point outline for continuing as well as any issues I plan to address while writing the next draft. I have not allowed anyone besides my supervisor to actually read my story so far because I fear having too many opinions at the start. I know what I want my character to do and say, so I don't want anyone other than my professional supervisor to give me advice at this point. I think Stephen King said something along the lines of "Write with the door closed. Edit with the door open."

I have been following a few other key pieces of advice while writing and establishing my own style and writing habits. Here are just a few:

  • Do not use adverbs to modify when someone is speaking. This advice comes from Elmore Leonard's 10 rules of writing. He says never use anything other than "said" to carry dialogue. I have found this to be an effective piece of advice. It leaves the dialogue free to sound like it should. Saying things like "Sally mused quietly" just doesn't work because it seems to force the reader to see that this is the way Sally said something. Well, when I read something, I want to imagine how the speaker says something. Don't tell me what to imagine. Simplicity can be golden. I also sometimes leave out the "saids" completely when I can. The flow is much nicer when reading, and the words do not distract from the dialogue. You can read the full 10 rules of writing by Elmore Leonard here.
  • Keep a regular writing routine. I know this advice is said over and over, but it is no joke. If I miss a day of writing, it can be difficult for me to trudge back into it regularly. Even if you just jot a few words down in a notebook; on a napkin; or on the back of your hand, write something every day. 
  • Try hand writing your story. This advice might not work for everyone, but I find writing by hand to be freeing. If I make a mistake, I scribble and move on. If I am typing on the computer and make a mistake, I will backspace until I get the word just right. That action is distracting and takes up valuable time. Hand writing creates a natural first draft situation that can be tweaked as it is typed. Here is an article by a writer who says writing by hand actually helps her write faster to meet deadlines.
  • Only show your draft to a select few trusted readers. I have read in several advice columns that authors sometimes make the mistake of showing their unfinished and unedited work to too many people. Readers are different. Every person is going to visualize your main character in a different way. That is the point isn't it? Imagination carries you through the narrative. Well, what if you have conflicting imaginations giving you advice? It can blur the idea you have for your story. There should be more than one reader for your story, but perhaps limiting the number of readers can actually be beneficial at first. 

I am just growing into my writing style and chosen genre, so hopefully I can continue this growth as my project progresses by continuing to follow the advice of my supervisor and other successful writers.


Copyright (c) Emily D. Wood
Photo via Favim

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Writing Community and Advice

Since I have been working on my Master of Arts in Writing, I have been introduced to a world that I only hoped existed. Well, this world does exist. I have been given a chance to get involved in a writing community in Townsville, Queensland (Australia). I am loving the idea of hanging out with people who just get it. I have received a lot of excellent advice, attended workshops, attended public readings and met published authors. I have been able to become a member of the local writing center here The Townsville Writers and Publishers Centre. This organization puts together various writing workshops, performances, etc. and offer services to local writers. Here is the best advice I've gotten: join your local writers groups. Get involved in writing communities. 

I have received a lot of awesome advice since beginning my Post-graduate degree. I have been meeting each week with a group of writers at a coffee shop to do writing sessions. We do 25 minute sessions of no talking just writing with 5 to 10 minute breaks between. I find that sometimes the 25 minutes go by quickly and the time is focused so I often get more done in those 25 minutes of writing than I would in an hour. This video from Lyra Communications via YouTube is a short concise version of some of the best writing advice.

The most important piece of advice I've been given over and over again is this: READ LIKE A WRITER. I had a professor begin a lecture on the first day of class with "I hope everyone here is a reader. I will have to ask you if you are not a reader, what are you doing here?" This professor went on to say that she would not have been so harsh with her undergrad students, but at the graduate level, we need to know better. I agree. Reading is so important to writing. As a writer, I'm studying what others have done well and what they haven't done so well and why. I am then able to focus on what I can do that will be good but will set me apart in a different way. How can I manage a certain theme the way so-and-so author did while making it unique? This is what reading like a writer is all about.

