We had a fantastic workshop yesterday at the University of Salford. We had obtained some funding, with the help of one of our Creative Writing Tutors, Emma Hardy, who used to work for Careers. This was money for students to organise an event themselves, which would help them to find out about careers in writing.
It was an excellent occasion. Dimple Singh, one of our very able undergraduate students organised the visit for maximum success. We were in a visible but quiet enough part of the library. Drinks were served on arrival.
Zahid Hussain spoke to us and read to us for just over an hour. His work is brilliant. I sat next to Ursula Hurley, another fiction-writing Creative Writing lecturer. We really had to restrain ourselves so that there we were not disruptive. Zahid told us so much we recognised – the need to put in the hours and produce the volume, the focussed editing, and the order in which you should do that, for example. And about killing off darlings.
We touched also on critique. You need a trusted person who will tell you it how it is. I raised the point about how once another has been introduced to a work in progress they can never have true objectivity again. It is useful to have someone to give feedback as you go along and someone else to give feed back once you have done your best with a piece. I personally find it very useful to ask specific questions of my reader to see whether they have the same picture in their head as they read as I had when I wrote.
Zahid also introduced us to some new ideas. Some writers are visual and some aural. I think I am a little of both, but I do see my stories in scenes. My prose poetry, on the other hand, comes ready formed in words almost whispered into my ear. Is that all based on feelings as he suggests poet’s work is? He also pointed out the difference between Dostoyevsky and Tolstoy. Dostoyevsky plotted in detail. Tolstoy just wrote, a little like Steven King does. Ursula and I both decided we were exactly in the middle. Zahid also touched on the question of voice and point of view. I personally am not convinced that an individual writer needs an individual voice. But certainly a novel needs a consistent voice. Different novels may have different voices. This may change within a novel with the viewpoint. Or you can yet have a story told from one point of view which is a character outside the events who is observing them. This is not the author, but rather yet another fictionalised character. Interesting!
He also spoke a little on how the publishing industry works.
And to top it all, we had the most wonderful buffet of Indian food at the end. My goodness, Dimple, you did do well. A really great event.
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