Christmas Cracker Number Ten – Endings

New Year’s Eve feels like a good time to be thinking about how to end things.  As the year draws to a close you start to get some kind of perspective on how it has been and I rather like reading and watching the various media roundups of the highs and lows...

Christmas Cracker Number Nine – Comings and Goings

With the New Year looming I guess it’s kind of natural to be thinking of comings and goings, of one sequence ending and another beginning, so perhaps it is timely to channel these musings and put them to some good use. I’m talking scene structure...

Christmas Cracker Number Eight – Spelling

How you present your work is incredibly important and spelling is a vital part of that. I know that I’m a fine one to talk – to my chagrin, I’ve noticed one or two typos in previous posts and I feel utterly mortified by them. In my defence (there is...

Christmas Cracker Number Seven – Show, don’t Tell

Here’s an old chestnut with a kernel of pure truth at the centre.  A good writer doesn’t tell a story, she shows it unfolding and that way the reader is drawn in, rather than remaining on the edge of the action.  “Re-reading the letter from her brother the girl...

Christmas Cracker Number Six – Cliches

Puffy white clouds filled the sky – stop, stop right now, just don’t go there.  Clouds are always puffy.  Back to the drawing board right now… I guess the only time you might get away with using a cliche is if it is for characterisation — perhaps you...

Christmas Cracker Number Five – Repetition

My Boxing Day style tip is to do with repetition — in literature, as in life, it is better not to say the same thing twice.  If you use a word twice (yes) your writing can seem slack.  It’s better to think of a different way of saying something. So, try...

Christmas Cracker Number Four – The Jane Austen Game

We used to play a brilliant game I was a teenager, which we called The Jane Austen Game, although I’m sure other families have different names for it, but it’s a bit of literary fluff that makes people laugh and can sharpen your writing skills as...

Christmas Cracker Number Three – Adjectives

I think it would be quite nice to pull a cracker and instead of finding a limp joke inside, to unfurl a little writerly nugget instead, (though I suspect I might be in a minority here) so here is a quick thought about adjectives…. Although not as tricky as...

Christmas Cracker Number Two – The “It” Word

When I’m teaching, this thought sometimes provokes quite a lot of argument, so I’m not offering it up as a hard and fast rule, just as something which feels quite personal to me and how I write, but in my experience sentences, paragraphs or chapters which...

Christmas Cracker Number One – Adverbs

I thought that, with the festivities almost upon us, it might be handy to share a few simple style tips that will make your prose sparkle like tinsel, a brief thought for each of the twelve days of Christmas. (I was going to try and tie them in with the verses of the...
Picture this….

Picture this….

After all last week’s chat, some radio silence, and perhaps a fine old door to admire… In fact, pictures or images can sometimes be a fertile source of inspiration.  Why not spend a little while looking at the one above and then start asking yourself some...

Writing for Radio – Avoiding the Pitfalls

“Radio has really become the National Playhouse.  It is where people who don’t go to the theatre turn to hear the rearrangement of life into drama, that curious process which can make sense of what happens, help with pain, heal through laughter.” ...

Thinking in Sound

Donald McWhinnie, in his excellent book The Art of Radio, said that “…the writer’s business is to make excessive demands of his interpreters,” a challenge that is probably easier to rise to in radio than in any other medium, because the scope...
Writing for Radio – turning on, tuning in…

Writing for Radio – turning on, tuning in…

“As with all forms of storytelling that are composed in words, not in visual images, radio always leaves that magical and enigmatic margin, that space of the invisible, which must be filled in by the imagination of the listener.”  Angela Carter Bearing in...

Radio Mechanics

 “The almost telepathic transference of images from mind to mind is the beauty and the glory of the radio play.”  Martin Esslin Radio offers the freelance writer an absolutely fantastic range of opportunities.  The good old BBC broadcasts original radio...
Radiohead?

Radiohead?

The inestimable Radio Four is this country’s most prolific commissioner of new dramas (and probably short stories too) so looking in more depth at writing for radio is something that interests me – I once did a week-long intensive course run by Jane...
Another brick in the wall

Another brick in the wall

Structure is something I really struggle with, to me it is the hardest thing of all.  It’s a bit like trying to put a tent up in a high wind, you just get one bit staked down and then the wind gusts and another bit goes billowing off beyond your reach. I find it...
It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…

Ooh, I’m having another Tale of Two Cities moment.  I do read authors apart from Charles Dickens (at the moment I’m immersed in Tipping the Velvet.  It’s the first time I’ve read anything by Sarah Waters and I’m absolutely wallowing in...
When is a door not a door?

When is a door not a door?

I love doors.  They fascinate me.  They reveal and conceal.  They are a bridge from one state to another.    They can be a barrier that forbids,a dead-end which is frustrating and inhospitable.  They can be used almost as a weapon, as a form of assault — to have...
Ostensibility

Ostensibility

I was listening to writer David Constantine talking about his short story Tea at the Midland, which has just won the National Short Story Competition. It’s about a couple having tea in a hotel overlooking the beach at Morecambe, and they start to argue about a...

Have your very own Lynn Barber moment….

Long before she came to prominence as the writer and central character of her memoir (and subsequent film) An Education, Ms Barber has been producing pithy and unflinching interviews with the great and the good, most recently for The Observer. She is renowned for not...

Ambivalence, maybe….

Things are rarely black and white — it is in that ambiguous, messy, grey area that most of us live and where interesting fiction is often kindled.  If you are aiming for clarity in your writing: the well-realised character, the taut plot, not to mention crisp,...

Studio of ….(A Homage to Tim Pears)

Visiting art galleries or exhibition, I’m always intrigued when the notes about a particular picture say, Studio of Raphael, or Mantegna, or whoever. This is partly because I’m intrigued by the anonymity of the artist or artists involved and also because...

Write Rite Right

I love the ritual of writing.  I love making a cup of tea, coming upstairs, turning on my lap top, gazing out of the window (icicles hanging from the sash this morning) while it boots up. I love the clutter on my desk: the photos, the postcards, the skateboarding pen...