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Delijah's Writing Blog

Tag Archives: Inferno

Inferno Credit Award Letter

Back in September I entered correspondence with the Centre for Lifelong Learning in Glasgow to claim my Inferno: Novel Writing Certification. It was impossible for me to get them to send a replacement of it, since apparently had it been lost – or sent to my old address after the redirection period was over, never mind my contacting them to give them my new address well in advance. I managed a pdf, though, not official-looking at all.

In October I contacted them again, changing strategies. Instead of asking to get my certification, I told them that my Credit Award Letter had gotten lost and asked if I could somehow obtain a replacement. The reply was immediate: yes, it should be with me now, please provide my new address (again) and it would be posted. A week later it was here.

    

Two whole pages of it, too and on official paper! Woohoo! And only took me four months of emailing. Snort.

But hey, does this mean I’m an official novelist?

Inferno: certification. Sort of.

After talking to I think four different people I have come to the conclusion that my Inferno: Novel Writing certification has gotten lost somewhere. I am rather irked, but I don’t want to lash out at Strathclyde CLL, I did enough reviewing the course XD.

I managed to get an e-certificate of completion, which I guess will have to do for now. Next month, if I have not received anything, I will try to get a more official-looking certificate.

Cause, you know, I got a pdf sent and… you can’t change a pdf, can you?

The 2012 500-words-a-day experiment: Final

The 500-words-a-day experiment ran from 19th January to 30th June, 2012. Originally it was a way to work daily on Victim #14 but it became something else along the way – yes, I am aware that there were four blank days early in February, but sometimes life sucks. Eventually blog posts became part of the deal, since they were writing about writing (note: in the graph, the blog posts before May are counted for the day they were published even if they were written in two different days, since I was not keeping track by then).

This is how the final result looks:

I threw all the numbers together today, and the final count is 161546 words for the whole period, 136902 of them in stories. Wow. I had not counted the whole until now XD” (This makes me remember that I haven’t updated my wordcount spreadsheet since forever, too).

The first thing that calls my attention when looking at this graph is that apparently I am not as irregular with the blog as I thought. Second, I think it is obvious that Victim #14 holds the highest word counts, with those two over-four-thousand-words days.

Some of the Inferno coursework is available [link], as is Autumn Lullaby [link], they are very short one-shots.

I wrote a very silly piece having Kim from Victim #14 meet Aaron and Masaharu from the Retriever universe that did not even get a title. It is a bit strange because I did it for laughs, but I’ve eventually written a lot in the Retriever universe [link] lately, during the experiment I developed Binary, which I did not finish until recently to be honest (more about the Retriever universe to come). I’ve told you about Lifequake [link] and I have mentioned Wren a couple of times [link] but never really ellaborated (*into the list*).

“Terazuma” is a background character in the Osaka Guardians universe [link]; he might not even be featured in the main series, but writing him was fun. Infatuation Trap was a free writing exercise that in the end looked nothing like what I had imagined, and that brought Hyakki Yagyō’s Satoshi [link] back to the front of my mind.

Evaluating the whole experiment I have learnt a few things about my writing and myself:

  • Is relatively easy for me to keep going with the daily-writing scheme when I have something I am actually enjoying and looking forward to work on everyday
  • I have revived a couple of old / zombie plotbunnies with interesting results, none or few expected
  • When I write things I am not convinced about, I don’t enjoy it and I find it more tedious than fun.
  • Even something I love can burnout me if I force it too much. Sometimes it is better to give it a break and come back with renewed energy. Writing Hyakki Yagyō felt awesome compared to the last 2000 words on Binary.
  • My brain is flexible enough to work on two stories / different verse on the same day. However, I need to either focus on writing or editing

In short: it was really awesome, but I am glad I stopped when I did to take a mental break when things became too much and writing too difficult and tedious. I am however wondering if I would have done better having a complete back-up plan and always a story to write without having to force my brain.

