Wull Ferlies neer decis

Jack makes it over the line for his Wednesday post for a change –

I’m very happy to see a revival of interest in the Scots language in Scotland.

The blue area is mainly Gaelic and The small Irish area is similar to ‘Central Scots’.

When Wendy teaches classes in cultural geography she often notes that countries are defined by their languages and culture. Scotland is no exception. The three main languages are Gaelic, Scots and English. The traditional culture is mainly centered around Gaelic and Scots.

My natural language has always been ‘Scots-English’ – in other words standard English with a large injection of Scots words and phrases. Of course I’m really bilingual, having disciplined myself to speak ‘proper’ English in formal settings and my natural language in more social ones, very much like Gaelic speakers do.

However, for a very long time Scots language has been frowned on in schools and described as just poor English, and there are many reasons for that. I don’t really blame my teachers as they believed that to get on in life we had to speak ‘proper English’.

One thing that really irks me is the apologetic apostrophe, where a word in Scots is similar to the English equivalent and the writer adds the apostrophe as if there’s a letter missing. Examples would be o in Scots and of in English or fa and fall. It doesn’t happen where the words are completely different, so why do it when their similar?

When Wendy first came to Scotland she worked with Matthew Fitt, a writer of Scots language children’s books that really helped begin the change in attitudes. More recently my friends Steve Byrne, Fiona Fyfe and Frieda Morrison have put their shoulders to the wheel and there are moves within the Scottish parliament to get things to the same level of support enjoyed by Gaelic.

Following the forming of the United Kingdom in 1707 and despite Scotland retaining many existing powers over law, education and Church, the language and culture were seen by the authorities as too ‘different’. After an abortive attempt to rename the country as North Britain a subtler approach was adopted and that was much more successful.

But the language lived on, particularly in rural and working class areas, and I’m glad that despite my elevation to the middle classes I’ve never lost it. Perhaps singing traditional Scots songs helped!

The 2011 Scottish census returned 1.5 million speakers of Scots within Scotland making up some 30% of the Scottish population of 5.4 million.

Some examples again – ‘Haud yir wheest’ (keep your mouth closed), ‘ca cannie’ (go carefully), ‘lang may yir lum reek’ (may you always have something to burn in your fire).

As an extra –

Living here in Appalachia, where many Ulster-Scots settled I have little trouble being understood by the locals. Lots of Scots words, grammar and pronunciation came over here.

Wull ferlies neer decis is Scots for ‘will wonders never cease’.

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This week’s Monday book comes courtesy of Paul Garrett

I once had the opportunity to observe the construction of a high-rise apartment as I drove by the site once a month. The first time I went by they had cleared the lot. The next month they had begun to dig a hole. The next month the hole got bigger, the next month bigger still. Finally, after several months a concrete column appeared. After that, the building went up rather quickly. I often use this anecdote as an analogy for my writing students to emphasize the importance of building a strong foundation for their work.

In her newly released (September, 2021)  book, Jennie Nash, the guru behind Author Accelerator, where they train people to coach aspiring authors, is also a strong proponent of laying the groundwork for one’s opus. That’s why she has produced her Blueprint for a Book: Build Your Novel from the Inside Out. With decades of coaching experience (She coached, among others, Lisa Cron on both her books.) She lays out a step-by step process to take the prospective author from the germ of an idea to a completed manuscript.

Blueprint for a Book is also the title of her Author Accelerator curriculum and could serve as a companion for her popular course, which is how I us it. (Full, disclosure I am a student of the course) or it could serve as a standalone guide. She avoids the jargon that many writing teachers use to show how smart they are; words like “premise,” “theme” “logline,” and “character arc” to make the material a little more accessible to the novice, but the experienced writer will find much to interest her as well.

Ms. Nash focuses on planning the novel and on the often overlooked but vitally important minutia of novel writing, whose neglect may be responsible for many of those unfinished and unpublished manuscripts languishing in drawers and on hard drives. Her best innovation is her “Inside Outline.” a way to marry the story and character arcs throughout the book for a more coherent narrative.

While the material seems tailor-made for the plotter, it may be confounding the pantser, who’s chomping at the bit to get it on paper. But the exercises can be helpful even after a rough draft is finished.

Whether just beginning your story, going into revision, or stuck in the middle, Blueprint for a Book can offer writers a helping hand.


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