Start Writing Fiction Course – Week 3

Week 3 was about how to edit your work and how to give and receive feedback. To help us to practice editing we were given a very long paragraph and asked to shorten it down, leaving behind only the stuff that mattered.

Original:

The heavy black and blue winter sky groaned awfully with rain clouds that at any moment were really about to fall crashing heavily down upon the street where, because it was rush hour, so many people, wearing all manner of different clothes, hats, shoes, boots, some of them carrying bags, suitcases, briefcases, scampered and strolled about the place as though oblivious to what was just about to happen over their very heads. One of these people was called Hilary and concealed inside her voluminous coat she carried the loaded, snub-nosed gun, and she also seemed to be the only one looking upwards into the tempestuous thundery heavens.

Edited Version:

The dark clouds began to roll over the busy street. The only person looking upwards was Hillary as she made her way down the street; the loaded gun hidden within her coat.

We then had to write our own passage around 200 to 350 words to be submitted as an assignment for other people to review. The following passage is actually a little bit different to what I actually submitted. I have a tendency to write a huge chunk and then to keep returning over several days to make small tweaks (sometimes an idea will suddenly hit me randomly like, ‘Oh I should have used this word here instead of that one.’) I really wish there was an edit button on FutureLearn, lol.

Amy slumped lazily against the wall with her hands fumbling behind her back. She had tilted her head forward allowing her dark fringe to partially cover her face. The ruby tinge of her eyes and the shadowy crescents encircling them were hopefully hidden from view. From the doorway to the kitchen her mother was glaring at her, leaning slightly to one side; hand on hip.

“You’re an addict,” her mother left the statement hanging in mid air before turning away and sighing. For a moment Amy felt something wrench in her chest, like her very essence had been laid bare vulnerable to attack. Backed into that corner she felt like she had only two options; fight or flight. Choosing the latter she burst from the room, slamming the door as she went. The picture frames rattled against the walls.

As she fell against her bed droplets threatened to erupt from the corners of her eyes. A tightly clenched fist hit the covers in frustration causing the mattress to shudder. Why can’t they just leave me alone? Angry thoughts raced through her mind, why can’t they understand? For once in her life the social misfit was making friends and she thought her parents would be happy about it. She grabbed onto one of her many plushies for comfort; a plump red dragon. Watching out from their posters were also multiple sympathetic eyes belonging to some very eccentric and colourful video game characters.

A ‘bloop’ noise interrupted her brooding. She slowly lifted her puffy face from the pillow. Her hair was now a straggly mess blurring her vision, but through the strands she could make out that a new message was flashing on her computer screen. She crawled forward and shook her head to get a clearer view. As she read the message the dark clouds within suddenly parted as if a fresh breeze had blown by. The corners of her lips curled upwards. On the screen were the words, ‘Gaming Tournament. Top Prize: £250,000.’

I chose to write about the conflict between a gamer and their parent. I was inspired by the films ‘Free to Play’ and ‘Indie Game:The Movie’ and the book ‘You (by Austin Grossman)’ as I think they have some really interesting characters in them. On the one hand they appear to be troubled and socially awkward, but on the other they are part of a large insular community. As I am also a gamer myself I am able to use my own experiences to help me write. In fact one of the reasons I would like to attempt to write a book is to create something that is about my culture and the conflicts within. (see Discussing Video Games (The Positive and the Negative))

I’m really glad I chose to use this idea because the feedback I have received has also given me new ideas for the directions in which I would like to take my characters. One suggestion I had was that the character’s desire to flee clashes with the fighting spirit they then display in wanting to enter a gaming tournament, perhaps this could be a character trait where they gain confidence when they are able to hide behind an avatar. I was also given some feedback on some of my word usage, pacing and sentence structure. I then attempted to edit my passage:

Amy slumped lazily against the wall with her hands fumbling behind her back. She had tilted her head forward hoping to hide the signs of tiredness under her dark fringe; the ruby tinge of her eyes and the shadows that encircled them. From the doorway to the kitchen her mother was glaring at her, leaning slightly to one side; hand on hip.

“You’re an addict,” her mother left the statement hanging in mid air. For a moment Amy felt something wrench in her chest like her very essence had just been attacked. Backed into a corner she felt like she had only two options; fight or flight. “You’re overeating,” she began to retaliate but could tell her mother wouldn’t listen as she turned her head away and sighed. There was no winning this battle and so she decided to flee, slamming the door as she went. The picture frames rattled against the wall.

As she fell against her bed droplets threatened to erupt from her eyes. A tightly clenched fist hit the covers in frustration causing the mattress to shudder. Thoughts raced through her head, Why can’t they just leave me alone? why can’t they understand? For once in her life the social misfit was making friends and she thought her parents would be happy about it. She grabbed onto one of her many plushies for comfort; a purple dragon. Watching out from their posters were also multiple sympathetic eyes belonging to some very eccentric and colourful video game characters.

A ‘bloop’ noise interrupted her brooding. She slowly lifted her puffy face from the pillow. Her hair was now a straggly mess blurring her vision, but through the strands she could make out that a new message was flashing on her computer screen. She crawled forward and shook her head to get a clearer view. As she read the message the dark clouds within suddenly parted as if in response to a refreshing breeze beckoning hope. The corners of her lips curled upwards. On the screen were the words, ‘Gaming Tournament. Top Prize: £250,000.’

I also had to provide feedback for other stories I was randomly assigned. I actually found this task really difficult. I can easily criticise a game because I understand them really well, but when it comes to writing I find it difficult to understand why I either like or dislike something. Sometimes the writing was also so good that I struggled to offer them any useful criticism. The task was also really helpful to me too as it encouraged me to look more deeply into other writing styles.

One of the main points I picked up from the week was that most work isn’t perfect first time. I sometimes spend too much time worrying about my writing early on when I should really be getting as much as I can down for editing later. Many authors have to change huge chunks of their work before release. I think that learning to be freer earlier on and to not fear doing a bad job should greatly change how I work.

 

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About wallcat

I have a strong passion for computing. In particular programming for which I am able to use a variety of languages including C++, Visual C#, Blitz Basic, Actionscript 2.0, Python and Lua. I also enjoy web-design and have some knowledge of HTML/CSS, PHP/SQL and Javascript. As well as programming I have a strong background in art and enjoy drawing in my spare time. When I’m not sat at my computer I like to keep fit by going to the gym or using my exercise ball.

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