Also, there’s a short story lost somewhere in those numbers, I think it is camouflaged as a blog post. It’s about a doggie who makes a trip to the community trash can and brushes the heaven of a four-pounder…

Inferno 2012 – final commentary

It is June 25 and the Blaze Inferno Writing course is officially over. You might have gathered that I was not happy with it. To be completely honest with you, I don’t know what I was expecting and why it disappointed me so badly. I don’t think it is a bad workshop, but I don’t think it is a good course. It can be very supportive and motivating if you are the right kind of person, desperately clinging for an excuse to write. Since fortunately or unfortunately I don’t fall in that group, I had quite a few problems with it.

Material

The course indeed offers some writing material. Some of it is written by the original founder / teacher of the Blaze courses, which is not the current one. The exercises / prompts are repeated at times. One of the documents is said original teacher’s favourite novel excerpts, put together without much acknowledgement if at all.

There are a few internet-based resources i.e. links to other people’s writing pages or the infamous Rules of Writing that the Guardian publishes regularly [link] – the fun part of that is that most writers have their own sets and you can stay with the one you feel more comfortable with. There are also exercises that instruct you to ‘Google’ the info…

Book: the course has corresponding book, How novels work by John Mullan. The book itself is very interesting, a collection of reviews and analysis of a great deal of popular and classic novels, and why they work. Mr. Mullan is a professor of English at University College London and hosts the Guardian’s Book Club. The Club examines a book a month, via a weekly column in the Guardian Review (the first three weeks discuss the book in question and the fourth presents comments from the Book Club blog). How novels work is an edited collection of those columns, organised by themes (beginnings, characters, dialogue, endings…).

Feedback

Feedback method is designed to protect the author against evil commenters, which might be good in some instances, but completely blocks any kind of concrit or critical feedback. Restricting opinions blows your arguments when answering questions posted by the classmates. Maybe it would have worked better with other kind of questions rather than the ones used – there was a rule on no closed questions that got ignored quite a bit. It however seemed that some of us could get away with closed questions while some of us could not. Funny.

My confession: I lied. I told people that I liked their piece when I did not. Sue me, or call me a newborn diplomat. What good is my feedback going to do to anyone when it is not even real?

Teaching method

The teacher and I did not hit off. Overly cheery and pleasant ticks me off and makes all my alarms ring. I realise that there are people genuinely very cheery and pleasant, and I am way happy to rethink my opinions – excuse me, omgopinions. When I received the feedback on my Main Assignment 1, and after next to nothing of what was there became useful to me, I asked for pointers to improve my writing. She told me that I should have taken the previous courses to learn about style.

She offered a change on feedback style that I took and then the cheerful and the pleasant were gone. She became uncooperative and any effort on my part to ‘re-establish communications’ was ignored. To be honest, I started getting ignored when I tried to start a discussion in the public forum, too, except for one of my classmates. She also took great pleasure on highlighting every adverb she found. In theory Inferno was open to 25 people, we were nine and teacher was already overwhelmed…

Writing improvement

Not sure, to be honest. I got complimented on what I found a weak piece where the main character was acting too weakly, then got down marks for being weak in the areas I had already said I was weak in – but no actual improvement tips. I guess I should Google them…

Technology

… is it really standard to carry out ‘live chats’ in forums? For real? Doesn’t the Moodle platform offer actual chats?

Overall impression

“Would not buy again.” But some of my classmates enjoyed, were motivated and may try to do the course again. Good for them. I won’t.

Conclusion

I am an opinionated bitch and here’s the opinion I was not allowed to give during the course, in much less ‘diplomatic’ words than I used in the ‘feedback form’.

Inferno second update

Following up on my last temper explosion here [link], I took a deep breath and tried to reason with the teacher. I did try my best to be really civil and not argumentative. I got told that the course provides extensive material and that teacher’s role is to correct the given assignments so those pieces of writing are better, nothing to do with teaching the students to write better in general. However I got offered some critical feedback instead of the usual kind of feedback the course offers. I accepted, and you know what? Suddenly I am not the only one wanting critical feedback.

