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Start Writing Fiction: More free resources from The Open University – OpenLearn – Open University
Start Writing Fiction: More free resources from The Open University – OpenLearn – Open University.
Some great ideas on getting started and seeing it through to a completed novel.
I’ve written a novel in a month ..
|From E-Learning V|
Fig.1 A flippant title for the first draft of a novel set in the First World War
The power of social learning? I’d a two hour an online meet up on Tuesday – and topped 1,200 words.
On Sunday as eight writers met in a café in Brighton to write. This ‘Write a novel in a month’ has over 200,000 participants – novels are written at these events and published. We’ll have to see what I can do.
There’ll be a dedication to The OU should it ever comes out. As there is a fabulously vibrant Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) they are running on FutureLearn “Start Writing Fiction’ that has put the emphasis on character – another month to run on this. It is free. The OU BA in Creative Writing runs for several years. It works. There are plenty of published authors.
I’ve written on about blogging and its worth for over 14 years.
Regularly kindly people have suggested I stop blogging and put my energy into writing fiction. Courtesy of FutureLearn ‘Start Writing Fiction’ (From The OU) and the Write a Novel in A Month think for November I have duly written close to 60,000 words. This first draft, I understand, could take two or three months to edit – that will be the next step.
Gladly my early morning hour or two has been spent on this, rather than stacking up things to blog about. Instead I have fretted about scenes, characters and plots. The FutureLearn MOOC became apt and timely ‘applied’ learning as I’d had to write 1,600 words a day – today I topped 4,500.
|From E-Learning V|
Fig. 2. Stacking up the numbers
More than any MOOC I’ve ever done I feel certain that this will convert some for doing a freebie to becoming students. It’ll be interesting to see what the take up it. I know the percentages from OpenLearn are very modest 0.7% being a good figure.
I’ll reflect on what this means in due course.
Learning promoted like the Lotto? With badges, prizes, write-ins, writing wars … and more prizes, and tips and incentives.
What I think it means for e-learning and what personally I have picked up. I shouldn’t fret about TMAs anymore. You do a marathon and a short run ought to feel like something I can do in my stride. I always wished I could write first drafts under exam conditions then edit.
The value of using a 3D timeline in writing
Constructing a length piece of writing – over 50,000 words and need to stick to the chronology of events, at least in the first draft, I have found using the timeline creation tool Tiki-Toki invaluable. You can create one of these for FREE.
Over the last few months I’ve been adding ‘episodes’ to a timeline that stretches between 1914 and 1919. You get various views, including the traditional timeline of events stretched along an unfurling panorama. However, if you want to work with two screen side by side the 3D view allows you to scroll back and forth through the timeline within the modest confines of its window.
|From Lewes, East Sussex|
The River Ouse at Southease, The South Downs Way
Walking and taking photos yesterday afternoon after a morning writing – for me that was 4.30 am to 11.30am I resolved a character/plot issue in a novel I am challenging myself to complete in first draft in a month. This is part of an online ‘Write a Novel in a Month’ thing that has been running since 2002: recommended. It has all the joy and connectivity of learning in a supported environment that you could want.
This is an OU course too. A lot is said about keeping a notebook. I have ‘issues’ with this.
During this walk I decided that I had to make the protagonist’s only friend his nemesis and enemy. I also figured out a story that has been on my mind for 25 years about a 9-year-old girl buried in a school garden … however, there was something else knew that I thought I’d remember but had forgotten by the time I got to the car I could have tapped a cryptic message on the phone’s notepad, phoned home and left a message on the answer-phone, recorded a note on the iPhone, or scribbled a note had I pen and paper … the issue I have is that when you develop a habit of jotting down ideas it can bring your life to a grinding halt: you stop to take notes, pull over in a lay-by to write something down, let something burn in the kitchen, don’t answer the phone, wake up in the middle of the night repeatedly … this happened to me. I could not sleep for long without having an idea about something. And then I ended up managing that database, and having more ideas in a crushing spiral of brain pain no gain self-defeating, bean-counting, self-analysis, deconstructive, non-creative nonsense. Be warned
The answer is to work as a tree surgeon. My solution is to fill a reasonable part of my life, paid and as a volunteer, teaching and coaching swimming to kids, adults and disabled people. That keeps my head, hands, feet and soul gainfully occupied.
