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Last night I had a bumper writing session. I had dinner at a place near work and then went to Starbucks for about three hours. I wrote nearly 2,000 words on the ghost story I started earlier in the month. After a coffee and a tea, I didn’t sleep too well, but I’m very proud of the work I got done and its quantity.

At lunchtime today I got another 400 words done, bringing the total up to 2,600 or so.

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Kristen Lamb posted a link on her latest blog post to what she described as the ‘formula to great writing’. It’s from another blog about writing, this one called Adventures in Children’s Publishing.

It advises making charts of the goals, motivation, conflict and tension relating to your characters. It explains that good characters have conflicting goals – internal and external ones, for example. Characters should also have conflicting goals – this leads to the greatest level of tension, which is what keeps people reading.

Read the full article here.

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Writing Diary

Last week I didn’t get much writing done. Well – I didn’t get any work done, really. My girlfriend’s brother came over to visit and we spent a very pleasant week sightseeing and travelling with him.

Yesterday, however, I finished the first draft of my story ‘Waking Up’; it’s around 9,000 words in total. I also submitted a critique to Critters. I have to choose another story and critique it before the end of Wednesday next week to keep my critiquing ratio at 100%. Then my own story, ‘The Green Marble’, will be up for review. I hope to have a good few critiques back by the following Wednesday.

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Today I didn’t do as much writing as I would have liked at lunchtime – a measly 127 words (as opposed to over 500 words on Monday and Tuesday). But I have been setting up various accounts with my name on them – Gmail, Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, this blog. Actually, this blog was set up a while ago, but now I might just get into the habit of using it.

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I resigned from my job the week before last. My last day is scheduled to be Monday the 25th of October.

About time, too. I haven’t been happy there for some time. One of the things that attracted me to coming to Korea in the first place back in 2006 was the hours. Before Korea, I’d worked in offices doing administration work, and even with flexible working hours – getting out of bed and to the office on time was a hell of a struggle. Plus, sitting in front of a desk all day when you haven’t had enough sleep is one of the most exhausting things I’ve ever done.

A normal hagwon job sees you working something like 2pm to 9pm and on your feet talking to your students much of the time – it requires more energy, but is somehow less tiring.

My current job is not a normal hagwon job. While I’ve made a good fist of getting up at 7:30 to 8 every morning, I can’t go on with it any more. Especially since my non-teaching workload has dropped off to practically zero the past couple of weeks. Even when I did have other work to do – mostly proofreading – it proved utterly infuriating. While the women who work on the Contents team writing the workbooks my company sells speak good English, their written English leaves a lot to be desired.

Their work is full of basic mistakes like using ‘the’ in front of proper nouns, or missing articles where they’re required (for example ‘The Sean bought cup of tea.’) – errors that one would expect of an elementary school student. Even more enraging is when they pick out a vocabulary word and give it the wrong definition (such as where the vocabulary word is ‘bright’, the example sentence is ‘John was a very bright boy’ and the definition is ‘having a strong light or colour’). And then there are those instances when I just don’t understand what they’re trying to say.

The one thing I like about my job is the teaching. I have very small classes – I also have a lot of control over the curriculum. Although we’re supposed to do a certain number of books per term, effectively, if I want to spend two months on one book because that way I know the students will be reading it all and getting the most out of it (and I’ll be able to read the whole thing, too), I pretty much can.

My colleague Andrew, the Korean guy whose role is to manage the Learning Center as well as teach, has also not been enjoying his job, so, while I don’t think there’s any real problem between us, we end up not communicating much with each other.

I’d be happy to continue working part-time just teaching, but our bosses don’t want that. Partly, I believe, because of Korean business culture of screwing every last bit of usefulness out of every single employee; partly because the management don’t really believe in the Learning Center and would happily close it. Which is probably what’s going to happen when I leave.

My plan is to find a few private classes to keep my finances in the black and, once my E-2 visa expires to leave the country briefly and come back on a tourist visa. If my employer doesn’t say anything to Immigration, then I’ll need to do this a couple of time before Habiba and I are ready to say goodbye to Korea – according to our current plans, anyway. This is not strictly by the book, but not an uncommon practice.

I’ve been trying to up my writing game over recent months and there is a work-shaped ceiling beyond which I can’t reach at the moment. Although I still find writing extremely hard work, I’ve been thinking more and more about what I want to write about, about what I want to achieve. Recently, I’ve written more than I’ve ever done before; I’ve rewritten more than I’ve ever done before. Although, naturally, I am inclined to give myself as easy a life as possible, what I’m proposing is not that I exchange my current job for a life of loafing, but that I exchange it for another job – writing. Once I leave Korea for good, I may not have another opportunity to dedicate myself whole-heartedly to my vocation – until I actually start to get paid for it.

I only wonder why I didn’t resign before now – or why I even took this job in the first place. Money, I suppose.

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Ade Edmondson was interviewed by Lee Mack on Radio 4’s Chain Reaction on Friday (the format of the show is that one comedian interviews another and one week’s interviewee becomes the following week’s interviewer). He talked about his retirement from comedy towards the end:

You’ll think, I’m stuck. Do I have to constantly be this funny man? It’s a very big pressure to put on yourself. I equate it to, you know, I really like caviar. If you’re forced to eat caviar every day for 28 years, you’ll probably want something else – and that’s the same with comedy, I think, in the end. You really work at it and it takes up every ounce of your being and you have to think about it, you have to really concentrate all that time and constantly be trying to turn everything you ever hear into a gag. In the end, what are you doing? It’s weird. I just kind of lost the bug for that.

Lee Mack replied:

I know what you mean. A comedian once said to me, the problem with comedy is you can’t watch a sunset without trying to think of a joke about it. And I remember thinking for about the two minutes after that, I bet I could think of a joke about the sunset.

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I asked Stephen R Donaldson this question:

You’ve answered a couple of questions lately about the cover art of the upcoming US edition of Against All Things Ending, but I was wondering what your thoughts on the UK edition were. It seems to me it’s not as mysterious as the previous two – it’s too clean – almost happy. But I do like the continuation of the elemental theme – forest, mountain, sea. And I much prefer the less representative, more oblique approach of the UK covers.

What do you think?

He answered:

In general, I prefer the UK approach rather than the US one. And in general, I don’t think that the UK “Against All Things Ending” is up to the standard of the previous two books. But have you seen the “revised” UK cover? I’m told that the unrevised version (before both my agent and I screamed) is still floating around on the web somewhere. It makes the book look like a box of laundry detergent. By *that* standard, the revised cover is a huge improvement.

I’d only seen one UK edition cover – the blue one:

I think the laundry detergent cover he referred to was this:

For comparison, the US edition looks like this:

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