Regardless of your abilities, experience or expertise, the writing process fills most people with apprehension. Writers often ask themselves questions such as how am I going to plan my writing project? In addition, will I be able to form a coherent narrative? Finally, what strategies will I use to proofread my work? Writers need to look at writing not as some sort of destination but as a process. Only by doing, including constant refinement and adaption can writers improve their style. Writing is an individualist act and each writer will use a different approach to writing. In some cases, writers may not be sure of the distinct phases that make up the writing process and it is without doubt helpful for writers to be aware of these stages when indulged in the act of writing.
Stage 1: Structure
Another name for this stage is planning in which the writer will effectively plan what they are going to write. Like all the writing stages, this is an intensive process, which challenges the reader to utilise a wide variety of skills including research, writing, brainstorming ideas and topic formation. Writers who do not pay adequate attention to this stage will have difficultly later in the writing process, as their project will lack direction.
Stage 2: Drafting
Depending on the writer, the drafting stage can be quiet difficult. For many a blank screen fills them with dread as they struggle to get something written down. When this happens, free writing is a useful entry point into your writing. Free writing involves writing something. Anything that comes into your head write it down be it your shopping list for tomorrow, a schedule of the bills that you have to pay. This may seem a pointless exercise and individuals may ask what does this have to do with my History essay? However, the more you write regardless of the topic, the more ideas it will stimulate. The key point to this stage is that drafting is a fluid stage that you will be modifying at a later stage. There is no fixed number of drafts that a writers need to go through in order to produce a credible piece of work. All that writing critics can say on this is that it takes as many drafts as the writer believes necessary albeit within the time constraints of the writing project.
Stage 3: Revising
Having produced a series of drafts it is time to bring all your ideas into one piece of writing. In some case, paragraphs and ideas that you thought were applicable will no longer be necessary. In some case, this stage will highlight deficiencies in the writer’s draft, which will require further development. Linking paragraphs is a crucial part of writing and this is an area, which writers need to look at in the revising stage of the writing process. “Do my paragraphs make sense?” If so, “Are they in the correct order or do I need to switch them around?” Questions like these are important to consider, as they will stimulate the writer into deeper refection concerning their writing.
Stage 4: Proofreading
As will all stages in the writing process this is a crucial phase. However, in many cases writers in the proofreading stage can overlook this exercise. Having completed an ardours writing task, some writer may fall into the trap of complacency in the proofreading stage. However, without due attention in terms of proofreading an excellent piece of writing can suffer. Writer need to address Spelling errors, grammatical mistakes, punctuation, presentation, and capitalisations in this stage. If not an A, paper can quickly turn into a mediocre B at best. A major problem with the proofreading stage is that the writer is overly accustomed to the work. Writers cannot see errors which other can because of their closeness to the project. Therefore, a productive method of proofreading is to give your work to friend, peer, or family member to read through. Because if their detachment to the writing they are more likely to pick out error in the work. Finally, reading aloud is a productive proofreading exercise because verbalising the work will help the writer to recognise any errors in terms of sentence coherence and meaning.
Remember writing is a process so keep writing and best of luck. Most of all enjoy!
~By Pádraig Ó Loingsigh
We’ve received the largest amount of submissions EVER and they are still coming in! If you want to make history with us then send us your creative non-fiction!
Submit your writing to us before the NEW deadline of November 12th. Check out our submissions page for all the details: https://theoghamstoneul.wordpress.com/submit/
Go on — write about real life!
The child psychologist, Bruno Bettelheim, maintained that children’s fairy tales speak directly to the human subconscious, helping children to make sense of a chaotic world. This is because fairy tales and folklore have essentially been distilled in the telling, from one generation to the next. The verbal aspect of telling stories to children being of huge importance as each story is tweaked according to the immediate reaction of the child.
However, fiction is important to adults too. The universal importance of fiction to human beings can’t be denied.
We are immersed in stories in our daily lives. There are the anecdotes we share with each other every day, our favourite novels, TV shows and songs, not to mention daily news feeds through social media and increasingly the creation of fictional worlds in gaming. It’s something marketers have noticed some time ago – selling their products with a story is hugely effective. Even when we sleep, our brains are creating dream stories.
However, it is not simply a matter of entertainment or escapism. Modern studies in evolutionary psychology show that humans depend on the construction of narrative to exist. We narrate to create order in a chaotic world. Our ability to ‘spin a yarn’ is not some accidental by-product of evolution. It is essential to our survival. In the race for the ‘survival of the fittest’, the tale-telling humans won. It’s more than the educational aspect of sharing vital information; our ability to imagine that something might be painful or a bad ‘idea’ protects us from danger. Imagining what the future will be like keeps us moving forward. What would we be doing right now, if we couldn’t conjure up a fictional tomorrow?