Happy reading and happy writing!

(C) Emily D. Wood
Photo via Favim

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Creative Non-Fiction: New Journalism

journalism, old, retro, type, typing

I started my creative non-fiction class. We have one week to learn what some learn in 12 weeks. We started learning the basics of the craft of journalism...then we unlearned them in order to learn how to write New Journalism (creative non-fiction). I cannot tell you how behind I feel. I have not read any of the works we have been looking into as examples. Hunter S. Thompson, Jack Kerouac, Tom Wolfe, William Burroughs...the beat authors who are now known as New Journalists. My task now is to construct a scene in the style of a New Journalist. Here are the elements that make up the craft:

1. Go into the story sideways. Do not use a traditional lead.
2. Use language picked up or made up that is different. (Jargon of a group, not a mainstream group, a deviant group).
3. Keep going back to the distinctive moment or theme.
4. Explain how something works.
5. Put yourself into the piece. (We, I, the observer)
6. Use dialogue as it is spoken. Do not clean it up.
7. Present a pageant of people. Use minor characters to tell parts of the story and give them names.
8. Talk to the reader directly: You see...
9. Show the reader something: the scene
10. Say what people think or thought.
11. Change the point of view: use different POVs (she saw...he saw).
12. Play with punctuation.
13. Tell what can be known and what cannot.
14. Experiment by reading the latest fiction/non-fiction writers and incorporate their approaches.

I got all of this in class today. Now, my task will be to come up with a scene that builds into conflict and resolution so that I can present it to the class tomorrow afternoon. Many of the New Journalists write in a stream-of-consciousness style. Others tend to jump back and forth between characters and scenes within scenes. The main aspect that is important with these authors is this: the things they wrote actually happened. They incorporate facts into their works while still writing the piece as though it were any other novel or story. The techniques are phenomenal.

What do you think about this type of journalism?

(C) Emily D. Wood
Photo via Favim

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Studying Writing in Australia

Well, here I am finally settled into my MA Writing program in Australia. I can finally get back to my blog!

I have not gotten my feet wet with my writing classes just yet. I am currently taking a couple of elective classes: Progress and Anxiety in Victorian Literature and Haunted Screen. I am truly enjoying my Vic. Lit. class because the reading list is amazing. I feel it is important to study the way an author from the past wrote and manipulated his or her characters. Not only am I looking at the works as a reader but also as a writer. The Haunted Screen class is an interesting change for me because we are studying horror films. As a writer, this allows me to take a look at something a little different than just the regular novel, short story, or poem. We get to look into the mind of the director, the social commentary within the screenplay, and the way cinematography is used to manipulate the audience.

I have found that even the smallest element such as sound within a film can change the entire mood and pace of the story. I feel that novels can work in much the same way. You do not have the actual sounds and scenes to hear and view, but if you write the descriptions clearly, the reader will have full access to the entire scene. I am really looking forward to what the rest of the study period and the rest of my classes will bring.

Happy reading and writing!

Copyright (c) Emily D. Wood
Photo via Favim

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

New Adventures

I have been absent from my blog for a good while now. I hope to get back on top of things. I am really excited because I have been accepted to James Cook University in Australia. I will be getting an MA in Writing. I can hardly believe that I am actually going to get my Masters in a writing program. My significant other and I will both be able to study at the same school, so we will get to enjoy the adventure together.

I have spent the past two and a half years at Troy University's Dothan Campus and have become quite comfortable there. It is now time for me to break out of my comfort zone and really start chasing my dreams.

I am anxious to meet new professors and learn more in depth information about writing in general. I am hopeful that I will be able to share more information and better information on writing with every new thing I will learn.

I cannot wait to get new perspective and get to live in a whole new place.

Here's to chasing dreams and making them happen!

Photo Logo via James Cook University
Copyright (c) Emily D. Wood