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Cut and Paste vs the Computer

IMG_1703.jpgAround 2011 during the Master of Arts Open & Distance Education I resolved to give up on paper entirely: no files, no printing off and all books on Kindle. This time round I stay off the computer except for wordpressing, posting essays and supervisor feedback. Instead I am back to my teen student days of pen, paper, scissors and Sellotape and large scraps of coloured paper. It works for me, even if it is somewhat time consuming.

What I haven’t understood is that greater academic skill at taking notes from references would greatly reduce the need to compost, then filter down a mass of too much information at a later date.

Getting there. This 15,000 word dissertation on the behaviour and mood of volunteers as they enlisted in early September 1914 is not due until July.




Computer Free

Gone is the computer. Here is a fountain pen and paper. It is easier to spread out, easier to gather up ideas in bundles … better for brain? This has the makings of a dissertation.

Familiarity and mastery

Your head gets into a place it never wants to leave. You take command of a subject and want to build on it.

Or should do. I resist mastery in favour of novelty.

So I have to find ways to keep everything fresh. To seek out the challenge.

Are you drowning in coffee?

Fig.1. Drowning in coffee


  • Kings College Overdose
  • Caffeine DSM-5

How a child experiences their world matters

Pip is lead through the marshes by his kind uncle the blacksmith. Some parenting is a mixed bag. Regardless of male or female intervention warmth and a less controlling manner is favoured.

The following are medical subjects I’ve written about over the last couple of weeks:

Children of warmer, less controlling parents ‘grow up to be happier.’

Men with unaggressive prostate tumors ‘unlikely to develop or die from prostate cancer.’ 

Study identifies symptoms of suicide risk for people with depression

Study links brain tangles and diabetes independently of Alzheimer’s

FDA approve new drug to treat high cholesterol 

Breast cancer relapse could be predicted with new blood test

Multiple sclerosis linked to lower levels of vitamin D

Aspirin, NSAIDs linked to reduced risk of colorectal cancer

FDA approve new drug to treat high cholesterol 

The day will come when I can write stories that the reader can’t put down

Fig.1. My goal. To write scenes as fluidly as changing gear.

Goal: What does my central character want from this scene?

Conflict. Who is the conflict with?

Disaster. What is the disaster for this scene?

Fig.2. Common scene writing errors. From Bickman.  

I have characters, locations, events and situations in my head. For some characters the story runs for fifty years, most intense age 6 to 21. Armed with this editor’s tool I can ruthless delete, rewrite or come up with fresh scenes that meet the above criteria. It fits the pattern I want in my head of a story with momentum – that could be made into a linear drama for TV or film. I particularly recognise the need to ask repeatedly ‘what is the disaster?’ to conclude a scene. I related to this from a career in writing persuasive copy and videos where you repeatedly ask, then ask again ‘what is the problem?” The first answer is usually weak, though compelling … more likely the ninth or tenth idea will fit the brief.

Fig.3. Elements of Fiction Writing

I continue to read, note and try ideas from Jack M. Bickham’s book ‘Elements of Fiction Writing – Scene & Structure.’ I continue with the Open University course on FutureLearn ‘Start Writing Fiction’, as well as content on Open Learn of the same title.   

I also contribute to a LinkedIn group and Facebook pages on ‘Start Writing Fiction’ while writing in my own blog ‘Start Writing Fiction.’

Can you write a story in 140 Twitter characters?

Today FutureLearn pushed a contest on Twitter to write micro-stories of 140 characters. I gave it a shot, posting the following, mostly moments in different scenes of a story I’m writing.

Dad pulled over to pee. Mum told me to stay put. I didn’t. A truck smashed into the car and killed mum. Dad wasn’t bothered. I was. #Fic140.

A full potty is not something to fight over. Nanny G clung to one edge, her your charge Robbie the other. #Fic140

As a wealthy heir his nanny had instructions to keep him on a close rein. A boy first and an heir second Robbie had other ideas. #Fic140

Her smile was intoxicating. He’d kiss her but she smelt of alcohol. She said. “Giv ‘us a kizz, gadje” He said. “Giv ‘us a drink.” #Fic140

What’s not to love about her? he thought as she grabbed his ears and pushed his face into the bed of nettles. At least she’s a girl. #Fic140

Willing his art teacher mother to understand the child sitter cracked, then lashed out at every piece of work the class had done.  #Fic140

To escape his locked attic room on the 5th floor Robbie used the fire escape rope. Never checked,  it left him hanging 16ft short.  #Fic140

Certain it’s Kizzy the boy grabs the girl’s arm. He is promptly set upon by her brothers who have dressed up in her best clothes. #Fic140

“I will.” “I do.””You diven’t?””We just have.” “Where’s the ring?” Robbie bursts open the crisp packet and finds the plastic ring. #Fic140

“Whatever it is the answer’s ‘No!” The man never looks up.  In the doorway his son holds a little tighter the hand of a pretty girl. #Fic140

Unstuck from its rock pool the lumpsucker ogles the kids from the bucket. “Take me back” it said “and I’ll let you into a secret.” #Fic140

“They’re a family of illiterate, homeless, scroungers.” He said. “‘Family’ will do, his son replied. #Fic140

“Ah divn’t wanna help ye thieve from ’em!” She said. “You’ll dee as ah tell ye or I’ll shove your face in the fire.” He said.  #Fic140

