Novel – Reflective Commentary Five

My novel is based on a true event during WW1 when my grandfather’s ship was torpedoed by a U-Boat. In assignment one, I began with the family’s norm before the drama. After drafting the first chapter, I realized the beginning was too flat and I needed a hook. Therefore, I decided to swap chapter one with the chapter I wrote for my assignment two. As Bell says, ‘The hook is what grabs the reader’s attention… [writers] figure we have to get the readers seeing the location, then the characters… Don’t fall into this trap. Readers don’t care about the natural order if they are intrigued’ (2004:121).

Assignment two replaces chapter one and introduces us to Bill and Grace as they are dealing with trauma and crisis. We are thrown into their world where Bill has been traumatised by the war. Then, to increase the drama, their second child dies. Bell explains that ‘…very early on in Act 1… something’s got to happen to make us feel there’s some threat… happening to the characters’ (2004:27).

Along with Bill’s reaction to this drama, I built his character through his physical appearance. Because it is an action-packed section, I added descriptions of Bill in portions rather than one big section. For example, when he woke from his dream, he ‘climbed into his trousers and drew his jumper over the mass of curls on his head.’ Setterfield describes Lily simply as ‘a stubby figure, clutching a coat about her, [who] scurried in the direction of Radcot Bridge’ (2018:106). The course book, Starting a Novel, explains: ‘Great nineteenth-century novelists often spent a paragraph painting a detailed character sketch… But for today’s reader, it’s best to avoid such static descriptions. It pauses the action and diminishes the narrative drive… ’ (OCA,2018:46).

As I learned to create characters, I decided some characters were minor instead of major, such as Natalia. She interacts with Arthur later in the novel, but does not move the story on. In this section, Grace is a secondary character (deuteragonist), but later on she will have her own story to tell. However, this will not happen with Natalia as she is not directly affected by Bill’s trauma. As King says: ‘I had located the fossil; the rest, I knew, would consist of careful excavation’ (2012:193).

My tutor showed me how to stay with Bill’s point of view. For example, when Bill woke, I wrote, ‘Bill woke up from his dream screaming and grasping for air’, which sounded like it was the viewpoint of a person watching Bill. In order to keep with Bill’s point of view, I changed it to ‘Bill woke with a jerk and found himself sat up straight.’

In my reflective commentary for assignment two, I mentioned that I had experimented with first person, but forgot to mention that I decided to stay with third person limited. My tutor pointed out that I was writing in third person. I mention this because I want my tutor and the assessors to know I understand the difference between first and third person. I mainly decided to stay with third person because if I wrote the story in first person past, the reader would know whether Bill survives or not. Also, Bill has difficulty with intimacy and first person creates a closeness between the character and the reader that would not would work for Bill. Cowan explains that ‘One of the main effects of first person point of view is to… draw the reader into a relationship of apparent intimacy with the “speaker”’ (2013:132).

Bill’s life is based around water – living near the Thames, being a barge-builder, and being in the navy during the war. I enhanced this fact by introducing fantasy characters that help or hinder Bill, based on Scandinavian folk tales about a sea creature, and used watery imagery to describe them. In the early drafts, a policeman guided him to the hospital but I changed that to a man whose ‘…green coat swung around his body and the mist sat in droplets on his sleeves.’ The Snow Childis set in Alaska’s cold landscape. It is not clear whether the child Faina is a fantasy or real but Ivey uses chilly imagery to describe her: ‘There was something otherworldly in her manners and appearance, her frosty lashes and cool blue stare’ (2012:105).

My research included ships during World War 1, and hospitals in the 1920s. In The War at Sea, an armed merchant cruiser is torpedoed by a U-Boat. A Sub-Lieutenant appointed to the ship describes the attack: ‘Suddenly we were all startled by a shout from the starboard look out, “Submarine on the port bow”’, and there was my first sentence (Thompson,2005:160-161).

Assignment four describes Lenny’s funeral and Bill fleeing the cemetery during a flashback. Bill disappears later in the novel and this assignment gave reasons why he would disappear.

After the funeral, which is slow-paced with the characters being sad, the story changes to a fast pace with Bill running and upset with some interior monologue. This develops the character but also, I wanted to encourage reader interest. The course book, Starting a Novel, explains that ‘You don’t want to have a series of exciting, tense scenes at the start of your novel, and then have all the tension and excitement fizzle out leaving 200 slow pages’ (OCA,2018:107).

Bill’s character also develops through speech. He is the strong, silent type so his dialogue is short or he just nods. I strengthened his interactions with Grace because she is chatty and this helps develop Bill’s character. At the end of assignment four, Grace is upset and her dialogue is sometimes about six sentences long, whereas Bill’s dialogue is often one sentence. When Grace is trying to persuade him to go to the doctor, his answer is only that ‘“They’ll send me to the nuthouse.”’ Fletcher uses dialogue to develop Clara’s character. Clara is inquisitive and direct. For example, when she first meets Kit, she asks him about the Pettigrews. He asks her why she is asking about the Pettigrews and she answers, ‘“Because I want to know”’ (2018:119). Cowan explains that ‘…Lodge describes quoted speech as “the purest form of showing” because it allows fictional characters to exist on the page in all their particularity and individuality…’ (2013:103).

Having attempted to create dramatic tension, my tutor suggested I consider the length of a sentence – longer sentences slow down the pace and shorter sentences speed it up. In assignment four, I lengthened the sentences in the funeral, but when Bill was escaping from the car in the cemetery, I made the language more succinct and the sentences shorter. For example, as he was rushing through the cemetery, during the flashback, I wrote: ‘He could not breathe. He felt strong hands around his throat. Men cried out for their mothers. It was dark.’ In The Road to Grantchester, Runcie uses short sentences after Sidney’s friend Robert is killed and Sidney continues to fight with wild abandon: ‘When he finally gets back… he can’t keep still. He is shaking. He cannot stop. He looks for his friend’ (2019:69).

