Originally called Blot the Skrip and Jar It, I started this blog five years ago to aid, generally motivate, and hopefully sometimes even inspire people who, like me, found themselves for whatever reason compelled to write. My intention was to offer no nonsense, unpretentious and practical advice on prose fiction, life writing, and, to a lesser extent, non-fiction and academic writing. This was, in part, an extension of my on-going teaching work, but was mostly just intended as an informal piece of knowledge sharing. Like most writers and academics, I love the sound of my own voice, and cannot help but be a teacher. (I have since discovered I have a ‘maven’ personality, apparently.)
I frequently saw the same common barriers to successful writing cropping up in the work I assessed as an editor and university lecturer. I thus felt the sudden and urgent need to add my voice to the Babel of opinions concerning ‘creative writing’ that clog the internet, fill the bookshops, and are manifest in very exclusive and expensive university courses that have annexed, if not all but annihilated, traditional literary study. These things now feel like a necessary apprenticeship for the 21st century author, but there are currently so many touting for business that it becomes harder every month to see the wood for the trees. And while there are some amazing guides out there, there is also a lot of material that overwhelms, underwhelms, overcharges, and invariably overcomplicates. As Scotty teaches us in Star Trek, ‘The more complicated they make the plumbing, the easier it is to block a drain.’
My position was always that writing is more of a craft than an art (and that includes the ‘literary’), and that it can be learned and improved by practice combined with critical study. This has been my approach in guiding students and authors for over twenty-five years now, and I have been very successful at my job. I’ve also written a few books and a positive shed load of articles and short stories, and edited many more besides, so I’ve learned an awful lot about the creative process by actually doing it, rather than just talking about it.
As I was already blogging academically, this was always going to be much more light-hearted and free form, sharing my experiences as a writer, editor and teacher, offering hints and tips on creative writing, a little bit of theory, some of my own writing and the odd review, posting when I could and when I felt like it. This has not changed, although those of you who have been gracious enough to stick with me will have noticed that the blog has evolved – well, mutated – over the years into something even more eclectic than it was originally intended. This is partly because I have moved on from teaching and away from academia and into professional writing, so this thing has now, god help me, become part of my ‘online platform’, promoting my own writing as well as my services as an editor and mentor. It’s become more autobiographical as well, which is why there’s sometimes stuff about family, music and motorcycles. But overall, it’s still about writing, mine and yours…
I’m still posting when I feel like it – I’ll never be any good at banging out entries every week, I’m far too busy – but I promise I’ll still keep writing about writing, and you’ll just have to excuse whatever other bees I get in my bonnet or the occasional piece of desperate and shameless self-promotion. So, whether you write to please others or to simply please yourself, I hope that some of this will prove useful when applied to your own projects. And remember, in the immortal words of Henry Havelock Ellis, ‘The great writer finds style as the mystic finds God, in his own soul,’ and, failing that, in the equally immortal words of the poet William Stafford, ‘Lower your standards and keep writing!’
All the Best
PS. If you do get anything out of this blog, please do us a favour and ‘Like’ and ‘Share’. Check out Shark Alley as well, it is a free serial, The 19th Century Underworld, and my author website. Cheers.
PPS. And if you’d like to work with me as an editor and mentor, you can find details about that here.
Stephen ‘Kit’ Carver is a literary historian, freelance editor and occasional novelist. For sixteen years he taught literature and creative writing at the University of East Anglia (where he also took his doctorate), spending three years in Japan as a Professor of English at the University of Fukui. He left UEA in 2012 to become Head of Online Courses at the Unthank School of Writing (a post he held until retiring from teaching in 2018) and to work with The Literary Consultancy in London, with whom he remains affiliated as a reader and mentor. Stephen is the biographer of the Victorian novelist W.H. Ainsworth, and has published extensively on gothic film and fiction. He has been the recipient of several national and international research grants – most notably two awards from the Arts and Humanities Research Council of Great Britain – and is a member of the International Gothic Association and the British Association of Victorian Studies. His short stories have appeared in Not-Not, Cascando, Birdsuit, and Veto, and his first novel, Shark Alley: The Memoirs of a Penny-a-Liner, was published in 2016. This was followed by The Nineteenth Century Underworld: Crime, Controversy and Corruption (Pen & Sword History, 2018) while The Author Who Outsold Dickens: The Life and Work of W.H. Ainsworth (also published by Pen & Sword) is forthcoming early in 2020. Stephen is married with a young son; he likes old motorcycles, wild rockabilly, and anything to do with horror.