As you can probably tell from the lack of regular posts lately, the MA has been keeping me busy, along with a half-term jaunt to the north coast of Germany for swimming (indoor, mercifully) and sight-seeing. Had the first 4,000 words of my novel critiqued by my tutorial group last week which was great. One of my many reasons for taking the MA was the feedback my work would receive from my fellow students, along with the chance to support others through critiquing their work. Getting eight people commenting on your work certainly keeps you honest. Got loads of great ideas and pointers from the group and the tutor for this part of the course. Here’s hoping the rest of the group are finding the critiquing sessions as useful I did mine.

My challenge to not buy a book this year has made it to the eight week mark without a stumble, though the price of the Kindle edition of Before I Go To Sleep has me sweating, my mouse hovering over the Buy It Now button. So far I have read the following from my shelves, title in italics indicates books I have read previously and are re-reads:

Jan 2012

  • The Pearl – John Steinbeck
  • Bartleby – Herman Melville
  • The Gathering – Anne Enright
  • The Jungle Book – Rudyard Kipling
  • Howard’s End Is On The Landing – Susan Hill

Feb 2012

  • The Exclamation Mark – Anton Chekhov
  • The Good Man Jesus and the Scoundrel Christ – Phillip Pullman
  • Treasure Island – Robert Louis Stevenson
  • The Woman In Black – Susan Hill

Ongoing titles (that I am continuing to dip in and out of)

  • How To Be A Woman – Caitlin Moran
  • A Life In Letters – Anton Chekhov
  • The Juno Charm – Nuala Ní Chonchúir
  • Beginnings, Middles and Ends – Nancy Kress

And the novel rolls on. Following the group critique of my first chapter I did a major overhaul and fixed what wasn’t working (I hope) and now have a passable second draft and feel happy to move on. I’ve taken advice from Nancy Kress and redrafted this chapter and now have a clearer idea of where I am going:

‘If you are one of those writers who stops to polish before going on to scene two, you’ll gain a dividend. You will have made writing the rest of the story or novel much easier on yourself. This is because you now have a firmer idea of who your character is, what the conflict will be, and what the tone of the story will be. You have, by your first scene, committed to certain directions for each of these.’

– Nancy Kress, Beginnings, Middles and Ends

Finally, the end of this week will see the first of 2012’s My Life in Short Fiction posts with writer and Metazen editor Christopher Allen sharing the short stories that matter to him. Look out for that.

In the meantime, what’s been keeping you busy?