Sunday 26 July 2015

Narrative balance: brush strokes

I've been talking and writing a a lot recently about what I call 'narrative balance'. This is a balance of the components of prose: description, action, dialogue, other forms (e.g. letter, emails, texts) and exposition. Hopefully there is very little of the latter and prose writers should be able to show their readers, rather than merely describe, the scenes they hold in their heads.
At all times the plot must move forward. Pace and tension must be maintained. Economic writing allows these parts that make up a narrative balance to be multifunctional.
There is no formula nor theory about how these parts can or should balance. It is something that the writer knows instinctively rather in the same way that experienced artists add brushstrokes to their paintings. A touch of dialogue here, a little action there and maybe even the odd bit of telling from time to time. The latter is certainly a very advanced skill; we are told to 'show not tell'.
I've been writing seriously now for 17 years and this is something I've only recently become aware of. Now I look for it in books I read  and in the work of my students. I try to assess it in my own work. I've recently defined it as a creative writing skull.

Monday 6 July 2015

Pens, notebooks and writing by hand

I have to confess to doing most of my “writing” – like this today, in fact - straight on to the computer. Yet I love writing by hand. I always have a notebook on the go and I always make notes in meetings and at most events. Making notes confirms my understanding. There’s something about the brain, hand and eye coordination. The hand connects with the page and manifests what the mind is thinking.  

Sunday 5 July 2015

Newsletter June 2015

Summer holidays are coming up and we had an Open Day at the University on what was the hottest day for twelve years. The work doesn’t seem to be reducing – if anything it’s getting even more hectic.

The busyness included our Create Festival. I was very proud of the contribution our drama students made. There were some really pleasing examples of haiku and flash fiction beautifully presented. We even had some short extracts from critical essays.   
Never mind, though. At least work included a few visits to the Manchester Children’s Book Festival. This included a panel event with Julia Churchill, Jon Mayhew and Kate Pankhurst that addressed the question: “When Are You Going to Write for Grown Ups?” If you like, sub-title: “What is the worth of creating for children?  I also helped out on the SCBWI stall at the family fun day. We helped youngsters to make their own masks. I attended the launch of Liz Kessler’s Read me Like a Book. This was introduced by Carol Ann Duffy and hosted in the beautiful Portico Library.
So, “work” is fine. I’ll get some more writing done whilst we’re away. At the end of August I’m going on a writers’ retreat with two colleagues and a friend.