Learning can be an obsession; look at me. I know that learning with The OU fills such an important space in my life that even when the money has run out I want to keep doing more
Undoing the blogging habit of a decade
For a decade I’ve settled into a blog post every morning.
For the last couple of weeks I’ve at least been forming a new habit. Whether 3.30am or 5.40am I get up and work on fiction ’til breakfast. That out of the way I can get on with the rest of the day. This leads to early nights. But am I missing much? ‘I’m a celebrity get me out of here?’ No thanks.
A first from The OU – a TMA that was an audio file that came back with written comments and an audio file.
A very different beast learning a language. Both in the text and the spoken word there is lots to pick up on.
Facts in an essays are like pepper in soup
|From E-Learning V|
Fig.1. Facts in an essays are like pepper in soup
How do you compare and mark a variety of Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs)?
We need to treat them like one of those challenges they do on Top Gear, where Jeremy Clarkson – Richard Hammond – James May set off to Lapland in a Reliant Robin or some such and then get marks across six or so criteria. Hardly scientific, but it splits the pack.
So, let’s say we take THREE MOOCs, what criteria should there be?
- Commitment. What percentage of participants signing up complete the course?
- Comments. I use the word ‘vibrancy’ to judge the amount and nature of activity in the MOOC, so this is crudely reduced to the number of comments left.
- Likes. Another form of vibrancy where comments left by the team and by participants are ‘liked’. It has to be a measure of participation, engagement and even enjoyment
- Correct answers. Assuming, without any means to verify this, that participants don’t cheat, when tested are they getting the answers right. This is tricky as there ought to be a before and after test. Tricky to as how one is tested should relate directly to how one is taught. However, few MOOCs if any are designed as rote learning.
You could still end up, potentially, comparing a leaflet with an Encyclopaedia. Or as the Senior Tutor on something I have been on, a rhinoceros with a giraffe.
It helps to know your audience and play to a niche.
It helps to concentrate on the quality of content too, rather than more obviously pushing your faculty and university. Enthusiasm, desire to impart and share knowledge, wit, intelligence … And followers with many points of view, ideally from around the globe I’ve found as this will ‘keep the kettle bowling’. There is never a quiet moment, is there?
I did badly on a quiz in a FutureLearn Free Online Course (FOC). World War 1. Paris 1919. A new world order …
I think I got half right. I chose not to cheat, not to go back or to do a Google search; what’s the point in that. I haven’t taken notes. I wanted to get a handle on how much is going in … or not. Actually, in this context, the quiz isn’t surely a test of what has been learnt, but a bit of fun. Learning facts and dates is, or used to be, what you did in formal education at 15 or 16. This course is about issues and ideas. A ‘test’ therefore, would be to respond to an essay title. And the only way to grade that, which I’ve seen successfully achieved in MOOCs, is for us lot to mark each others’ work. Just thinking out loud. In this instance the course team, understandably could not, nor did they try, to respond to some 7,000 comments. They could never read, assess, grade and give feedback to a thousand 4,000 word essays. Unless, as I have experienced, you pay a fee. I did a MOOC with Oxford Brookes and paid a fee, achieved a distinction and have a certificate on ‘First Steps in Teaching in Higher Education’.
As facts are like pins that secure larger chunks of knowledge I ought to study such a FutureLearn FOC with a notepad; just a few notes on salient facts would help so that’s what I’ll do next week and see how I get on. Not slavishly. I’ll use a pack of old envelopes or some such For facts to stick, rather than ideas to develop, the platform would have needed to have had a lot of repetition built into it. Facts in an essays are like pepper in soup.
Armed with an entire module on research techniques for studying e-learning – H809: Practice-based research in educational technology – I ought to be able to go about this in a more academic, and less flippant fashion.