In this digital age, the rise of clubs such as The Moth Club proves that there’s still an appetite for the old fashioned art of verbal storytelling. The gathering together of a group to share stories is much more than a social event. It is well known that the sharing of stories (and even the writing of stories that no one may ever read) is therapeutic. The cathartic effect of group storytelling is already well known. Many Arts therapists use a method called ‘the six-part story’, to facilitate a sort of indirect and nonintrusive communication of experience. Narrative therapy helps people to write – and if necessary redefine – their own life story and to defend their personal story rights. The story we believe about ourselves has a huge impact on our mental health.
The global organisation, Narrative4, believes that sharing stories has the potential to be life changing. I plan to learn more about it Wednesday, November 5th here in UL. In the meantime, I’m off to read my little girl another story.
The truth is a strange thing in fiction. We students of the MA in Creative Writing are becoming familiar with the idea that fiction needs to be more believable than reality – that grey, unfathomable world.
I imagine most writers see the fictional world as superior to the real one. We are closer to our characters than to the people we touch and see. Fiction’s truth comes from empathy; whereas reality’s truth comes from fact and we would much rather empathise than be knowledgeable.
And, of course, every act of writing is an act of fictionalizing – that passing through language into the world of subjectivity. And this is the main reason truth eludes not only fiction writers but everyone who speaks or even sees; all of us subjecting the world to interpretation: passing it through the medium of language and the soul.
But that does not mean we don’t owe a duty to the truth, or at least to the capital ‘t’ ‘Truth’ when we are writing fiction.
It is (actually) easy to dismiss reality when you hear about the man who woke up at his own funeral or when the woman next door has a baby without ever knowing she was pregnant or when you run into your first cousin walking down the street in Kolkatta. The joke: “you couldn’t write this stuff!” becomes mantra, because the reality is simply not that believable.
But the best writers haven’t lost sight of truth and are not afraid of it, no matter how ridiculous it is. They know how to tell all of it and tell it slant.
My grandmother always kept a Diary. Sometimes an entry would just be a word or two: “Mary’s debs” and other times there would be a full entry recounting a day trip to Dun Laoghaire, the first day of a new job, thoughts, feelings, hopes for the future and so on. It’s not always proper to read someone’s (secret! shh!) diary but I do remember sitting in my Grandmother’s living room once and she had her hands folded on her lap as my aunt read out an entry where her daughter moves to France. We were wide-eyed with intrigue; pleased to be included in this secret world. And my grandmother didn’t mind much, all those years later.
And the intrigue that most people have for these (secret! shh!) documents made me think about the truth and the ways in which we release our private little truths. Because I think diaries are important. I think they can help us unravel our confusion about the world. And I think people don’t keep diaries enough these days. We are consuming media at an extreme rate: we blog, we create profiles and persona and characters for ourselves. We instagram our photos and filter them and fictionalize our lives. But we are losing touch with the things that bring us close to who we are.
Writers who keep diaries know themselves. They write the truth about themselves in ugly ways. Anyone who’s ever written a diary entry will know how it feels to read back years later and cringe. But the cringe factor is invaluable when it comes to fiction. Writers who keep diaries write fiction which expresses an intangible truth; a cringey truth; a truth which makes readers say things like: “is this about you?” which, no matter how frustrating, is a huge compliment.
From Prose to Haikus and even poems that rhyme, send up to three of your favorites and we’ll do the rest.
Submit your poems to us before the deadline of November 2nd. Check out our submissions page for all the details: https://theoghamstoneul.wordpress.com/submit/
Go on…dazzle us!
IMPAC AWARD-WINNING NOVELIST
Author of Let the Great World Spin
INTRODUCING NARRATIVE 4 IRELAND
Wednesday, November 5, 2014
5pm – 6pm
Millstream Common Room, University of Limerick
JOSEPH O’CONNOR: UL Frank McCourt Chair in Creative Writing and Honorary Member, N4
Narrative 4 (N4) is a global organisation that fosters empathy by breaking down barriers and shattering stereotypes through the exchange of stories. Headed by the world’s most influential artists, educators, students and community advocates, N4 is committed to developing the next generation of empathetic leaders and citizens.
Originally founded by over 100 writers from around the world, including Michael Ondaatje, Gabriel Byrne, Ian McEwan, Sting, Chimamanda Adichie, Michael Cunningham and Edna O’Brien. The organisation is based on the simple idea that by knowing the story of another, we are able to better understand each other. When listening to stories, we suspend argument, engage our emotions, and, walking in the shoes of another, experience compassion.