As Bill is leaving the cemetery, he has a panic attack: ‘With his lungs closing off, he felt like he was facing an abyss. He breathed heavily and felt panicked.’ My tutor commented in her report that ‘I don’t get this here. Did you mean that he felt breathless? But he’d stopped running and rested on the bench.’ So I researched panic attacks. It seems that panic only became a disorder in 1980: ‘Panic disorder first appeared as a specific diagnostic entity in 1980, in the third Edition of “Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders” (DSM III)’ (,1996). Therefore, I could not say he was having a panic attack. I decided to reorder the words, so that the beginning of that paragraph started with ‘Panic grew within him and he felt like he was facing an abyss.’ I thought this showed he was having a panic attack and that was why he breathed heavily.

In assignment five, the reader is introduced to the possibility of Bill going to the U.S.A. when he reads a letter he has received from an old friend. Also, after talking about the war with a man he met in Covent Garden called Jim, he considers committing suicide, which gives another possible reason for his disappearance. My tutor calls this causality – cause and effect. Woolf uses causality to develop Septimus Smith who suffers from shell-shock. Early on, we see his fragility when he looks at a stopped car and thinks ‘The world wavered and quivered and threatened to burst into flames’ (2013). Then later, we discover that his doctor thought he was healthy, which was obviously part of the reason Smith did not recover and killed himself: ‘For Dr Holmes had told her to make her husband (who had nothing whatever seriously the matter with him…) take an interest in things…’ (2013).

The discussion with Jim shows how Bill suffered during the war and also that Bill thought he had killed his friend. Jim is also another incarnation of the fantasy sea creature, but as a hindrance rather than help by being manipulative – encouraging Bill to talk about his story, get upset, and consider suicide. I had difficulty making Jim sinister without saying ‘he was sinister.’ In The Girl You Left Behind, the Kommendant is sinister. It is disturbing how kind he is to Sophie before he takes what he wants. He tells her ‘“I am a good man, Sophie… It is important to me that you understand that. That we understand each other”’ (Myers,2012).

Part five of the course considers techniques for finishing the novel. Most of my novel will be written in third person past but I am considering using first person present for the last part so that we can get close to Bill as he changes. In The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle, the first main character had lost his memory and first person present brought the reader closer to the character, and also showed that the character knew as little about the developing story as the reader (Turton,2018). As Bill loses his memory, that technique could work. Also, Cowan discusses John Fowles’ novel The Collectorwhich has three parts: two in first person past and one in first person present. Cowan states that ‘…a large part of the tension and tragedy is created not by what they say or do but by something more technical than that: by the temporal disparity in their respective points of view’ (2013:130)

This section also discusses pushing form. I decided to write this novel chronologically with each part told by a different character. When I have finished this novel, I will experiment with moving parts around. The Bindinghas three parts (Collins,2019). The first two parts are from the point of view of Emmet. The last part is from the point of view of his boyfriend, Lucian. We learn more about Lucian when he tells his story. Also, it is currently fashionable to have each chapter from a different character, like The Girl on a Train, which is written from the first person point of view of three women (Hawkins,2015).

Because this is a sad story about how lives are affected by war, I chose to use a tone that shows the gravity and sorrow of the story. I show this in many ways, but especially in assignment five when Bill considers suicide. While this is a dark novel that includes a fantasy element, and the tone is sad and tragic, the tone is not disturbing and grotesque like The Clocks in this House all tell Different Times(Brooks,2017). Both stories are about how the Great War destroyed more than the men that fought but the tone is different in each tale. Turning to voice, this is something I have difficulty with. I understand what voice is and can hear it in other authors, but I cannot hear my own voice, or even understand what that is and how to develop it. However, through this class, I have noticed that I write about serious subjects and my voice tends towards a serious tone. I am not sure if this is the beginning of my voice, but I hope to develop this more in my next class.

Reviewing my work, I removed adverbs, some adjectives, and clichés. For example, I removed the following sentence because it is a cliché: ‘That night, Bill was looking for shelter from his storm.’ Reviewing each assignment has slowed down my momentum. I have finished drafting Bill’s story and moved on to Grace’s, but because of the constant reviewing required for this class, I obsessively try to find the right words. Although, I have learned from this intense revision, I will not revise the rest of my novel until I have finished the first draft. Smiley says: ‘I advise against rewriting… The desire to get each scene ‘just right’ works against productivity because it allows you to get in the habit of ruminating upon your self-doubts’ (2005:220).

Research for this assignment included Covent Garden in the 1920s. For this, I visited Covent Garden, searched for history online and read Covent Garden Past(Richardson;1995).

During this course, I have learned how to plot a story so that I now have a completed synopsis. My knowledge on how to keep with the main character’s point of view, dialogue, and controlling tension through pace has improved. I now have the tools to continue writing and complete my novel.




Bell, J. S. (2004) Plot and Structure. Cincinnati: Writer’s Digest Books.

Brooks, X. (2017) The Clocks in this House all tell Different Times. Cromer: Salt Publishing Limited.

Collins, B. (2019) The Binding. London: The Borough Press.

Cowan, A. (2013) The Art of Writing Fiction. Abingdon: Routledge.

Fletcher, S. (2018) House of Glass. London: Virago Press.

Hawkins, P. (2015) The Girl on the Train. London: Transworld Publishers.

Ivey, E. (2012) The Snow Child. London: Headline Publishing Group.

King, S. (2012) On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft. London: Hodder & Stoughton.

Myers, J. (2012) The Girl You Left Behind. [Kindle edition] From: (Accessed during December 2019)

OCA (2018) Creative Writing 1: Starting your Novel. Barnsley: Open College of the Arts. (1996) Panic Disorder and Panic Attack. At: (Accessed on 9 December 2019)

Richardson, J. (1995) Covent Garden Past. London: Historical Publications Ltd.

Runcie, J. (2019) The Road to Grantchester. London: Bloomsbury Publishing.

