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Oooo, I remember writing up experiments at school…

Equipment

  1. A huge pile of unread ‘how-to-write’ books.
  2. A handful of red pens.
  3. The realisation that simply owning a book is not enough to transfer the subject matter from page to brain.
  4. A hopeless addiction to spending hours a day reading epic fantasy serieseses.

Method

  1. Finish reading current epic fantasy series.
  2. Do not start new epic fantasy series for at least a month.*
  3. Instead, pick up nearest how-to-write book and read that.
  4. Mark interesting passages with red pen.
  5. Think about what you’ve learned and how to use it to improve your writing.
  6. Record positive and negative effects.
  7. [optional] Write a blog post about what you’ve learned.

* Bugger! I’d forgotten I’d said I’d do this for at least a month! I was just about to cave in as well… I guess as I’m half way through I might as well carry on.

Results

Positive:

  • I’m learning an awful lot more than I was before, when the how-to-write books were simply lined up on my windowsill waiting to be read.
  • It’s entirely possible that my writing is improving, but I’ve got no idea if that’s true. It feels as if it might be though.
  • I’m building up a set of techniques to deal with situations I was struggling with e.g. reading Syd Field’s book helped me with my radio play.
  • I’m reading more of the stuff I’m trying to write – poetry and short stories – this can only be good.

Negative:

  • I really struggle to get to sleep at night without my usual soporific few/many chapters of sword and sorcery. For instance, I was awake till nearly 4am last night.
  • I seem to be substituting graphic novels for fantasy – I can kind of justify this as one of our teachers told us to read some… :-\
  • Reading has started to feel like work, and I sometimes find I don’t want to do it. That’s Not Good.

Conclusions so far

Well, I’m only half way through the experiment so I’m not going to draw too many conclusions. One thing that has sprung to mind is that I’d be better off stopping myself watching TV – I’m hooked on all sorts of rubbish. (I can’t believe I said that, I’ve been busy not admitting it to myself for months, trying to kid myself that quitting Casualty, Holby City, NCIS and CSI was enough)

I’m a bit concerned about the disruption to my sleep patterns, I hope that will settle down soon. Apart from that, it’s great to be gaining knowledge at my current rate. So the experiment will continue, for now at least.

Of course, writing this blog post has been pure procrastination – there are loads of competition deadlines coming up and I’m bored with polishing mediocre poems and stories in the hope they’ll sparkle enough to catch the judges’ eyes…

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