Some excellent advice

This post was written by Friday blogger Annie Reid.

I’m finally getting around to Muriel Spark’s* The Finishing School, one of Maud’s favorite books of 2004. I’ve been wrestling over openings lately, both on a persistently unfinished short story and on what I like to call, with vague optimism, my larger project, so I found this, the opening paragraph of Spark’s novel, a delight:

‘You begin,’ he said, ‘by setting your scene. You have to see your scene, either in reality or in imagination. For instance, from here you can’t see across the lake, it’s too misty. You can’t see the other side. ‘ Rowland took off his reading glasses to stare at his creative writing class whose parents money was being thus spent: two boys and three girls around sixteen to seventeen years of age, some more, some a little less. ‘So,’ he said, ‘You must just write, when you set your scene, “the other side of the lake was hidden in mist.” Or is you want to exercise imagination, on a day like to-day, you can write, “The other side of the lake was just visible.” But as you are setting the scene, don’t make any emphasis as yet. It’s too soon, for instance, for you to write, “The other side of the lake was hidden in the fucking mist.” That will come later. You are setting the scene. You don’t want to make a point as yet.’

*Despite evidence to the contrary, I might find a few other things to write about.


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