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Getting it written, getting it right

We’re fond of quoting Hunter Davies, the great biographer of the Beatles and Alfred Wainwright (and Wayne Rooney), who says ‘Don’t get it right, get it written’. That is key, and anyone will tell you: just do it. But isn’t there always the idea drummed in at school with the essay plan – that it’s not enough to have the material, you have to have a structure.  Well, obviously we have to teach ourselves how to write and, as Arvon exemplifies so well, we do that by writing. But part of writing, which is the other thing everyone tells you, is reading. In a Paris Review interview, Philip Larkin was outraged when asked what he had learnt from studying Hardy and Yeats. ‘Study?’ he said (you feel he was actually bellowing), ‘you don’t study poets, you read them, and you think that’s marvelous, how is it done, can I do it?’

In our exercises we invite you to try different shapes and forms, we’re hoping you will close-read and follow examples of poems you particularly admire. ‘Don’t get it right, get it written’ is certainly a mantra we hold to – but for us what distinguishes the gifted writer from the genuinely promising one is exactly that Larkin attitude of needing to read in order to see how it is done. Very often we meet poets who will spend days and weeks on their own writing, forensically trying to ‘get it right’ – poets who have never in fact looked properly at anybody else’s poems.

‘Get it written’ may sound as if we believe it’s enough to write any old how. But slapdash is of course never the way. And actually slapdash isn’t possible if we’ve put the work in (reading other poems). Then if we manage to trust the process, and we write so genuinely that the poem seems to be writing itself – then we really do now and then find that in getting it written, we also get it right.

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Creating ‘Child Eye’s View’ when writing for young people

Young people don’t just come under the heading of one audience. There are so many different ages and…

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Don’t write poems – write an artwork, a musical composition, a dance

What if we quit thinking of poetry as a literary form, and instead conceive of it as a…

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Emotionally Engage

If you think about plays you’ve enjoyed, that stay with you, and try and work out why they…

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Writing the unspoken

quicken: to accelerate; to impart energy or liveliness to; to invigorate; to stimulate; to give life to; to…

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Drafting and editing poetry

Write poetry by hand. Go on, try it, even if you always write directly on the computer. I…

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It is all about the sound

Radio drama is all about the sound. Think sound before you think dialogue – the two are not…

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Drawing out the comedy

Somebody famously said that writing comedy is harder than writing drama because in comedy you have to do…

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Cut the fluff

There is, of course, no rule that says you should never write dialogue that looks exactly like real…

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Mark’s 3 top tips – Critical, forensic and persistent

Click on the video below to hear Mark’s top three writing tips…

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Beat it Out

So you have an idea for a play. You may have some characters. An event, or a theme….

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Planning a film script

‘To make a great movie, you need just three things: a great script, a great script, and a…

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