N4 currently promotes stories as an agent of change and a framework for understanding by:
- Creating a working arts leadership network by regularly convening a diverse group of authors and other advisors who are leaders in their field to exchange ideas
- Offering N4 designed and supported accreditation workshops in order to effectively roll out the Narrative 4 model internationally
- Presenting story-based art experiences direct to the public(during literary festivals, author events, writing workshops, songwriter performances, and more)
- Partnering with N4 advisors, community leaders and humanistic organizations from around the world to create a “boomerang” effect, presenting their work to audiences everywhere, while extending the work of N4 to their communities
Please join us for a reception and public interview with Colum McCann at the Millstream Common Room, University of Limerick, Wednesday November 5th, 5 pm – 6 pm. [rsvp to firstname.lastname@example.org by Monday 3rd November]
Professor Joseph O’Connor – the Chair of Creative Writing in UL – has very generously donated three signed copies of his bestselling new book ‘The Thrill of It All’ to the Ogham Stone Literary and Arts Journal.
These would make the ideal Christmas gift for anybody who has a love of Irish literature or even their own fond rock and roll memories!
All you have to do to be in with a chance to win a signed copy is fulfil one of the following tasks:
- Follow us on Facebook and share any of our posts on the competition
- Follow us on Twitter and retweet any of our tweets about the competition
We’ll announce the winners when we close our call for submission in a couple of weeks.
Good luck and don’t forget to get your poetry, prose or fiction submissions to us asap!
See below for just a tiny taster of the critical praise heaped on ‘The Thrill of it All’!
“O’Connor writes with such passion, such precision, such beautiful sentences, with such an ear for language and with such knowledge and hilarity that this book could only come from an extremely gifted Rock’n’Roll obsessive. A BRILLIANT AND VITAL DOCUMENT.”
“A valentine to that endangered species, the rock and roll band, and a homage to the magic produced by humans playing music in a room.”
“Completely amazing. So funny you have to put it down to laugh. Then very moving.”
JOHN BOYNE, AUTHOR OF THE BOY IN THE STRIPED PYJAMAS.
“Evocative and vibrant, poignant and witty”
“A brilliantly conceived and touching novel.”
“This book is a must.”
Made famous by Ernest Hemingway’s short-short story ‘For sale: Baby shoes, never worn’, flash fiction is increasingly popular, with thousands of national and international competitions each year. The concept is about maximising the impact while minimising the word count, and it can make for some powerful fiction.
Can you tell a great story in just 250 words? Do you have a short and sharp piece of fiction in your portfolio?
If so, submit your piece to us before the deadline of November 2nd. Check out our submissions page for all the details: https://theoghamstoneul.wordpress.com/submit/
Go on…flash your fiction in our direction!
I’m writing this during a power outage. It’s just me, the dark and the last gasps of a dying laptop. It’s actually perfect, because I have nothing else to do except write, albeit for just thirty-three remaining minutes of battery life. I’ve been sitting at the kitchen table for an hour now with just the flickering flame and sickly sweet scent of an aromatic candle burning next to me.
I haven’t been able to fuss over having my writing desk set up just right, as I can’t use it. There are no distractions as my phone is dead and the wi-fi is down. I can’t do any housework, I can’t cook, I can’t make tea and I can’t even listen to music. There is no noise, not even the vague electronic hum we normally don’t even notice. The only sound is my tapping and the ticking of the clock on the wall.
So far, in just an hour and a half, I’ve written two thousand words. That’s the same amount I normally write in a full day. A good day, at that.
It reminds me that successful writers are the ones who manage to somehow put themselves in this same place every single day. They have the ability to ignore their telephones, their televisions, their social media apps or indeed any of the myriad digital distractions available. They just sit down and write, as if there was nothing else in the world they’d prefer to do.
It makes me think how much easier it must have been to produce a body of work years ago, before our lives became so busy with such….noise.
It’s easy to imagine Charlotte Bronte sitting down to write one day and emerging some six weeks later with a solid first draft of Jane Eyre. She had little to do all day except watch over her recuperating father, and lose herself in a world of romance on the moors of Northern England.
Not so long ago, I attended a talk given by the novelist Belinda McKeon, author of the excellent and highly acclaimed novel ‘Solace’. Endearingly modest, she spoke emphatically about having to find the time, space and motivation to write in the modern world.
She knew that droplets of time had to be somehow wrung out of every day. However, she was also very honest about the challenges of retreating from the endless barrage of modern distractions – Twitter, emails, texts, Facebook, etc. – to be able to write.
She also said that if she hadn’t completed a Masters in Creative Writing, she may never have finished her book. It was a wonderfully refreshing lecture, a frank admission that this successful author faces just the same motivational challenges as the rest of us. She also gave us some real, tangible advice; download an app called Freedom. It blocks your internet for a set amount of time, giving you little to do but actually get words down on paper.
Whenever I go abroad, I love that I can get some work done – real work, physical words and pages that pour from me as I have no internet, little TV and only as much telephone as the intermittent signal will allow.
That, and tonight’s power cut is a lesson. I need to install that app, sit down with my laptop at the kitchen table and just get on with it.
~ Rachael Kealy