Setterfield, D. (2018) Once Upon a River. London: Transworld Publishers.

Smiley, J. (2005) Thirteen Ways of Looking at the Novel. New York: Random House, Inc.

Thompson, J. (2005) The Imperial War Museum Book of The War at Sea 1914-1918: The face of battle revealed in the words of the men who fought. London: Pan Macmillan.

Turton, S. (2018) The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle. London: Raven Books.

Woolf, V. (2013) Mrs Dalloway. [Kindle edition] From: (Accessed during December 2019)

Novel – Reflective Commentary Four

The first draft was a few paragraphs describing the funeral and Bill running from the cemetery. My edits included developing Bill with indirect speech and more description of the funeral and his journey home. For example, rather that telling the reader that ‘terraced houses turned into flats and shops as he got closer to home’, I described his wanderings in detail. Healey guided me in Elizabeth is Missingas the main character often wanders, for example, ‘I walk past the ugly house and the tea dregs and the acacia, the way I’ve always walked, and then further on, until I can hear the sound of trains. I stare hollowly across the street. On the opposite side is the Station Hotel’ (2014:168).

During revision, I added characters and settings that showed the 1920s like the bus conductor and her ticket holder. In The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle, Turton includes settings like the stables that show the period (even though this is a fantasy novel, it is set in a 1920s country house): ‘Troughs overflow with oats, and carriages stand wheel to wheel… the only things missing are the horses’ (2018:38).

Adding in smells while editing helped bring the story to life. For example, I added ‘There was a musty smell of damp and wood polish’ during the funeral. In The Collector’s Apprentice, Shapiro showed me how to use aromas like this: ‘She throws open the windows that ring the house, letting in the spring-like air’ (2018:269).

The research I did for this section primarily focussed on funerals in 1920s and the cemetery. I visited Nunhead Cemetry where some of my family are buried. Also, I searched online to see how funerals were performed in the 1920s (Cryer,2019).

As this lesson was about structure, I considered the construction of the whole novel as well as this section. I developed the plot further: it will follow the five-act structure in third person past for each main character’s act: Bill, Grace, Arthur, and Molly, and then Bill again at the end. The trigger points are Bill’s trauma and disappearance. Developing Bill’s character in this assignment, I created concrete reasons why Bill would disappear – connecting events to compel the reader to continue on with the story. In The Art of Writing Fiction, Cowan states: ‘…this plot must have completeness, by which he means that the beginning, middle and end must have a necessary and plausible connection and must form a self-contained whole. Within the compass of the play… the beginning should have certain consequences’ (2013:144). In A Man Called Ove, the author gives us many stories where Ove’s neighbour interferes in Ove’s life which develops their relationship (Backman,2015). Bill’s continual wandering is also a foreshadowing – a signal to the reader of his disappearance. The Starting Your Novelcourse book states ‘Foreshadowing is an important part of building this excitement – letting the reader know where the plot is heading, so they can start anticipating it’ (OCA,2018:107).

Albert helps Bill carry Lenny’s coffin in assignment 4, but is not mentioned in assignment 3 as the family are introduced. I will add a description of Albert into assignment 3.




Backman, F. (2015) A Man Called Ove. London: Hodder & Stoughton Ltd.

Cowan, A. (2013) The Art of Writing Fiction. Abingdon: Routledge.

Cryer, P. (Webmaster). (2019) Costs of dying in early 20th century Britain. At (Accessed on 13 October 2019)

Healey, E. (2014) Elizabeth is Missing. London: Penguin Group.

OCA (2018) Creative Writing 1: Starting your Novel. Barnsley: Open College of the Arts

Shapiro, B. A. (2018) The Collector’s Apprentice. Chapel Hill: Algonquin Books.

Turton, S. (2018) The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle. London: Raven Books.


Novel – Reflective Commentary Three

My research of the location of Southwark in London where Bill lived included walking around the area, looking at old maps and photos in the travel guide by Bradshaw called Bradshaw’s London, and reading the history of Peabody Estates online.

As I revised Assignment Three, I changed the descriptions of the environments to highlight Bill’s emotion. For example, as the family gathered for the funeral, the blue cover of the sofa ‘sloped towards the floor with a sigh.’ Also, Bill looked out of the window and saw that ‘A magpie flew onto a branch…’ like the nursery rhyme about magpies: One for Sorrow. Cowan states in The Art of Writing Fictionthat ‘Setting, for instance, is often conveyed through the eyes and emotions of a particular character, the description inflected by that character’s voice’ (2013:78). In The Road to Grantchester, Runcie brings an iron crucifix into the setting when Sidney is shot. Sidney’s internal voice asks ‘What is that iron Crucifix still doing at the top of an arch that is on the point of falling?’ (2019:80). This highlight’s Sidney’s career after the war, and also that moment of possible death, by bringing in a religious artefact.

I described the table in Bill’s front room as having scars and scrapes, which show’s Bill’s internal scars on objects in his life. In House of Glass, Fletcher uses plant imagery to describe objects and even Clara’s disability because of Clara’s love of florae. For example, she describes brittle bones disease as ‘a twisted, dark-flowering vine which lacked beauty’ (2018:21).

As I revised, I checked the language to make sure it was not above the education level of Bill who is currently the narrator of the story. For example, the illustration in the book he reads to Arthur is a ‘woodcut’, but I changed that to ‘sketch’ as I did not think Bill would know the word ‘woodcut’. In The Razor’s Edgeby Maugham, you can tell the level of education that Elliot reached by his dialogue. For example, in a discussion with Maugham, he says ‘I saw an early Christian sarcophagus in Rome that took my fancy’ (2000:215).

