Hello and welcome to this week’s guest post in this fabulous series where we are joined by Elan Durham who is a screenwriter, editor, traveller, and former university professor. She has written a number of mixed genre screenplays and a novel, Borrowed Light, for which she is currently seeking representation by someone keen on great writing. Her journey is a fascinating one and I hope you will choose to connect with her via her social media and website links.
My favourite writing quote and how it inspired me and helped me to develop my writing:
“If a writer’s sentences have enough life and interest in them – with “every step an arrival”, as Rainer Maria Rilke put it – they will hold the reader and move the writing along. The writing finds a hidden unity that has no need of the mucilage of linking phrases. Each sentence is like a tidal island that looks cut off until, at low tide, a causeway to the mainland appears.”
— ‘How to write the perfect sentence’ The Guardian Books online, Sept 21, 20018. Excerpted from Joe Moran’s First You Write a Sentence: The Elements of Reading, Writing … and Life (Viking)
Joe Moran’s Guardian essay didn’t say anything I hadn’t considered at some point during my formal education as a writer, but the development of the author’s thoughts led to a realization. An old chestnut in Creative Writing courses states: the word is the basic unit of the poem, the sentence is the basic unit of the short story, and the chapter forms the basis for a novel. This instruction is one of the first simplifications in what amounts to decades of practice of our craft, and it seems poor schemata for training minds to think about writing. Word, sentence, chapter, novel . . . Sound, form, meaning, sense; juxtapose them how you will, but you will need sentences and well-made ones to start. A poem may pack more meaning in fourteen lines than a bestselling novel, and a short story or play may prove as evocative as The Illiad and The Odyssey thousands of years after they were first inscribed on clay. And when you open a book to a sentence, and feel a sense of originality, wonderment, and delight, you have likely entered into an achievement that also lives in the communal minds of others for all time.
“And so we beat on, boats against the current, borne back
ceaselessly into the past.”
Writing may be a lonely occupation. However, Joe Moran’s essay made me feel less alone in my daily obsessions and fixations on sentences. I am continually flipping sentence structures, rearranging the order of sentences, or taking away adjectives or adverbs, and asking a sentence to sit on the page in all its five-word glory and tell a story by itself.
What I am currently writing/working on:
I am writing and editing a novel, Borrowed Light: A Novel in Stories. Borrowed Light traces moments in the life of my narrator in twelve story-chapters to explore American mythology and hopefully place Jean Turner in the tradition of female literary survivors. I am also fine-tuning a 140-page screenplay, ‘Adventures in Paradise’ that offers half of its roles to women, based on the 2011 Hackgate media scandal in London. My other mixed-genre screenplays mostly set in Great Britain are needing much more attention from me.
Huge thanks to Elan for her wonderful contribution…I will certainly be looking through and reading Moran’s writing book…and thank you too for joining us. Please feel free to connect with Elan on any of her links below and happy reading, happy writing…may you continue to be inspired!
With much love, Soulla x
Social Media links:
Contact Elan Durham: firstname.lastname@example.org
Quote in italics from The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald, 1925, Scribner.