To be completely honest the material is decent, but not massive. Half of the prompts exercises are repeated, and the longest is just a bunch of ‘inspirational’ paragraphs from utterly random books. But really. Getting told to get rid of the adverbs? I’ve heard that before, tons of times, and for free (and do you know what? I like adverbs. But that’s another story).

Anyway. Current summary on my feelings towards the course:

  • Motivation levels: 0 %
  • Enjoyment levels: 30 %
  • Overall usefulness levels: 50 % (found the Lisa Gardner toolbox through it, after all [link])
  • Value for money: 20 %
  • Feedback usefulness: 10 %
  • Fun / Challenge: 10 %
  • Technical resources: we’re supposed to have a real-time chat on a forum. I know first years in university who can build you a chat room. As a matter of fact, I know that Moodle has a chat plug in… so hm… Let’s say 50% cause the page has not crashed once

I look back at the ratings and wonder if I am being too harsh, or whining. Dunno, don’t really care. Maybe the course structure is just not for me. I just know that on April 16th I was really motivated to work on Victim #14 and now I only open the files for the assignments.

So yeah. I really need to find myself some motivation…

Is fun, because if you look at my wordcount (oh, yeah, remember the 500-words-a-day-thingy? It’s still going on) I seem to be super effective lately:

But motivation? MIA. Although I have to say I don’t regret having taken the course. Gives you a perspective of what to expect from “professionals” and gives me a writing credential ^^

Inferno & Creative Confidence

I was going to wait until half-course to write an ‘ongoing review’ of how Inferno (my writing course) [link] is going, but today I need to… talk about it. I need to tell someone (or nobody) or I will explode. This is my equivalent to count to twenty in Greek.

Truth be told, I am… disappointed.

The first thing that surprised me was the feedback methodology. You share your piece and get to ask a few “open, neutral questions”. The reader then gives you a “statement of meaning” (i.e. tells you what you did right) and asks you a few “open, neutral questions” in turn. You answer them. Then they ask you if you want opinions on your piece. The way it is panned, there is no constructive criticism anywhere, because that is considered aggressive. The tutor follows this feedback process too, and after the piece you get a “grades” for different things (excellent, satisfactory, unsatisfactory). These are those points:

  • Adherence to word limit
  • Evidence of knowledge of components of writing
  • Evidence of creativity and imagination
  • Structure of the piece
  • Language of the piece
  • Textual cohesion/ coherence (pace, flow, storytelling)
  • Evidence of self-editing

The first assignment was writing a synopsis. Pointers? “google ‘write a synopsis’.” Hm. Thank you, I can google on my own. I’m a fan of JFGIing, don’t need to pay to get it told.

The second assignment was a 3000-words piece. I chose the first chapter of Victim #14 for it. Most pointers were ‘satisfactory’. I asked specifically for feedback on pace, because I know it is one of my weak points, got none. And here is the fun thing. My language is merely ‘satisfactory’. Fucking excuse me for not trusting you much, but at least I can tell your/you’re and it/it’s apart. Failbook [link] is full of Grammar Nazis correcting those, so you would hope that your writing teacher could deal with them. Apparently not.

Here’s some pointers on my feedback:

  • Le gasp. I use adverbs. Fucking surprise, I like them. And Terry Pratchett does too, so I feel vindicated.
  • The gesture of extending your hand, palm up, to check if it is raining/snowing is strange
  • The sentence “Maybe tonight he would be in a playful mood, but right now he would not even play Angry Birds.” got me a “What kind of game is angry birds?”
  • Substituting Medical Examiner by ME is… super strange and disconcerting
  • I give too much information, too many details
  • Metaphors are not all right
  • Reprhase, rephrase, rephrase (Why? Keep reading)
  • Why do you use things like ‘The other one’, ‘the detective’, ‘the medical examiner’ as synonyms for their names?

Maybe I abuse the synonym thing a bit, but you try to write a same-sex intimate scene using just first names and he and see if it does not become awkward or confusing. If it does not, I want pointers!!