Reading Davies’ Maternityhelped create Bill’s voice. This book was published in 1915 from actual letters written by women from that time. For example, I cut some of his sentences by removing words – rather than saying ‘I just need a fag’, he said: ‘Just need a fag’. TheStarting your Novel course book says that ‘The way your characters speak and the narrative voice… will be governed by when and where your novel is set…’ (OCA, 2018:69)

I revised dialogue so that it aided the plot or characters. For example, in my tutor’s response to Assignment Two, she mentioned that ‘At some point, perhaps in this chapter, you must give some reasoning for the death.’ I considered this and added dialogue to the end of Chapter Three where Bill and Grace discuss that Lenny died from blue blood. Neither of them were sure what that was, which shows the level of their education and adds to their character. In Plot & Structure, Bell says ‘Dialogue helps to create original characters and move the plot along. If it isn’t doing either of those things, it probably should be cut’ (2004:18).


Bell, J. S. (2004) Plot and Structure. Cincinnati: Writer’s Digest Books.

Bradshaw, G. (2014) Bradshaw’s London: George Bradshaw’s Classic Guide of 1862.Stroud: Amberley Publishing.

Cowan, A. (2013) The Art of Writing Fiction.Abingdon: Routledge.

Davies, M. L. (1984) Maternity: Letters from Working Women. London: Virago Limited.

Fletcher, S. (2018) House of Glass.London: Virago Press.

Maugham, W.S. (2000) The Razor’s Edge.London: Vintage.

OCA (2018) Creative Writing 1: Starting your Novel. Barnsley: Open College of the Arts

Peabody. (2019) Peabody. At: (Accessed on 15 June 2019)

Runcie, J. (2019) The Road to Grantchester.London: Bloomsbury Publishing.


Novel – Reflective Commentary Two

Writing about the characters has helped develop the plot. For example, I realized that Sid, Rose and Natalia are minor characters as their stories do not majorly forward the plot. King states in On Writingthat ‘…what happens to characters as a story progresses depends solely on what I discover about them as I go along… they begin to influence the course of the story’ (2012, 223-224).

Studying how they would react under pressure, I questioned how Bill and Grace would act when Lenny dies. Bill’s difficulty is that he runs away from conflict, but in a crisis, he takes command. Grace loves him for this even though he will not seek help for his nightmares. This knowledge helped me draft the new chapter one. OCA states in Starting your Novelthat ‘Conflict is created from dramatic need when it is jeopardised by obstacles and dilemmas’ (2018, 49).

In order to build a ghostly atmosphere in the book, bringing in Bill’s love of the sea, I created a watery creature that enters the story at different times. I introduced him at the beginning as ‘a monster [with] tendrils covered in seaweed [hanging] down its body’. Setterfield creates atmosphere in Once Upon a Riverby presenting shadowy characters like Quietly that are more myth than reality. She introduces him as ‘…a gaunt and elongated figure…’ who ‘…appeared when you were in trouble…’ (2018, 30).

My tutor asked who Arthur is and why he is a main character. I realized Arthur is more important than Bobby and swapped them. My tutor also mentioned that essential characters should be introduced in the first few chapters. However, Molly cannot arrive until later in the book, because she is Arthur’s daughter. In Rowling’s Harry Potter, a major character Severus Snape first appears in Chapter 7 (1997, 135).

Experimenting with first person point of view, I noticed problems with how Bill moves through the story. When Bill goes to the kitchen, I initially wrote that ‘The kitchen was small, more like a scullery… Grace had thrown an old rug over the wooden floor’. I changed this to: ‘Down the hallway, he entered their small kitchen – it was more like a scullery. He walked over the old rug towards the stove’. Kings says in On Writingthat ‘In fiction the paragraph is less structured – it’s the beat instead of the actual melody. The more fiction you read and write, the more you’ll find your paragraphs forming on their own’ (2012, 148). I felt the beat easier in first person.

It is an action packed section and I decided to add the description of Bill in a few different places. This included during his dream: ‘He threw his hefty frame into it…’. In The Snow Childby Ivey, Mabel is not described until page 6: ‘…she laced her leather boots, put her winter coat on over housedress…’ (2012, 6), but I had a good impression of her in my head because I knew the story was set in 1920s Alaska.

I decided to add in parts from the previous chapter one where it made sense. When Bill is on the landing, I added in the part when he is thinking about his work. This helps the reader to see who Bill is. In The Words in my Handby Glasfurd, the reader is given a clue as to the nature of the main character’s employment on the first page: ‘I walked across the tiles I had cleaned yesterday’ (2017, 3).

I chose words that heightened Bill’s sorrow with images from the sea. When he is comforting Grace in hospital, I said his ‘words fell like dead fish from his mouth.’ Ivey did something similar in The Snow Child. Mabel is grieving and her ‘Words lay like granite boulders in her lap’ (2012, 9).


Glasfurd, G. (2017) The Words in my Hand.London: Hodder & Stoughton Ltd.

Ivey, E. (2012) The Snow Child.London: Headline Publishing Group.

King, S. (2012) On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft. London: Hodder & Stoughton.

OCA (2018) Creative Writing 1: Starting your Novel. Barnsley: Open College of the Arts.

Rowling, J. K. (1997) Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone.London: Bloomsbury Publishing Plc.

Setterfield, D. (2018) Once Upon a River.London: TransworldPublishers.


Novel – Reflective Commentary One

I wrote this chapter to show Bill’s norm before the action begins. But since reading Plot and Structure by Bell, I have decided that the action needs to begin first and this chapter will now be chapter two. Bell says the following about beginnings: ‘The second thing to notice is that something is happening or about to happen to the character. And not just anything—something ominous or dangerous’ (2004:57).

My first draft had no physical description of Bill and the description of Grace was sparse. I had difficulty showing what Bill looked like because he is the protagonist and even though this is written in third person, it is from his point of view. I added Bill’s description in the second draft as if this was from Grace’s point of view and then changed it. For example, in the second draft, part of Bill’s description was: ‘He was a tall man with broad shoulders…’ I changed it to this in the third draft: ‘Grace looked up at him. She’d always told him how handsome he was, but all he could see when he shaved in the mornings was his pert nose…’.

