It’s All a Question of Perspective

If you have a brilliant idea for a story, but want to put a bit of spin on it so that it is a bit more unusual, or has added depth, then here’s a suggestion. Plot out your story in some detail, making notes of all the main events in it so that you have a clear...

Pacing It Out

As I am full of January sloth and seem to have ground to a halt with my re-writes this afternoon, now seems like a very good moment to talk about pace –  if I think about it, maybe I’ll acquire some! Pace has elements of structure and elements of...

Don’t I Recognise You?

And another thing (while I’m in identification mode!) I’ve been warbling on about how important it is the your reader to identify with your story and a key way of helping them to do this — of opening a window for them, if you like — is to make...
Affirmative Action

Affirmative Action

I’ve been thinking little bit more about the need for a reader to identify with the characters and the situation in which they find themselves, trying to  mull it over from the point of view of a writer as well as a fanatical devourer of books. I think that as a...

Why the Magic isn’t Working

I’m in the throes of reading A Woman on the Edge of Time by Marge Piercy, which I won’t manage to finish in time for my reading group tomorrow — sorry, girls. I set out enthusiastically and found myself absolutely gripped by the description of the...

Blending into the Background?

The importance given to the setting of a novel varies from writer to writer and from book to book. At its most limited it acts merely as a decorative frame to the action and has the same function as an exotic location in a film — it gets the reader’s...
Knowing Your Place

Knowing Your Place

A day for a door, I think. This rather splendid one is a side entrance to Notre Dame in Paris and seems to me to forbid rather than invite, but it makes me curious, all the same.  It’s not the kind of door that I’d go barging through without having been...

Backing Up

In my previous post I was talking about making cuts: that deliberate decision to junk great swathes of your work.  Challenging stuff, but exhilarating to do if it is necessary and your work is better for it. To lose huge sections of your novel unintentionally is...

Slash and Burn

Yesterday, I cut 4200 words from my book — just like that — to use Tommy Cooper’s immortal phrase.  I’ve been doing rewrites of my novel, painstakingly working my way through the notes my agent has given me, some of which concerned the...

Keep Fit for Writers

The newspapers at the moment are absolutely stuffed with ideas for losing weight/getting into shape, all of which makes January far more depressing than it needs to be, but never one to be off-trend, here is a quick thought about how you can limber up as a writer. Why...

This One’s Mine

Your originality is what marks you out as a writer from everybody else.  When you read articles saying that there are only four basic narratives, or seven, (or even twenty-five), it can be tempting to think that the chances of coming up with something fresh are...

It Is Better to Give Than to Receive

Actually, I like doing both, on a well-balanced and reciprocal basis and I’m not just talking Christmas presents here (although thanks for the handbag Steve) I’m talking editorial criticism. For years and years I’ve written in the literary equivalent...

Homage to Hitchcock

In my last post I was talking about how important it is to match the style of your writing to what you are describing and usually this is a basic requirement of good prose.  If your narrative is told appropriately, your readers will feel confident in your...
A Cautionary Tale

A Cautionary Tale

I’ve got a bit of a thing for industrial decay and I love this picture: I love the paint-peeling, flaky redundancy of the petrol pump, I like the fact that it is rusting and overgrown.  I’m drawn to the forlorn. In fact, I felt pretty forlorn a few months...

Joined Up – Writing

There are some societies and associations which are only open to published writers – the inestimable Society of Authors is one, but there are others who welcome anybody with an interest in writing.  It is such a solitary occupation  that I sometimes...
Word Association

Word Association

Here’s a nice old, seedy old, despondent old French door, which seems to me to be extraordinarily evocative, with its closed blinds and peeling shutters and faded paint. I think you could probably construct a whole narrative just from looking at it for long...

Graham Swift Puts Himself under Pressure

I seem to be in quotation mode at the moment, moving seamlessly from Scott Fitzgerald yesterday to Graham Swift today, but with good reason, because where can you learn to write except through the work of other writers? Swift says, “I favour the first...

F. Scott Fitzgerald (Did Somebody Say Something?)

As well as writing The Great Gatsby and Tender Is the Night, Scott Fitzgerald demonstrated his all-round brilliance with the following quotation: “One of the privileges of dialogue is silence.” This is deliciously counter-intuitive, because when you think...

Moving from Darkness into LIght

I wish! It’s pretty dark here and  lots of that sleety stuff  is drizzling down outside in a can’t be bothered kind of way, as if the very idea of getting any momentum going so early in January is out of the question, and I’m feeling so...
When I wak’d I cried to dream again….

When I wak’d I cried to dream again….

I can’t help feeling the pressure to start something, to embark, now that the new year is here, even though it is a Bank Holiday (still) and part of me is in a dreamlike not-quite-ready-to-get-back-to-work state. Hmmm. Dreams.  Now there’s a thought…...

A Place of Greater Safety

I’ve had a tummy bug over the last few days and have been feeling under the weather – boo hoo – but it has meant that I can go hurtling through A Place of Greater Safety, Hilary Mantel’s epic novel about the French Revolution.  It’s...

How Does Your Garden (Or Novel) Grow?

I was talking to a friend of mine, a writer, and she said that when she is working she sometimes skips the boring bits of her story and jumps ahead to write the big exciting scenes. Which got me thinking… Firstly, it strikes me that in a good book there...