Pointers. That is what I wanted to reach. I have tried to explain every decision I made in the choice of words and storytelling, get told that I have defended my assignment well, and I come up with a wild idea. Since I have gotten some ‘rephrase!!’ comments I dare ask my teacher for pointers for improving my writing.

And here is the answer I got:

I am often asked this question, and to answer it fully I would really need to write a book as what you are asking is best covered in ‘how to write’-type books of which there are an awful lot out there. There are resources within the course site as well as Creative Writing how-to reading suggestions.

As I said in my feedback, I don’t think that it’s worth your while worrying too much about this kind of thing at this stage of the writing. Once you have more of it, and can see the whole thing – and are perhaps more confident of the style that the piece requires – that is probably a better time to be thinking about these matters.

I will however bear these questions in mind when I see your next assignment.

So basically… no, I can’t have pointers because it is too much work and I already have the material provided in the course, which is basically… let me count… okay, 15 pdfs, out of which half repeat the same information and give you the same prompts again and again, one is just a random collection of texts and the rest are rip-offs of online writing tips (copyrighted, of course!). Oh, and and hang on, I forget the one that says that everything I do is wrong (adverbs are wrong, details are wrong, descriptions are wrong, characters talking in coherent sentences are wrong…)

Conclusion: my writing course is not there to teach me to write better. Then why the fuck am I paying you? I am pretty happy with my narrative voice, you’re the one who says it is not right. The least you could do is tell me what you find wrong. And if it is ‘use of language’, learn your possessives first and then we talk.

*sigh* Hey, at least I am learning to be diplomatic i.e. outright lie to people and tell them that I enjoy something I don’t? I can write it up as research for You & I.

By now I’ve read all the “material”, I got myself the coursebook and have the three assignments planned. But allow me to tell you, my enthusiasm for this is long gone. What’s the point of paying a teacher who tells you ‘read the material’? I did that through uni already. There goes my hope for useful feedback.

I stop for tonight, leaving you a TED talk that I enjoyed for some reason. Because in the end my writing is mine and mine alone and Inferno is a “writing credential”.

How to build your creative confidence

P.S.: Wow, you can tell I was riled up. Almost a thousand words post and not one image XD

Write, goddamnit!

I love being a writer. What I can’t stand is the paperwork.

Peter De Vries

Considering that today is Friday, you can say that I am two weeks into the Inferno writing course. And I am still not sure of what is going on. I have to say I am a tadbit on the disappointed side. On some ways I feel substandard. I haven’t read many of the shiny, deep, cool novels mentioned. I don’t know the buzz words, I haven’t read tonnes of how-to-write manuals ( I did get How Novels Work by J. Mullan, which is the course workbook, I’ll review it in the future for your reading pleasure).

Anyway, I digress. I was saying that I haven’t read the manuals nor know the buzzwords. I don’t devour pages on how or what I should be doing, and how. I… am apparently someone strange who… writes. I don’t have to force myself to write, nor need to set a deadline to write, nor need to blackmail myself into writing. I just write.

I am not saying that style manuals and how to are wrong, I am not defending that they should not exist. I wonder, does a manual show you how to write? Like… can you learn how to drive from a manual? Without actually haven’t been behind the wheel at all, ever?

If you want to write, write. Sit down in front of your computer / paper / notebook / whatever and write. Don’t read about how others write. Or do read about how others write, if you like, but write something yourself. (Please note: Not saying that all my classmates are like that, there are good people who put a lot of effort into writing, whether I share their views on life or not).

In my unpermissioned [note] opinion in my little corner of the Internet.

*Deep breath*. Rant over.

On a different topic, I’ve gone through with the 500-word experiment through April, due to a challenge and bad time prediction on my part. Tomorrow is day #100. The cumulative wordcount would reach 50,000 words if not for… the fact that it reaches 93,825.

I’ve used the time and the words to freewrite, be silly, write stuff that makes no sense, backgrounds for secondary characters with no libido and… I find myself facing a dilemma now. Go on with the 500 words? I know that if I extend it for too long I’ll just eventually relax it and fail more than stop it.

