January 3rd, 2005

View from study (sunny)

Move more, eat less

After a lethargic few days in which I've been stuck on the computer intensively marking stories for the fiction writing course because if I don't get them back today, they'll be late and anyway I need to get them done because I'm in work tomorrow and need to concentrate on the day job, I did manage to get out for a brisk hour's walk today.

I just did the circuit up Cader Road, turn left at the farm at the top, along the narrow gated lane and then back down the footpath to the town. It's probably not very far in miles, but it has the long hill at the start, which is a good steady pull, but not so steep that you can't walk briskly.

It was almost dark by the time I was walking down the final stretch and I tried taking some pictures of the town below and all the lights, but I'd forgotten about camera shake on longer exposures. *g* I'll try again another time, but this time remember to rest the camera on the wall.
  • Current Mood
    hyper Exercised
View from study (sunny)

Micro and macro level writing

I posted a message yesterday to the online student discussion group for the fiction writing course I tutor saying:

However, just a word both of caution and encouragement. So far in the groups I've tutored there has been virtually no correlation between the marks gained for the two assignments. So those who got a high mark this time certainly shouldn't think they'll automatically do as well next time. I've seen the second assignment go pear-shaped in a big way. And those who didn't do so well with the short pieces can make a very good come back on the second, longer assignment, which actually carries far more marks.

It was only today that it dawned on me why the fiction writing results are so completely different from the technology and maths and computing courses I've tutored, where the mark gained on early assignments is a good predictor of the mark achieved on later ones.

On the fiction writing course, the two assignments are testing different things. For the first one, because they've only been studying for about 5 weeks, the stories are assessed purely on the sentence level of writing. (They have to submit 3 short pieces of 500 words each.) They're mostly studies in description, of both character and setting. Students are suppsed to be producing Good Writing, which means we tutors are to look for sharp observations in the character and a strong sense of place in the setting. We're told to ignore plot and in fact, in 500 words, they don't have room to develop much of one.

The thing is, many of the ones gaining average marks on the first assignment do so because they haven't answered the question properly. The writing may be quite accomplished, but if they haven't done what was required and have, for instance, written quite a lively little story with likeable characters and some sharp dialogue, but not described the setting well, they won't score as highly as someone who can do the sentence level description. However, there's no guarantee that the one who can do the classy writing at the sentence level can write a coherent scene -- and that's what's required for the second assignment where they write a 1500 word story or submit the first 1500 words of something longer (plus synopsis of the rest of the story). So, the natural novelists who can't just describe a character without them jumping up and developing a whole complex story to inhabit do less well on the first assignment, but blossom come assignment two. So, having realised this, I can now focus my help and guidance more precisely.

Of course a few of them (1 or 2 per group) are just bloody good writers and do well at both the sentence level and in writing whole scenes. Those are perhaps the ones to watch, but I still feel that perseverance counts for more then a facility with words, over the long haul of a novel.
  • Current Mood
    thoughtful Reflective