Is it a good thing or a bad thing to get stuck down a rabbit hole?
|From E-Learning V|
Fig.1 Alice in a hole
This thought, in relation to researching and writing an essay came from retired squadron-leader, prof. Peter Gray. I am often stuck down a rabbit hole; I indulge my curiosity and quickly get lost. It took me half an hour to scramble over images of ‘stuck down a rabbit hole’ mostly involving small dogs or variations on Alice in Wonderland and randomly including weird artworks and images of vertigo or claustrophobia before I decided to go with the above.
|From E-Learning V|
Fig.2. Types of moustache
This morning I have now been up for four hours and haven’t quite completed two hours ‘writing’; the rest of the time has been spent trying to find the right kind of beards and moustaches to put on a set of five male characters, ages between 17 and 60, in northern France in 1917. Seeing the respective beards on three of them, the other two are clean-shaven, is just the start. I then have to name and describe them in terms that are appropriate to the era. I can’t talk of beard types as a George Michael, Magnum or even Hitler. They have to be described with metaphors and words that would have been prevalent in the press at the time.
|From E-Learning V|
Fig. 3. Robert Twigger as Richard Francis Burton
I get thrown by spotting someone I know, then move onto how to describe parts of the outer ear and stumbleupon some fascinating fact about miniature portraits made of officers of the First World War as a keepsake. My searches are still prioritising French, so a few words or phrases might be entering the brain regarding Napoleon III beards and the like.
My curiosity indulged I check the word count for this morning’s efforts and I might come to 60 words added to yesterday’s tally; on the other hand, when I next need to describe a person sporting facial hair I ought to be able to do so rather more quickly. On the positive side, with their moustaches, I have created an easy way to distinguish between the men and I’m rather taken by the aptness of ‘getting stuck down a rabbit hole’ as ‘being stuck’ is very much a part of the plot.
On writing away from home and other distractions
Fig. 1 Retreats for You, Sheepwash, Devon
An hour with my tutor yesterday evening. Buzzed, but fell asleep soon after. It was a four hour drive yesterday afternoon/evening and I’d been up since 4.00 am or something. Which is when I woke this morning and rattled off 1 1/2 following guidelines on how to ‘set the scene’.
Armed with a pot of coffee I plan to get another hour in before breakfast.
The goal is to write four completed scenes, each of around 2,500 words this week. I may, a new experience for me, write each of these scenes several times as I try out the approaches I’ve been given.
The premise for my novel got the thumbs up as did my ‘voice’: not so hot were the gaping holes in my scene setting – I leave far too much untold.
By the end of the week I will decide either to give up once and for all, or that there’s a future in it and the boxes of manuscripts, scripts, zip drives, discs and flopping discs, hard drives, notebooks and diaries have served a purpose or should go to the skip.
And I’ll rejoin the family for my birthday.
Essay writing style: clay or concrete aggregate?
|From River Ouse Low Tide|
My tried and tested methodology, beyond the doomed ‘winging it’ is ‘concrete aggregate’. Other weeks or months I accumulate a lot of stuff, much of it in a blog like this; not quite a relational database but the ‘stuff’ is here, tagged and of reasonable relevance. In a now defunct OU ePortfolio called ‘MyStuff’ or ‘MyOU’ – I forget, you could then shuffle and rank your gobbets of nonsense and so, discounting the volume of stuff, potentially, have a treatment that could then be turned into an essay.
Such stuff, if it contains, 10,000 words, often with chunks of verbatim passages, can be a hell of a task to hack into shape. You build in bold forms out of concrete and can only get it to look like a garden, or park sculpture, with a pneumatic drill and chisel. Sometimes it works. You get there. It is dry and workable. You’ll more than pass. It depends on the subject, the module and the specific expectations of the assignment. Where you need to tick many boxes this approach may work well.
Clay is the better way forward in most situations. Here you build up your arguments in logical steps then refine them at the end. This, particularly in the social sciences, is where the tutor wants to see how you argue you case, drawing together arguments and facts, mostly those you’ve been exposed to in the module, though allowing for some reading beyond the module. You have to express your opinion, rather than listing the views of others. Get it right and this is the only way to reach the upper grades? Get it wrong, which is the risk, and you may end up with a hollow or limp structure with grades to match.
My subject matter
Prince Edward was sent to France during the First World War. He lost his virginity in an Amiens brothel soon after his 21st birthday and recieved the Military Cross for duties that included the organising of firewood collections.