This page is for my Pembroke/King's Summer School students.

Welcome to the 2013 students!

There will be notes, resources and reminders of assignments on this page. 

Next lecture - 7:15 pm, 8th July, N7 Pembroke. Be there or else! 

Assignment, week 1: write a story of not more than 1000 words set in Edinburgh, past or present, concentrating on creating a sense of place. Take notice during your visit!

Week 2: choose a well known story, such as a fairytale, myth, fable, Bible story of folk tale. Tell it twice - once as a straight retelling (not more than 300-500 words), and once making it your own by developing a theme, changing the setting, focussing on a character, changing the point of view or some other technique. But don't change the plot. I want you to understand the plot and use it in a new way.

Week 3: write a children's story. It can be for any age group you like, from picture book to young adult. Make sure you know the age group you have targeted and that your story is appropriate in all regards - such as length, subject matter, vocabulary and so on.

Week 4: write a story of any type and for any age group using one of the following pictures as a prompt:

 Those roses are wilting. But they don't have to be wilting in your story!

Your story doesn't have to relate to or include the picture - these are prompts for an open-ended activity. If you prefer, you can go to the museum of archaeology and antropolgy (behind Pembroke) and choose an object, photograph it, and write about that. Please email me the photo in advance of your supervision. Pay particular attention to a dramatic opening to your story.

Week 5: Write a crime story. You should have got lots of useful hints and tips from Michelle Spring's lecture on Tuesday. There is no specific length limit, just make it as long as it has to be to tell the story properly. It doesn't have to feature a grisly murder - so no wimping out because you don't like nasty crimes.  

Week 6: Write a historical story. You can choose any period of history up to the 1980s - consider 'history' to be before the fall of the Berlin Wall. Make sure that your story is properly bedded in its historical context. It should not be possible for that story to have happened at any other time and place, but at the same time it must - as ever - deal with something universal and enduring, something of the human condition. Although the events could not happen to us because we live here and now, we must believe that we could face broadly the same type of challenges and respond in similar ways.

Week 7: Write something you haven't written before. Stretch yourself. If you always write in  the first person, write in the third person. If you always write in the past tense, write in the present tense. If you have never written horror or fantasy or humour, give it a try. It's your last chance.

Portfolios: Please submit your portfolio to your supervisor by midnight 23rd August. On average, it should comprise 2-3 pieces of writing that you consider to be your best completed during the course. Use your common sense. If you have written lots of very short pieces (1-2 pages), submit 4 or 5. If you have written a large chunk of a novel, submit a good portion (up to 10,000 words) and the outline - or a smaller chunk and another piece. 

There is no length limit or requirement, but bear in mind that if we are human beings who have a life and we need to mark 10 portfolios and eat, sleep, go on YouTube and Facebook [joke] and do the rest of our work in two weeks. If you submit 50,000 words, we will read about the first 10,000 and then curse you. If you submit 1,000 words, you will look lazy.

Ten percent of your mark will represent your attendance, reliability and other general ability to operate like a proper student. The other 90% will represent the quality of your work, the effort you have put in and the progress you have made. A person who has no previous experience of creative writing can, if their work has improved sufficiently, get the highest grade. No one can get 100% - Britain isn't like that. 

You must send your portfolio in the form of one of more Word documents (each piece of work in a separate document). It must be double-spaced with reasonable margins (at least 1.5 inches, or 3.5 cm in real measurements) and there must be page numbers. I will remove marks if you don't number the pages. Use a sensible footer with your name, the title of the piece and the page number. Pretend we are publishers who might print it out. Put the word count at the end. Give each piece a title. Don't use a stupid font - make sure it's easy to read. Don't include pictures. Don't send a knitted slug. Presenting your work properly is important if you are ever going to send it to an agent or publisher, so start practising. 
Good luck. 
Oh, you don't need luck. Just work hard and be smart.

Supervision times, final week:
[removed until next year]

All supervisions are in V11.If you want to change your supervision time, please try to arrange a swap with someone else (and then tell me). I will normally be in college Mon-Wed only.

Useful resources

This list will grow.... Here are some articles, books and blogs that might help you with your writing.

Writing for children, Yvonne Coppard and Linda Strachan, Bloomsbury 2013 - covers all kinds of writing for children. Great resource.

Basic writing: from pre-writing to editing - blog post by that runs through all the basic advice. Some useful reminders and definitions.

Working with illustrators - blog post by picture-book author Malachy Doyle on how much (=little) input writers should have into the illustrations for their work.

Help! I need a publisher - Nichola Morgan's blog about writing and preparing your writing for publication. Aimed primarily at unpublished authors. The best advice from this blog is collected in a book (also available as an ebook), Write to be published.

Dear Agent - Nichola Morgan's ebook on approaching an agent - from 10th August 2012 for three days this will be only 75p, so a good investment. This the companion book to How to Write a Great Synopsis, which is also useful if you've got that far.

Ann Lamott Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life - honest guide to how to write.

Ten rules for writers, as voiced by several different writers of fiction. Sarah Waters' rules are particularly useful. It's in two parts; here's the other.

How to write - excellent, short advice from novelist Meg Rosoff.

What makes a great story - a series of articles by literary agent Sarah Davies. This the first of the series.

Seven writing tips from F Scott Fitzgerald - what it says

Seven writing tips from Ernest Hemingway - bet you can guess...

Stuckness - useful for science/maths students struggling to see the process of creative writing as accessible. Anyone who is scared of axioms and predicates, look away.

The view from book six - more from Meg Rosoff, this time on how hard it is. Which sounds depressing, but you need to know it as otherwise you might give up because you think only you are having these difficulties.

Writing prompts - taking the piss. But worth a look!

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