The Good Sex Guide

As the bells ring out to celebrate the Royal Wedding (notice I’m blogging, not watching), now seems as good a time as any to write about what Josephine Hart refers to as, “the choreography of desire.” A friend of mine once rang me up, slightly...

Obssessive Compulsive?

Well blimey, that didn’t last — since deciding last week that I was going to lie fallow over the summer and only write my blog so that I can concentrate on moving house, what did I do, but settle down and edit the first two chapters of my novel? ...

Where Do I Stand?

Almost the first thing you have to decide when you are starting to work on a story, is where the narrator stands in relation to the narrative.  It sounds complicated, but actually what it means is working out how the story will be told.  One option is to use...

Thank You, Maggie O’Farrell

I’ve just finished reading The Hand that First Held Mine, by Maggie O’Farrell (at last) and  her portrayal of the alien landscape of new motherhood completely blew me away.  She perfectly captures the sense of being displaced from the centre of...
Letters to a Young Poet

Letters to a Young Poet

My first agent gave me a copy of Rainer Maria Rilke’s Letters to a Young Poet (thank you, Xandra) and over the years I have found it to be the perfect primer.  It doesn’t cover the nuts and bolts of getting published or the technicalities of structure, but...

The Essence of Drama Is Conflict

…according to Syd Field and just about anybody else who has ever had anything to say about the process of creative writing. It is conflict which causes the tension that gives rise to the compulsion in your reader to keep on turning the pages. As you will...

Try Talking the Talk

For a descriptive writer, the prospect of setting a scene can really get the juices flowing as there is endless scope for painting vivid pictures with words – bliss for the author, but sometimes uphill work for the poor reader.   If I’m finding...

Put a Spring in Your Step…

I had tea in a friend’s garden yesterday, sitting under an apple tree, blossom sparking along bare branches, cowslips at our feet, the spring spendthrift, throwing its gold around.  Time off for good behaviour.  Perfect for recharging the batteries and...

Gossip

I had it from one, who had it from one…. I was once in a production of School for Scandal, Sheridan’s irrepressible social satire, where a coven of wits and rakes assemble in various different salons for the sole purpose of character assassination; the...
Going to Seed

Going to Seed

I’d be lying if I said it didn’t feel odd not to be writing ( surely too many double negatives there?Ed). We’ll soon beon the move, having sold our house, and will shortly find ourselves in what estate agents refer to with unaccustomed delicacy as...

What Kind of Writer Will I Be Today?

Imagine yourself as the hero or heroine of your own novel and then describe yourself. But wait a minute; before you get started, think what kind of novel it will be.  Begin by casting yourself in a romance and write a paragraph or two along those lines, then...

Page One Hundred

I once had a friend who always chose books on the basis of how good the hundredth page was, flipping past the first page and going up country into the interior of the story.  If things looked good on p100, then he bought the book. To put this theory to the test,...

Prospecting for Gold

I once went prospecting for gold in the Australian outback. It was THE most exciting thing. My companion was a real life, professional prospector called Cranston Edwards and armed with a state of the art metal detector, he showed me how to read the geology of the...

Epiphany – in April

Still working those characterisation muscles, helping to give you core strength as a writer (I can feel a bit of a Pilates metaphor starting to take shape), here is an exercise that you might like to think about over the weekend. Write a scene in which your central...
Appearance Isn’t Everything

Appearance Isn’t Everything

One of the reasons that Radio Four’s long-running soap The Archers is so popular is that the faceless inhabitants of Ambridge take on a vivid and distinct reality within the listener’s head.  I really don’t want to know what the actress playing...

Throwing Down the Gauntlet

What we want as readers is to see characters triumphing over adversity, partly because that is inherently exciting, but also because it makes us think that when trouble strikes are us, we too will be able to overcome it.  So, once you have created your hero or...
Beginnings — It’s Not How but Where

Beginnings — It’s Not How but Where

How to start writing a story is relatively straightforward: you have an idea in your head, pen and paper or a computer screen in front of you, and you sit down and slog away until you have a few pages of matchless prose to show for all your efforts.  How isn’t...
Memory and Imagination

Memory and Imagination

I’ve just got back from Burgundy — time travelling through ancient villages – where I’ve been checking a few details for the novel that I’m writing the moment, which is set on the Nivernais canal. There were doors to die for on every...