Editing Masterguide by KU Creative Writing Staff and Writers in Residence

InterviewsPut down your pens, close your books and bid farewell to the MA Full-time Creative Writing class of 2014.

Now pick them back up and reopen Lockhurst quickly as we’ve got the mother of all workloads ahead. May submissions seem like a dot in the distance but we’ve all learned from semester one, time is notoriously deceptive. Especially if you’re like a certain member of the Words, Pauses, Noises team who leaves posting to the eleventh hour.

But fear not as our delightful tutors and writers in residence have bequeathed one final gift. Words, Pauses, Noises are honoured to present the top editing tips and advice, tried and trusted by our mentors and tutors. Gather around children because for some reason, I envision this post printed out and stuck up on many fridges over the coming weeks, including my own.

Jonathan Barnes:

  • Read your final drafts aloud – this will help to eliminate small repetitions, glitches etc. All text seems different when it is spoken.
  • Highlight clichés, then eradicate them!
  • Read a page of writing by an author whom you really admire and then return to your own editing, uplifted and inspired.

James Miller:

  • Where you have a long paragraph, cut the first and last sentence. These are usually waffle, the writerly equivalent of clearing your throat. This tip also applies to non-fiction.
  • Write early drafts long-hand, then type it up then print it out then go over it long hand. Then type up your corrections. Then repeat throughout the process. You should expect to do this many, many times.
  • Finished a final draft? Well done. Now open a new document and start again. You now have to re-write the entire book from scratch but with reference to the earlier draft. You are not allowed to copy and paste any of the old draft. Doing this will tighten your prose and intensify the drama of your story and is particularly good if, having ‘finished’ the first draft, you feel there is still something lacking. In general the more times you can go-over and rewrite, the better.

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Recommended Summer Reading: A Booklist from Jonathan Barnes

InterviewsSummer is here at last! Words, Pauses, Noises suggests that the best way to spend a lazy summer afternoon is with a good book. One of our students, Jasmine, asked Kingston University’s writer-in-residence Jonathan Barnes for his recommendations on books to read this summer. He gave us a great list of some of his favourites as well as those he’ll be reading over the holidays. So, pull out those deck chairs, grab a cool drink, and get outside for some sunshine with a good book!

Jonathan Barnes’ Summer Reading Recommendations

I have been reading a lot for review lately so it will be an enjoyable break over the summer to experience some fiction purely for pleasure. However, books that I’ve read and written about lately which I would also recommend include Julian “no relation” Barnes’ memoir Levels of Life – heart-breaking in its candour; unflinching in its depiction of an almost unbearable grief – and Patrick McGrath’s deft, stylish Constance. McGrath is one of our most underrated novelists – I’ve been a fan ever since the early works: his short story collection, Blood and Water, his first novel, The Grotesque – and his latest, about a brittle, troubled young woman in 1960s Manhattan, is as elegant and subtly potent as I’d expected. I’ve also written a short piece on the new edition of J B Priestley’s 1927 classic, Benighted (filmed twice as The Old Dark House) which remains, almost a century after it was written, chillingly effective. His description of some primal evil which might lie behind even the most tawdry of domestic horrors is unforgettable: “his mind… found an opposing presence, an enemy… a density of evil, something gigantic, ancient but enduring… it was working everywhere, in the mirk of rain outside, here in the rotting corners, and without end, in the black between the stars”.

When going away for the summer, my suitcase often strains towards the upper limit of the baggage allowance due to the volume of books that I’ve crammed into it. This year, I’ll be bringing (for review) the late Iain Banks’ last novel, The Quarry. For research purposes I’ll have with me Arthur Conan Doyle’s Tales of Unease and that strange, ghost-written nineteenth-century text Awful Disclosures, composed, supposedly, by the wronged nun “Maria Monk”. For sheer fun I’ll be taking two books that I’ve never read but which have been on my list for a while: Julian Maclaren-Ross’ novel Of Love and Hunger and F Scott Fitzgerald’s Collected Short Stories. I’ll also have with me – and for this, I make no apology whatever – Stephen King’s splendid-looking new novella, Joyland.

Next Sunday, join Words, Pauses, Noises for more original content to help make summer a little bit sunnier.