How to start a great essay

Essay writing is a great way to practise writing skills, whether your preferred genre is fiction or non-fiction. You need to have a clear goal in mind, your phrasing needs to be both beautiful and clear, and you need to make every word, as when writing poetry, count. It’s always been a great art form too – although I suppose essayists were something like the newspaper editorial columnists of their day! While columnists write generally on relatively transient and personal ideas, the great essayists wrote meditations where they really thought about the big questions. William Hazlitt and John Stuart Mill …

Theme: what it is and how to use it to make your writing sparkle

This morning I started redrafting a story I wrote towards the beginning of last year and abandoned for reasons I can’t quite remember! I’ve read through it and had the ‘oh, actually it’s quite good’ thought, which is always pleasant – and far more likely after a long break from the work itself when your head’s not so buried in it. In amongst the small ideas, it’s missing something broader – it’s lacking a central spine or theme, to unify it and really take the reader through the entire piece. It got me thinking about what really ‘theme’ is, and …

Revamp or move on?

I’ve just gone through a little computer-filing tidy up, trying to get my stuff in order, especially writing things. I still have a stack of paper ideas to get into a notebook – I’m aiming to have all ideas either in one digital scrivener file, or in a notebook. I’m astounded by how many words I have written and discarded. I’m not talking about drafts which eventually led to something finished, either, but something started where I’ve sometimes written upwards of 50,000 words, and abandoned without finishing. There’s three half-written novels and over a dozen short stories. The ‘ideas fragments’ …

Half term thrills!

With all the hassle and political complaining about teaching, it’s an oft-repeated comment that teachers have too many holidays. Any teacher who tells you the holidays aren’t a great incentive is probably not telling the truth, but equally no teacher will ever tell you that they drop their work at 3.15 Friday and don’t pick up till Monday morning at 8am! The half term holidays are a good chance to catch up on everything. They’re a great opportunity to get any remnants of marking done, and after the difficult half term we’ve just had, it’s taken me several days to clear …

Hectic continues apace!

Has been fairly crazed here so far this year! (and when does it stop being ok to think of it as ‘the new year’? I usually go with my birthday, which is coming up frighteningly soon!). January’s brought with it a LOT of hard work, including several competitions which are great to watch but involve late nights, and a never-ending pace. Writing so far is seriously taking a back seat, which I find frustrating – and it’s not that I don’t enjoy what I’m doing, because in fact I just had an hour of marking some pretty impressive first attempts …

Goal updating…keeping on track

I wrote in an earlier post about goals and deadlines, and how important they are for maintaining focus and getting things done. I’m well on track with this, but here’s a little update on how I’m doing so far: My deadlines: Ilkley Literature festival open mic competition – I’ve applied for a place; if I get it, it’s on the 30th and I need a monologue or poem to perform I’m well on the way with this – I’ve been watching a lot of Sarah Kay recently and am so impressed with her performance poetry, especially how she’s performing with being …