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It's probably a little pointless posting about what happened during last term of my MA when the new term will start in a couple of weeks but I'm going to do it anyway and blame my tardiness on the baggage problems at Heathrow's Terminal 5, as it appears to be the cause of all the world's other current woes.

So, last term. Well, it was another very busy one. Let's start with the stats:

Total number of assignments for the course: 5.

Total number of books read for the course: 18

Total number of words written during the course: 6,940

Total number of words written on the WIP additional to the course: 1,908

You'll see that there wasn't a huge amount of additional writing going on last term. This was mainly due to work and domestic intrusions (and one day, I will write a non-fiction account of the problems I've had in the last couple of months because you would not believe the craptastic things I've had to deal with), which meant that when I did have spare time, it was devoted to the MA homework and not my own stuff. This sucks and hopefully will not be the case going forward.

There was no set reading for the Literary Criticism class last term. This is because the books were chosen each week from the reading list that each student was putting together for the 3,000 word essay that we each had to do. There was a wide array of topics (including unique selling points in debut fiction, children's historical novels, unreliable narrators and alternate histories of World War II), which tied back in with each of the novels that we're writing for the course. My essay was on YA fiction that explores social issues and the reading list included Pig-heart Boy by Malorie Blackman, Uglies by Scott Westerfeld, Junk by Melvin Burgess and Henry Tumour by Anthony McGowan. The essay itself was a bit of a nightmare to produce. Partly because I wasn't really sure what I was going to write about until mid-way through the term and partly because Real Life cut into my writing time in a big way, which made the essay a last minute affair. Still, I think I did okay on it so I'll see what mark I get for it next term.

The Experiments in Writing class focused on structure and plotting of novels in particular and the exercises included 'showing and not telling' and writing scenes with a number of characters in it. I again used planned scenes from my WIP and got a lot of benefit from it particularly one scene involving a Chinese herbal medicine shop, where I've come out with a much clearer idea of how to handle it, and also how to handle foreign languages in my WIP (I've got a number of non-English characters who speak, amongst other languages, Mandarin Chinese and Russian). I also discovered a fairly fundamental problem with the name of one of my Chinese characters, which is rectifiable and good to know but still bloody annoying.

We had one guest speaker last term - Val McDermid who spoke about The Grave Tattoo - and a guest tutor - Bernadine Evaristo who did a session on how to bring the senses into our writing. Both sessions were excellent, although I particularly enjoyed the Val McDermid session as I'm a big fan of her Tony Jordan series of murder mysteries.

There are no set classes for next term. Instead the students organise their own fortnightly workshops as we start work on our novels. The first draft 10,000 words has to be produced by 22nd May and the second draft 10,000 words has to be submitted on 25th June. I also have three tutorials - one of which is with the guest tutor, L. who has kindly volunteered to read what I produce. I should probably spring for some Optrex to help her with the eye bleeding ... Actually, it's not that bad - my first chapter has a zombie and a brutal murder and is therefore perfect for teenagers.


I was supposed to be doing a Writing for Young Adults course at the Arvon centre in Moniack Moor, Scotland but it unfortunately got cancelled due to lack of numbers. Unfortunately, they don't really have any other courses on this year that immediately grab me, although I am considering doing one of their writing weeks where you basically share a house in the middle of nowhere with a group of strangers and you all just concentrate on what you're writing. This is because I've slowly began to realise that I don't write particularly well at home because I'm too easily distracted (and you know that's true when you look at your pile of ironing and think you should do that before working on a scene that's been giving you problems).

Obviously, I can't just avoid my house for the next few months until the book is finished, so I'm going to try instigating a new evening and weekend regime to help me through in the meantime. For example, I discovered that if I set aside Saturday for my home chores and Sunday for my writing, then I get a great deal more done. I've also discovered that I can get a couple of hours done in the evening if I'm home by 7pm from work (although with the nature of my job, this isn't always possible). Additionally (and most unfortunately), it turns out that I'm not one of those people who can write whilst music plays in the background. I've given it a good go - from classical music, to iPod playlists, to jazz stations - but it's all too much of a distraction. I'm telling myself that it's perfectly okay to hate those people who find they write better whilst music is playing on the basis that they're clearly evil.

Finally, I went to EasterCon at Heathrow over ... Easter. Ahem. It's only the second convention that I've ever been to (the first being FantasyCon last September) and it was really enjoyable. I met up with carolanne5 for a drink, met a couple of other v. nice people and learnt that most of the really interesting stuff happens at the bar. Saying that, the panels were good fun and I saw Neil Gaiman for the first time and have put The Graveyard Book on my Amazon wishlist on the basis of the extract that he read out. Next year the convention is being held in Bradford and I'm giving serious consideration to going (money permitting).


( 5 comments — Leave a comment )
Apr. 6th, 2008 08:11 pm (UTC)
I'm pretty definitely going to Eastercon next year, probably with Sarah too. Although now she's laminated the photo of Neil Gaiman hugging her, to wave under my nose, there is a small chance I may have to kill her before then.
Apr. 7th, 2008 05:54 pm (UTC)
there is a small chance I may have to kill her before then

I think that killing her is pretty much a must. I'm sorry, but there it is. Neil hugged her. She must die. By flaunting the evidence, she is merely bringing a long and painful death on herself.

Apr. 7th, 2008 11:55 am (UTC)
Crikey, how many LJs do you have?
Also, which one do you log in as for reading flists? -- do you want this one adding to my filters?
Apr. 7th, 2008 05:50 pm (UTC)
Erm ... I think I've got about 5 LJs in total, but this is my only RL one. I use my sekrit identity one to read my flist, so don't need to be added to your filters here (but thanks for the offer!)
Apr. 7th, 2008 06:14 pm (UTC)
Good thing I didn't mention it here then if it's sekrit.
( 5 comments — Leave a comment )


Caroline Hooton

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