While I was reading Young Anne by Whipple, I noticed how she added some of her descriptions of characters into action. For example, she says ‘he stalked with stiff, long legs, his lips drawn into creases of disapproval’ (2018:6). I followed this example especially for the minor characters such as Daisy: ‘She wiped her hands on her grease-stained pinafore before she hugged her sister…’

Bill is the strong, silent type. I showed this in his dialogue and kept it to a minimum. When revising, I cut some of his lines. For example, I changed ‘“We don’t have time for your shenanigans today, Billy. We’ve got a train to catch.”’ To ‘“There’s no time for shenanigans.”’ For Billy and Grace’s family, I used contractions in their speech, but because Grace has a few airs and graces, I had her use the full words such as ‘he has, she has, etc.’

The first draft was mainly action and dialogue. In the second draft, I added description such as Daisy’s home. During my final revision, I read the chapter out loud. Some of the description was too detailed and slowed the story down. For example, I described Daisy’s home in such detail that it seemed to take a long time for them to arrive and head to the kitchen. I took out some of the description, for example, the second draft described Daisy’s home as having ‘a narrow hallway that ran through from the front door to the kitchen… In contrast to the wooden floors throughout the house that were covered with rugs of varying shades and sizes, the stairs were covered in a worn, slightly shabby, red carpet with yellow swirls on the edges.’ I changed this to: ‘The night was cold outside, but Daisy’s home was warm and the bright rugs on her wooden floors brought colour to the house.’

For this chapter, I especially researched train stations, Christmas decorations, Christmas food, and clothes in 1920s. I used the Internet for this. For example, I found out that mincemeat was sold in jars in 1920s from Robertsons’ website (Robertsons:2019).

Once I had my final draft, I went through it to check for adjectives, adverbs, abstract nouns, or clichés. My draft was pitted with adjectives and I removed many of them. As Mort, Milton, and Flower say in Writing Skills: ‘Adjectives can also hold up the action and get in the way of what you are really trying to say’ (2010:147). I also checked the amount of similes and metaphors. I changed one simile to a metaphor. Rather than have Daisy ‘round and plump like a dumpling’ I changed this to ‘a plump dumpling.’



Bell, J. S. (2004) Plot and Structure. Cincinnati: Writer’s Digest Books.

Mort, G., Milton, N., and Flower, T. (2010) Creative Writing 1: Writing Skills. Barnsley: Open College of the Arts

Robertson’s. (2019) Robertson’s.At: (Accessed on 2 February 2019)

Whipple, D. (2018) Young Anne.London: Persephone Books Ltd.

Assignment 5 – Reflective Commentary

I considered all five senses when I was writing and revising my poetry, not just sight. For example, for Making Lemonade: Grandma’s Recipe (Assignment Five), I tasted lemons and sugar to help write vivid descriptions. Also, for The Funeral(Assignment Two), I remembered how I felt on the day of my father’s funeral and described that feeling using descriptions of the location and activities: frozen in grief and the howling of the trumpet. Orr explains: ‘… memories that excited or saddened or disturbed you. That’s what I mean by disorder… These personal experiences of disorder are what lyric poetry is superbly designed to engage and make sense of’ (2018:42).

When redrafting, I read the poems aloud. This helped me check rhythm, sense, and repeated words and ideas. In At the End of the Day (Assignment Three), I added ‘to’ in the penultimate line: ‘to the kitchen she waddles’. When I read that line, it tripped up my mouth, and this added to the visual of her waddle and her need to lean on the wall. In War on Terror (Assignment Three), I used the word ‘dust’ too much. I changed it to ‘dirt’ and ‘mud’. Sansom says, ‘As you get better at reading, at listening to poems, our ear becomes attuned to more subtle effects in which rhythm and meaning can marry more exactly, the rhythm working with the poem’ (1994:80).

When reading aloud, I would also listen to the sound of the words I used and decide if the sound helped create the tone and atmosphere in the poem. For example, inYou’re Too Much! (Assignment Two), instead of using words like ‘hush’, ‘sobbed’, and ‘applied’, I chose ‘shut up’, ‘shrieked’, and ‘slashed’ to help make the characters sound angry. Padel tells us that ‘The sound becomes the meaning while it expresses it. A good poem is a love affair of sound and sense’ (2004:13).

I experimented with alliteration and assonance because I found they brought a pleasing rhythm or sound to my poems. As I redrafted The Eve Before Wintertime (Assignment Five), I added ‘mists meander’ and ‘gossamer ghosts’. Rilke’s Autumn Day(, 2003) inspired me. I enjoyed the sounds in Rilke’s poem. In the first line, ‘summer’ and ‘immense’ have a similar sound (the visual of the ‘mm’ is also pleasing), and in the fourth line, ‘fruits’ and ‘full’ have a similar sound at the beginning of the word. Oliver calls alliteration ‘…a sonorous and lively device’ and cautions us to consider where ‘…the line [is] between enough and too much’ (1994:29).

As I redrafted my poems, I used lineation to control the pace of a poem, the rhythm, and the sense. In Nunhead Cemetery(Assignment Three), some of the lines were initially too long and like prose. I tried to convey a messy cemetery but instead it was confusing, so I reduced the line lengths. The mess of the cemetery is also described in the poem, e.g., ‘Grave stones prattle and tattle around the grass/no one wants to pick them up/and put them back to where they were’. Also, in Rusty Submarine (Assignment Three), in order to sound less like prose, I cut the long lines. For example, I changed ‘in the galley, where cook twitches with his face down on the stove/grandad vomits,’ to ‘pukes, in the galley:/the chef is twitching,/his face down on the stove.’ I broke some of the lines in the middle of the meaning in The Beast without Beauty (Assignment Five) because it brought movement to the poem by pulling the reader along quickly. Plath’s The Burnt-Out Spadoes something similar:

‘A monster of wood and rusty teeth.

Fire smelted his eyes to lumps

Of pale blue vitreous stuff, opaque

As resin drops oozed from pine bark’ (Hughes, 1985:26).