As the storm breaks the boy runs off to his favourite hideaway: an upturned boat above the beach. He find it half submerged. #Fic140

He tied the girl and boy together but loathing turned to love and pulling in the same direction they escaped. #Fic140

The burglar nicking stuff on seeing a portrait of him done by the owner’s wife hesitates. Delaying too long he is caught. #Fic140

“If I can’t have her, no one can.” Drukker wraps his arms around his daughter and jumps of the Point into the angry North Sea. #Fic140

The blow meant for his daughter kills his wife. Jailed his children go into care. Once out he goes after the girl. #Fic140

His parents divorce. He is sent to posh prison a boarding school in the middle of nowhere. He is hit by a car trying to hitch home. #Fic140


He drew a passable likeness of the girl. Rehashed the picture of the headmaster’s daughter naked should have led to his expulsion. #Fic140

Expecting to hear she’d be OK for  ten years Kizzy was devastated to learn from her transplant team that they were giving her two. #Fic140

He loves her to bits but she’s falling to bits. She begs him to find another. He does. Her heart breaks first then fails. #Fic140

Cause-and-affection. He saw. He loved. His life felt whole again. #Fic140

Though her kiss and thrust were erotic, Robbie felt threatened by Angela not loved, intimidated not tamed. #Fic140

Both arms smashed the determined artist drew with his feet. Falling off the scaffold he broke his legs. He now spits paint. #Fic140

Lying bruised in piss and vomit in the bus shelter opposite his grandparent’s house after the disco Robbie concluded that Christine wasn’t ‘the one.’ #Fic140

Steven Pressfield’s Foolscap Method Template

Fig.1 Fig.1. Steven Pressfield’s ‘Foolscap Method’ to write a novel

Once more I am loving the Open University’s free online course ‘Start Writing Fiction’ on FutureLearn: it only started this week so there is plenty of time to join now. This free online course is all about character, so us novice fiction writers struggle with thoughts on plot. I love this from author Steven Pressfield: ‘The Foolscap Method’ is for me the ‘Creative Brief’ by another name, or even Churchill’s dictum of being given reports on a single sheet of paper. By setting parameters and being succinct you are forced to get to the kernel of an idea. When constructing a story then, say a novel, answer the following. I find I return to and refine this often and eventually have it on the wall to stop me wandering off … those ideas and stories can be kept for another project.

Fig.2 Close up on Steven Pressfield’s ‘Foolscap Method’ used to write his first novel 

Steven Pressfield’s Foolscap Method : From his blog.

A bit more on the Foolscap Method from his blog. The Foolscap Method – Video 1

The transcript The Foolscap Method – Video 2





Story telling device


Inciting Incident


Looks easy? Then add 70,000 coherent, clear, exciting words!!!

Now you can start writing fiction …

Fig.1 The Open University Start Writing Fiction eight week course FREE on Future Learn

It surprises me all the time how facts and fiction weave in and out of each other. I love the merry little dance I’m learning to give people. It matters that only I know what is fact and what is fiction as too easily a person or an event is described with barely a twist. Increasingly the closer I get to the ‘truth’ about a feeling, person or event the more convincing it is … even if I’m describing a talking fish, or a combination of dead and living people sharing a car journey that’s as real any I do every week.

The FutureLearn online course Start Writing Fiction started on Monday. I loved it so much last year I’m back for more to refresh what I picked up and find what I missed.

Steven Pressfield’s Foolscap Method – prep on one sheet of paper

Fig.1 Steven Pressfield’s ‘Foolscap Method’ to write a novel

I’ve read Steven Pressfield, though not necessarily taken his advice, for over 12 years. I keep a copy of his “The War of Art’ by my side like a bible. I give copies away.

How to get over that first ‘hump’ and turn yourself into a published author 

How to break the back of a story before you write treatments or anything else.

He’s quite right about this. I’ve been told it many times before that you have to know your ending. I can remind myself here and see how it works for a number of writing projects.

I apply the ‘Creative Brief’ to all professional work: addressing a creative problem on a single sheet of paper, so why not apply something similar to an entire, lengthier writing project? Keep it simple. Keep it short.

Fig.2 Close up on Steven Pressfield’s ‘Foolscap Method’ used to write his first novel 

Steven Pressfield’s Foolscap Method : From his blog.

A bit more on the Foolscap Method from his blog.

The Foolscap Method – Video 1

The transcript

The Foolscap Method – Video 2

My notes:


Break it into three parts:

Act 1, Act 2, Act 3 – Beginning, Middle and End. As simple as that.

Break your story down into something so simple that you feel you have a handle on it.


How do you tell the story? What is the narrative device? Who tells the story?


Theme. What is the story about? This will tell you climax and the antagonist and everything in between …


The inciting incident and the climax.

How we create fictional characters in our mind.

How to Read a Mind: The University of Nottingham [Two Weeks] (3 hours pw)

100% completed

Aimed at undergraduate academics of English Literature, possibly even third year or masters level. I have had to spend more time with the reading than I expected in order to grasp the main thesis relating to ‘Theory of Mind’. It is proving complementary to ‘Start Writing Fiction’ as it shows how we conceive of, and follow imagined and real characters in a world, in our heads, that is always part factual, part fictional.

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