Article: Sample from Dr Rennie Parker’s Starting to Write

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Cover for Starting to Write
Starting to Write

Desert Island Books
On a separate sheet of paper, list eight books or collections which have influenced you or made a significant impression – include anything read since childhood. Beside each entry, list what these books have done for you; it could range from ‘it was the funniest thing ever’ to ‘it enabled me to survive’. Taking
the most important statement, expand this into a paragraph of at least five sentences, encapsulating the value of this book in your life – what it showed you, what you learnt, how entertaining it was at the time.
Desert Island Books can be turned into a game with others – you might find that people begin arguing for the superiority of their favourite book! Events hosts at literary festivals often interview authors using this outline as a peg to secure their discussions.
Now, find out more about the authors whose works have impressed you. Nearly all of them will have website entries, if not full-scale biographies available.
Why should you read about authors? Because you will pick up a great many writing tips in the process. The following one, from Ernest Hemingway, has been recommended to many students – and they tell me it’s rather good:
End the day’s work on a half-finished sentence. When you return the following day, you will automatically continue from where you left off.
Minor forms of writer’s block and ‘where do I start’ worries are abolished at a stroke. Thanks, Ernest!
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Keeping a Notebook
You have already begun to note down your responses to other literature. Now you need the essential piece of equipment which no writer would be caught without. A notebook should be fairly small, because it will be on your person most of the time. I keep mine in the top slot of my rucksack when on holiday, and in my handbag daily. It should always be within easy reach – not in a locked desk or the suitcase
which disappeared into the baggage hold! Hardbacked A5 or A6 sizes are probably the most useful,
since these sizes fit most pockets. If necessary, give it a plastic jacket from a specialist stationer or put waterproof tape around the corners, because it helps if your notebook is rain, beverage, and mud-resistant. Cheap notebooks are fine, since whatever you choose will be receiving a battering
over the coming months. However, avoid spiral bound books; these fall apart quickly. Choose stapled, stitched, or perfect-bound (flat square-ended spines) wherever possible. Above all, you must want to write in it. Therefore, if you can’t face being seen with anything other than rare papers bound in leather, and the thought of keeping your ideas in something worth 50p makes you ill, go right ahead
with something special. Before you start to specialise and find your feet as a writer, it is likely that your range of subject matter is still unknown and unformed. At this stage, your subject matter should be a
combination of what’s inside you and what’s out there – for the simple reason that ‘out there’ is the place where literature starts and where most of your ideas are destined to arise.
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