Herbert says, ‘Where we choose to break a phrase in order to begin a new line has consequences for the entire poem’ (2006:181).

I chose to draft all my poems with single-line spacing and used a single line between each stanza, because I had no specific reason to use double-line spacing. In The 18:11 from Cannon Street (Assignment Two), I controlled the information by putting each person as a stanza and then the last line about going home on its own. In Milly the Cat (Assignment Three), I moved the first stanza to the last which helped with the viewpoint of the poem, leading the reader from the garden back into the house. I removed the last stanza in The Beast without Beautybecause it was repeating ideas already built into the poem: that the beast was gross, e.g., ‘rats crunch on bugs falling from his coat.’ I added a one-line stanza to the end of Whitechapel Music Hall (or Penny Gaff) (Assignment Five) to add action and drama. This was changed from the previous three lines which were ‘but she walks along/discussing her life/with a stranger.’ Oliver says, ‘It may be useful, when considering the stanza, to recall the paragraph in prose… the poet might think of the sensible paragraph as a kind of norm… from which to feel out the particular divisions that are best for a particular poem. Such divisions might be natural pauses in the action…’ (1994:61).

When revising poems, I chose language that was specific for the atmosphere and story of the poem. For example, I checked for abstract nouns and accurate verbs. I found that when I used specific nouns and the most appropriate verbs for the poem, I did not need to use adverbs or adjectives, because I had found the word that was working the hardest. In Last Night He Stood on Platform One… (Assignment Two), I changed ‘The sodium lamp throws a weak light’ to ‘He sat beneath the station lamp/that draped its yellow light’. This improved the image in the scene because it showed the colour of the light and how it enveloped the man rather than it being described as ‘weak’.I experimented with metaphor and simile, and found I could show an image instead of tell the reader something. For example, in The Eve Before Wintertime(Assignment Five), I described leaves as flames: ‘Trees fling their flames to the earth.’ I enjoyed the similes and metaphor that Clark uses in My Life with Horses. She describes herself like a horse and tells us that she ‘lay like a foal in the grass’ and that she ‘carefully cut my mane’ (Astley, 2002:226). I checked the poems for clichés and in Mists at Twilight (Assignment Two), I changed the last line from ‘gone but not forgotten,’ to ‘today is forgotten, you’ve now disappeared.’

In The Funeral(Assignment Two), I was careful to use words that showed rather than told about support at a time of grieving. In the line ‘oak boughs reach in silence’, the word ‘silence’ showed grief, dignity, and respect, and the ‘oak boughs’ were a metaphor for the strong arms that reached out to hold the grieving. With Strolling through Haworth (Assignment Five), I removed some adjectives such as changing ‘Its white-framed windows blink diamond frost’ to ‘Its white-framed windows blink frost’. Because Rusty Submarine (Assignment Three) was about a child telling a story, I wanted the poem’s tone to sound chatty and childlike. I changed words to sound more childlike, for example, from ‘vomits’ to ‘pukes’. Hesse’s Out of the Dust inspired me, which is a poem about a child during the depression in America. From the beginning, she mentions ‘Ma’ and ‘Daddy’ which are childlike words (2007:9) and later on she says ‘I got burned bad’ instead of ‘I was badly burned’ (2007:66). I changed ‘yellow flames lick the brazier’ to ‘braziers churning yellow flames’ in Whitechapel Music Hall (or Penny Gaff)(Assignment Five), because the first option was clichéd and I could see the image of the flames moving in the brazier better with the second option. Morley explains: ‘…words are sticky with meaning, history and association, and these elements are brought to life through their choice and combination…’ (2007:200-201).

When revising the poems, I also checked to see if punctuation was needed to help with the sense of the poem and that it was consistent. In God in Everybody (Assignment Three), I added punctuation to help the reader understand the poem. In Milly the Cat (Assignment Three), I made the punctuation consistent. Some of Blake’s poems showed me how to punctuate a poem, especially The Shepherd(Smith, 2007:79) and William Bond(Smith, 2007:42-43). Haslam explains that ‘Punctuation is there to help your reader understand your words’ (2006:375).

During redrafting, I also checked for tense and viewpoint. In Abandoned (Assignment Five), I changed lines and words to improve the viewpoint and help the reader understand where they are. To begin with, the woman was lying under a tree in the garden; I changed this to her standing in the doorway of the house so that she could see the graveyard. Peacock says, ‘If your poem contains description, then, check your angle on the subject… You may choose to move in or away, but don’t dodge about, or you will lose the reader (2013:56).

I have learned to use titles as part of the poems; using them to help explain the poem. With God in Everybody (Assignment Three), I changed the title to help explain the poem’s story, and the synchronicity between the guru’s and the dog’s death. In A Gin and Tonic on Whitstable Harbour (Assignment Two), I added ‘Whitstable’ to the title in order to show the reader the location of the harbour. Whitstable is a well-known seaside town in England; therefore, this title would give many readers a visual aid. Herbert says, ‘There are two main categories of title: the descriptive and the evocative’ (2006:175).

My tutor suggested I add more narrative to The Beast without Beauty(Assignment Five). I played with the poem and made changes, e.g., having Beauty come up the stairs with the darkness and bringing light into the house. However, I did not like the poem with Beauty in it. The poem is not supposed to be light or happy. It is a sad poem about a sad creature, and I think the poem encapsulates that as it is. Sylvia Plath likens a poem to a Victorian paperweights. She says, ‘…a door opens, a door shuts. In between you have a glimpse: a garden, a person, a rainstorm, a dragonfly, a heart, a city. I think of those round glass Victorian paperweights… a clear globe, self-complete, very pure, with a forest or village or family group within it… So a poem takes place’ (Herbert and Hollis, 2000:146). I liken this poem to that: a glimpse of the beast in his gross form.

