Hi from Crosshaven at the mouth of Cork Harbour, and on probably the last day of our heatwave.
My name is Frank and I’m a newbie on the Forum. I have been, and continue to be, hugely impressed by John’s Village Academy writing modules.
I’m working on a literary/historical trilogy in which an elderly narrator, discreet to the point of being mostly unnoticed, recounts the dramatic history of a Franco-Irish family from the time of The Great Irish Famine (1845- ’49), and the Second French Revolution of 1848, to modern times.
I have finished the first draft of Book 2, and, thanks to John’s wonderful techniques and stratagems, am quite happy with the result. I know, of course, that the real work for that is only beginning – but I just feel more confident.
However, Book 1, which I had completed to the fifth, and, as I thought, final draft before I fell under The Village Academy spell, is somewhat problematic in places. My spirit quails at the prospect of revisiting and of massive reworking of at least some sections of its 112,000 words approx..
I have tried to revise the Prologue (Oh, yes, my nearly invisible narrator needs it!), and the first 3 chapters, using as many of John’s tips as I reasonably could. I fear I may have achieved only moderate success. My biggest concerns relate to ‘information dumps’. I have ‘improved’ some of these (by, for example, revealing through dialogue, reflection, redistributing in smaller chunks, etc.).
I also feel that a point comes when you just have to leave it and move on – lessons learned for the next time, and all that. Otherwise I could be revising this until pushing up daisies time.
While my current project is largely ‘serious’, I do confess to one crime in the past. I have already written a somewhat experimental, and more than somewhat scurrilous, comic fantasy that concerned a time-travel bicycle, seemingly identical ‘twins’, some morally compromised nuns, a psychotic medieval monk, and a doughty rural Madame. Yes, it is a mite overblown, dreadfully prolix, and, I’m sure, hilarious to a certain coterie. It lies with its 15 rejections at the bottom of a black box, at the bottom of a drawer, at the bottom of some virtual reality ocean. I toy with the vague notion that, when I am rich and famous from the fruits of honest labour, I might revisit it with extreme prejudice towards its more memorable excesses.
I’d love to hear from fellow members, especially any advice re Book 1.
Finally, my timing could hardly be worse. I shall be extremely busy for the next six weeks. However, I promise to acknowledge any communications in the meantime, and to be a diligent member once my hectic period has passed.
Best wishes to all,
Welcome, Frank! And especially welcome to you as an alumnus of the Academy program. Thank you for your nice thoughts. Yes, this is the place to put your experience into practice. Do post passages of your work here for friendly feedback. I'll drop in occasionally, if that would help .
You're an accomplished writer but, for almost everybody here, the journey has just begun. You'll have fun!
Although I'm on the other side of the world (Australia) I see we have some things in common:
I have also come via the Village Academy Writing modules (I joined the forum a week ago)
I have also written a 100 000 word novel (although YA fantasy). I started the modules about halfway through and I understand how you feel. I am currently about halfway though revising the novel, trying to apply John's techniques. Some things seem too big to rework and after this pass I think I too will confine it to the 'learning' phase. One thing I have figured out is that this type of editing seems to go much better in hard copy than on the screen.
I don't know much about the Great Irish Famine (or second French Revolution for that matter), although a children's book set in that time (I think) that I've always kept and re-read is 'Twist of Gold' by Michael Morpurgo.
It's good to see someone with such a varied approach here. I look forward to reading any excerpts you post up.
As to your Book 1, I must admit I invariably dislike prologues. However, as a writer, I catch myself penning them much to my annoyance. I guess, to the author, who has the book's schema already detailed in their mind, they make great scene setters, but to the reader they can often act as a disconnect with the details washing over, leaving only a tide mark. Hum, ho.
Thank you John, Anthea, and Axel, for your welcoming words and kind thoughts. Re that darned prologue, Axel, I have a (Greek) chorus of disapproval in my brain demanding justifications. I might throw it up for peer review when my 'busy' six weeks period ends.
A very warm welcome to you, Frank. The subject of your trilogy interests me greatly. (I have a lot of Irish blood, and I love Irish historical fiction.)
Is there any hint of the Great-Famine-as-genocide point of view in your trilogy? I don't mean to be stirring up political controversy or anything; just asking out of interest.
I'll be eagerly awaiting your first installments.
As for your prologue, I think if the story truly needs it, and if it's well-written (a story in itself, hopefully?), and you're totally convinced, well then, why worry about that prologue-as-anathema stigma?
However, I risk a word of caution regarding what you said about sort of writing off the first book in spite of what you feel are its weaknesses. Shouldn't the first book in a trilogy be the very best you can possibly make it? How else will you draw readers into the whole story?
great to welcome you here.
I have also come via the Village Academy Writing modules. I started the modules about 14 months and am now almost finished the course.ago. I consider myself lucky to have been there when John was able to give direct feedback on assignments.
Nevertheless, penpal is a terrific site for advice and helpful guidance from fellow members.
I hope to see some of your work soon.
Hi to all of you who have so kindly welcomed me on board.
I shall be occupied with professional duties (re State Examinations, French!) until, roughly, late July. When this work ends, I really plan to get more deeply involved. In the meantime, I’ll probably get the occasional opportunity to dip in and out, find my way, etc. I am really looking forward to getting to know fellow members, sharing problems, insights, whatever.
To Bea, re your enquiry concerning Famine-as-Genocide, I offer the following two assessments from highly respected sources. I’m afraid it’s the old adage: ‘You pays you’re your money and you takes your choice’.
‘The extremes of nationalist and revisionist histories of the Famine stretch, on the one hand, from theories of British governmental genocide of the Irish, to the belief, on the other hand, that everything the British could have done to save lives ... was done ... .’
(1996, Cathal Póirtéir Famine Echoes, Gill and MacMillan Ltd.)
‘Clearly, during the years 1845 to 1850, the British government pursued a policy ... of mass starvation in Ireland that constituted acts of genocide against the Irish people within the meaning of Article II (c) of the 1948 [Hague] Genocide Convention.’
1996, Francis A. Boyle, law professor at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
Our more refined and nuanced modern sensibility (Is that unwarranted and unjustified complacency?), makes it difficult for us to grasp the tenor of those times, for example, the religious and racist bigotry (feckless and indolent Catholics, simian caricaturing of the Irish à la Punch periodical, The London Times, etc.) the colonial mindset, the paternalistic political approach, and, above all, the appalling application of Malthusian doctrinaire economic policy. Malthus wrote that ‘the greater part of the Irish [populace] needs to be swept from the land’.
It can be difficult to remain calm. However, I try hard not to preach, while remaining fully aware of all this background. It is also important to remember how morally righteous those in Government saw themselves to be, how sober and industrious they mostly were in their daily lives. Nothing is ever simple – I suppose that’s one of the reasons we write.
Bye for now.
I'm sure there's little to nothing that I'll be able to offer you of any value other than my attention And possibly a viewpoint from the relatively unknowledgeable (is that a word?) and unseasoned element. But, should you need that, you have it.