Today, however, someone has talked me into this sci-fi / fantasy / dark fantasy contest idea, and I know that I can’t write sci-fi to save my life, I’m too much of a Newtonian physicist for that (urgh, it hurts even thinking about it), but I can do fantasy, and I can do dark.

So try this with the 500-word rhythm or not… that is the question. Opinions, anyone?

Note: This is a reference to the feedback method that we need to use in the course, where we need to ask for permission before offering any kind of opinion. I’ll tell you about it in detail some other time. [back]

Strathclyde University Blaze courses

ETA: If you come looking for an opinion on the Blaze courses, please check these other posts [link]

Life has this knack for handling you lemons sometimes, and while I am not a fan of lemonade, I’ll admit that it was more or less that kind of process that had me learn about the Blaze Courses from the Centre for Lifelong Learning of the the Strathclyde University [link] in Glasgow . Blaze [link] offers three online writing courses, which sounded really interesting and actually affordable, so I snooped around.

These are the courses. The deadline was April 6 to start on April 16, and well, online means you can take them close to anywhere, you just need an Internet connection:

  • Kindling: Creative writing for beginners
  • Feeding the Flame: Creative writing for writers
  • Inferno: Novel Writing

I thought about signing up for Kindling, but it was booked out. Then again, I am not really a beginner, am I. Lo and behold, inner discussion – almost up to schizophrenic levels – ensued.

The reasoning was that I should start “low” (Flame) because a) the course people recommend it and b) it should give me more of a base, right? Who am I to go directly into Inferno with my zero knowledge of actual writing techniques? Hm, but… But. Lots of buts.

Feeding the Flame [link]

The course is for intermediate and advanced writers who want to give and receive feedback in a supportive and motivating environment. It is about writing and writing well – about finding your voice and pushing yourself as a writer. You will be encouraged to explore your creativity and to think about narrative structure and processes in a series of assignments that build towards the submission of a final piece of writing.

Inferno [link]

The course is for intermediate and advanced writers who are engaged in writing a book-length work of fiction or creative non-fiction and who want to engage in feedback in an online workshop environment with the tutor and other writers. It will give you a grounding in the craft and discipline of writing a book length work. The course gives you access to inspired and informative resources about writing and the writing process and creates a challenging, supportive and motivating environment in which to engage in feedback with other writers (including the tutor!)

Here are the summaries of the fact sheets:

FLAME
INFERNO
Duration 10 weeks 10 weeks
Format Online Online
Aimed to Intermediate and advanced writers Intermediate and advanced writers who are engaged in writing a book-length work
Required Work A maximum of 5000 words of new writing New writing or substantially rewritten work that could do with some feedback
Assignments One shorter piece of writing (1500 words)
One longer piece of writing (2000 words)
Reflective log book outlining experiences and observations
One 3-400 word synopsis of your planned work or work in progress
One 1500 word piece of writing
Two 1500-3000 words pieces of writing
Time Two hours online per week + writing time Four to six hours minimum of writing + online time
Places 12 12
Access to Forum and chat Forum, chat and resources

 

I’ve always considered myself someone who goes for short stories. I think that is because I fear that if I start something long I will never finish. Which… might be a valid reasoning except that… five books over sixty thousand words within the same universe (Osaka Guardians) sort of defeat it. My last “short story” project was Undeliverable, a sort-of sequel to Retriever and that went over 40000 words… So I had to break it to myself… the short story thing? So not working.

Then again, shouldn’t Flame be more manageable? It’s just a few hours a week. But the amount of time I actually devote to writing is more in the Inferno range. But they recommend taking Flame before Inferno. See the mental loop? I’ve been trapped there for a couple of weeks.

So screw it. I decided to go with Inferno and spam them with Victim #14 stuff. It can do with feedback. And more suspects.

ETA: If you come looking for an opinion on the Blaze courses, please check these other posts [link]