In my assessment for Writing 1: Writing Skills, I noted that the assessor had commented that I should put all titles in italics. Therefore, I followed this advice and put all the titles of poems in italics in the Reflective Commentary that I drafted for Assignment Five. However, when my tutor copied my Reflective Commentary to her report, she did not copy the italics. Then she suggested in her report that ‘It might be useful to put the titles of poems in italics.’ I have explained this in this revised version so that the current assessor knows that I followed the previous assessor’s advice.




Astley, N. (ed.) (2002) Staying Alive: Real Poems for Unreal Times.Hexham: Bloodaxe Books Ltd.

Haslam, S. (2006) ‘Editing: Later stages’ In: Anderson, L. (ed.) Creative Writing: A Workbook with Readings. Abingdon: Routledge. pp.372-382.

Herbert, W. N. (2006) ‘Drafting’ In: Anderson, L. (ed.) Creative Writing: A Workbook with Readings. Abingdon: Routledge. pp.167-180.

Herbert, W. N. (2006) ‘Line’ In: Anderson, L. (ed.) Creative Writing: A Workbook with Readings. Abingdon: Routledge. pp.181-191.

Herbert, W.N. and Hollis, M. (eds.) (2000) Strong Words: Modern Poets on Modern Poetry.Newcastle: Bloodaxe Books.

Hesse, K. (2007) Out of the Dust.London: Frances Lincoln Children’s Books.

Hughes, T. (ed.) (1985) Sylvia Plath Selected Poems.London: Faber and Faber Limited.

Morley, D. (2007) The Cambridge Introduction to Creative Writing. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Oliver, M. (1994) A Poetry Handbook.New York: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

Orr, G. (2018) A Primer for Poets & Readers of Poetry. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, Inc.

Peacock, M. (2013) Creative Writing 1: Art of Poetry.Barnsley: Open College of Arts.

Padel, R. (2004) 52 Ways of Looking at a Poem: A Poem for Every Week of the Year.London: Vintage. (2003) Autumn Day – Poem by Rainer Maria Rilke. At: (Accessed on 1 November 2018)

Sansom, P. (1994) Writing Poems.Tarset: Bloodaxe Books Ltd.

Smith, P. (ed.) (2007) William Blake Poems.London: Vintage.


Assignment 5 – Making lemonade: grandma’s recipe

It takes six lemons.

The sharp, bitter juice

is a pin that pierces

the mouth and cuts

open the tongue.

The shock;

a quick sensation:

fresh, icy winter,

jumping into a cold lake,

or sliding down the side of a frozen mountain.



Mix in one cup of white sugar,

pour over crushed ice.

Sweet as honeysuckle mixed with heaven.


Enveloped by the scent of lavender and lilies,

the hot evening vibrates with crickets,

cardinals whistle clear; flash red and blue.

Grandma rocks gently in her chair

on the white wooden porch,

sipping her lemonade.

Part Five – Write up of poems read

Canto XLV

Ezra Pound

Its about loans which is an odd thing to write a poem about

He basically says creativity cannot exist with loans or high loans

He starts saying that you can’t have the basics of life with loans as that life is not built solid

He uses old language “hath” “re3ceiveth” even though ti was written in last century which seems odd

Only one stanza

Repeats “with Usura”

I don’t understand what he has done with capitals

Lines 3-20 have no caps at start of line and apart from the occasional comma no full stops until end of line 20. But the last 13 or so lines have caps at start of each line. It seems to add emphasis to those lines as if he starts off poem grumbling but then explodes “WITH USURA” and starts to get angry.


Lawrence Durrell (yes – of The Durrells!)

Every single first word of each line is capitalized and I don’t know why. I guess it does not matter really but I feel I should know in order to write poetry and talk sensibly about the decisions I make.

The images are strong but seem more like countryside that city

Mountain roads

Mule teams

Sleepy eagles


Maybe it was a sleepy town

4 stanzas

1st– 7 lines

2nd– 6 lines

3rd– 6 lines

4th– 5 lines

No rhyme

Seems like full punctuation

Some sentences end mid line

The Gypsy

Ezra Pound

Written before WW1 and you can tell. Nice little poem about a gypsy. I like the way it looks. The variable lengths of the lines.

You know what I like best about this (it’s a moment, its simple) but its written as it is spoken each line ends at a natural breath and the lines that done’t are indented beneath,. I can understand that.

Do not go gentle

Dylan Thomas

A Villanelle – I like seeing that and it works – I might try

19 line poem

5 Tercets – 3

1 quatrain – 4

Two refrains

Two repeating rhymes

First and third line of first tercet repeated

Form frequesntly used for obsessions (Wikipedia)



Pentameter possibly iambic

Caps at start of each line


E.P. Ode Pour L’Election de son Sepulchre

Ezra Pound

I found this hard to follow. It seemed like Ginsberg’s Howl in some sense that he’s raging against war and politics: “A half savage country”

He uses foreign words in places that I don’t understand and references to old myths: Dionysus and Sappho which gives it an old fashion feel but then throws in “phallic” which is quite modern along with “ambrosial” which makes it old/new and erotic. So it is odd.

But then wasn’t Pound?

In stanza IV he has quite a bit of repetition: some and home

I like stanza IV the best. It is the one that makes most sense. It is about the horrors of WW1. AS I’ve done a lot of work on WW1 it resonates with me.


From Epitaphs of the War

Rudyard Kipling

Seems they are just snippets from larger piece but I like them. Very simple.

It throws out the anger about WW1 – the young were killed and it was thought for nothing. That is up for debate but it seems RK thought so as did many artists of the time. A Dead Statesman has six lines, four feet (so tetrameter?), and rhyming like this AA BB CC – very simple.


Allen Ginsberg

Similar to Howl – like prose and very political which is probably why I don’t like it [political – but I did like Howl]

3 pages long

It’s a rant in poetry form which is what he was famous for – Beat poet

Patti Smith was influenced by Beat Poets

It was a rejection of all traditional ways.


I did not lose my heart to summer’s even

AE Housman

Wonderful original imagery

Shocked me

I thought it was a love poem

And in some ways it is but gay love

Two stanzas – 4 lines each – pentameter possibly iambic

2/4 line each stanza rhymes at end



Noel Coward

A 3 page long poem about the death of Queen Victoria

Rather irreverent but not nasty or mean. Just poking fun.

A bit like a list poem of things she had represented.

Capitals at beginning of line but that was the fashion and punctuation.

Compares QV death with his Auntie Cordelia’s

Most lines end at a breath


Autumn Morning at Cambridge

Frances Cornford

Very Simple Poem about what it says

2 stanzas 4 lines each rhymes AA BB CC DD


14 syllables per line – 7 what is that?

Except last line of stanza

Last Stanza

Irregular lines



John Masefield

Simple poem about three different ships and their cargos

3 stanzas – each 5 lines

Caps at start of first word of line – punctuation

Varying form

3rdStanza (1stand 2ndstanza similar)

12 syllables – first line

11 syllables – 2ndline

7 syllables – 3rdline

4 syllables – 4thline

10 syllables – 5 line

2 and 5 lines rhyme


Rome and Another

William Watson

Simple poem about Queen Victoria and her empire – and how all empires come to an end

2 stanzas – 4 lines each – caps at beginning – punctuation (seeing a pattern here in poems before WW1)




John Mansfield

Obsessive forward-driven poem about the sea and sailing

With lots of ands in that show this

3 stanzas – 4 lines (some tabbed over 2 lines)

Rhyme – AA BB CC DD etc


Assignment 4 – Reflective Commentary

“A Farmer’s Wife” was influenced by the subject and form of Hardy’s (2003) “The Farm Woman’s Winter”. Revision included removing adverbs and choosing appropriate verbs and nouns, e.g., ‘shawl’ instead of ‘scarf’. Grouping lines into stanzas, I moved lines to improve sense, and removed repetitive lines, e.g., ‘hair pulled off her face’ was removed from the second stanza. The last stanza flowed better at the beginning.

I alternated tetrameter and trimeter except for the first stanza (choosing form but not at the expense of language). Oliver (1994:39) suggests that ‘In tetrameter lines there is a sense of quickness… The trimeter… line can evoke [a]… sense of agitation’ which is appropriate for a busy farmer.

“African Love Song” started in prose. Each sentence became a line of the poem, which I then combined and moved to improve meaning, e.g., the first line was moved from the middle. Punctuation was added to clarify sense.

Inspired by the love poem “Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day” (Jones,1991:583), I experimented with the sonnet form, and decided to use pentameter because the rhythm of the lines was pleasing.

A translation of the African words was added as a footnote. Anderson (2006:177) says ‘There are poems which need an obscure term… given as a footnote, and to omit such information would diminish our… appreciation.’

Haiku inspired “Scattering His Ashes”. I started with ‘now he flows downstream/scattered from Waterloo as/ashes on the wind’ and revised that by moving lines around and removing words. Eventually, I realized the poem was still abstract. Cobb (2016:7) explains: ‘Concrete images, not abstract words, carry the meaning… in haiku’. Michael Longley’s The Prayer (Astley,43) gave me an example of a small poem with one subject. I started again and created different images using simile and metaphor. I experimented with the haiku 5-7-5 syllable for form, but ended using the language that worked best regardless of the line lengths.

“Memories: the crushed daisy” was inspired by Brainard’s “I Remember” (2007:3-178), and Ginsbergs’s “Howl” (2006:3-8). Starting with prose paragraphs, the poem was three pages long. Orr (2018:139) states, ‘…the best experience is to have too much… and then to cut back by crossing out stuff that the poem… doesn’t really need…’. I removed lines and words, chose memories alive with images, and divided the poem into three stanzas. To keep the essence of “I remember”, I kept it similar to prose, but controlled the language so the second stanza was the apex. I changed some of the similes to metaphors; and added alliteration e.g., ‘Baker Street’ and ‘blaring’. As Anderson (2006:187) says, ‘… alliteration helps to introduce a sense of rhythm’.

The first draft of “The Pallbearers” was of mourners standing by a hearse. Then I described six pallbearers in detail with each sentence on a separate line. Cutting repetition, I ended with four quatrains. The initial last lines of the poem ended up working better as the title of the poem; removing unnecessary words reduced the line length, e.g., the third line was initially ‘swollen belly bore deep stretch marks like crocodile skin’; and punctuation and capitalization was not necessary.

Leonora Speyer’s “Gulls” (2018) influenced “Pigeons”. After the first draft, I changed some words to help the meaning, e.g., ‘into the fountains’ changed to ‘pass the fountains’. Then I removed words so that the lines were less like prose, e.g., the last stanza was ‘You dive to catch/the last squashed chip/on the blackened pavement/of London town.’ Also, I removed lines to create quintets. To help the flow, I put the last stanza first: pooping on heads is up high and then the bird swoops down. For punctuation, I followed the example of Speyer and added it to clarify the poem.




Anderson, L. (ed.) (2006) Creative Writing: A Workbook with Readings. Abingdon: The Open University.

Astley, N. (ed.) (2002) Staying Alive. Hexham: Bloodaxe Books Ltd.

Brainard, J. (2007) I Remember.Honiton: Notting Hill Editions Ltd.

Cobb, D. (2016) ‘English Haiku: A Composite View’ In: The Member’s Handbook. Barking: The British Haiku Society.

Ginsberg, A. (2006) Howl: 50thAnniversary Edition. New York: Harper Perennial Modern Classics.

Hardy, T. (2003) The Farm Woman’s Winter. At: on 15 August 2018)

Jones, E. (ed.) (1991) The New Oxford Book of Sixteenth Century Verse.Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Oliver, M. (1994) A Poetry Handbook. New York: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.

Orr, Gregory. (2018) A Primer for Poets & Readers of Poetry. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, Inc.

Speyer, L. (2018) Gulls. At: (Accessed on 25 August 2018)