On the Move…

On the Move…

We are moving house next week, so there may be a slight hiatus here while I rummage through every single cardboard box we have in order to find my laptop and then perch it on a precarious pile of books and start to blog again. As they say, when one door...

Musical Colons

Some people find punctuation extremely daunting, the errant apostrophe seems to trip everybody up, and even though I had a fantastic grounding in English grammar when I was about twelve (thank you Miss Maynard), there are things I’m still a little hesitant...

How Not to Insult Your Readers

I’m just reading through the latest draft of my novel, making sure that the new bits I have written fit seamlessly in place, checking for typos, cutting where I can (see previous post) and I’ve noticed that in one or two places I have spelt things out too...

Keeping it Brief

I’m still in Hillary Mantel mode, mulling over all the things she said in her recent BBC2 interview and discovering nuggets of excellent advice. Amongst them is her revelation that she reckoned on cutting one third of every page that she writes.  Think about...

The Bare Essentials

It can be incredibly easy, when you are writing, to fall in love with the language you are using (guilty as charged!) For me, finessing the perfect sentence so that it conveys meaning, trips the reader’s imagination, sounds as elegant and and unexpected as...
In Memoriam

In Memoriam

Some breathtaking works of literature have been inspired by loss and grief — Tennyson’s In Memoriam, Grey’s Elegy – and it can be a great way of turning feelings of  bereavement into something positive and creative – an exercise that...

Subtext and Subtlety

Still feeling rather feak and weeble, so forgive me if I’m brief today (partly because my voice is sounding so peculiar, the speech recognition software can’t understand a word I’m saying). I’m going to have another Hilary Mantel moment, as the...
It Wasn’t the Cough that Carried Her Off…

It Wasn’t the Cough that Carried Her Off…

Another thing that the great Ms Mantel said in the Culture Show at the weekend was, “you need to lead a boring life if the contents of your head are very exciting.”  As I’m in the grip of a vile cold > chest infection, I’m going to leave you...
Blue Sky Thinking…

Blue Sky Thinking…

I watched Hilary Mantel on the Culture Show over the weekend — riveting and inspiring stuff.  She’s been a god to me since I read A Place of Greater Safety, and as for Wolf Hall – well, respect. She had a great deal to say that I found interesting...

Creative Writing – the Missing Ingredient

I’m coming to the end (I hope) of some extensive rewrites to my book.  It’s a bit like cooking a dinner party for some people you want to impress, without using any kind of recipe.  You bung in a bit of this, slosh in some of that, taste it yourself to see...
The Purpose of Fiction

The Purpose of Fiction

In a moody, artistic moment on holiday, I took this picture… I loved the way the sky was reflected in the canal, a bit like oil on the water.  The clouds look like clouds, but at the same time you can tell but they’re not,  — there’s a slightly...

Working with Resistance

I’m feeling grim today: sore throat, headache, cold coming.  It would be the easiest thing in the world to crawl back under the duvet (and I wouldn’t rule that out), but I’m going to stay sitting at my desk trying to write.  Not just because...
The Secret of Songwriting is…

The Secret of Songwriting is…

I saw American country singer Sam Baker at St Bonaventure’s (arguably the best music space in the world) Parish Hall last night. His songs were  like perfectly crafted short stories, each one full of the drifting heartbreak of smalltown Texas life.  He gave...

Just Do It

When I worked as an actor, one of the first lessons I learned was about stage presence: if you walk onto the stage as if you own it and have every right to be there, then you can communicate anything you want to a captive audience.  On the other hand, if you creep on...
A Different Perspective

A Different Perspective

It’s a question of perspective: you can make something  – an emotion or an event — seem enormous depending on whether your character is closely involved, or you can allow it to appear distant and insignificant if they are only peripheral. Sometimes,...
In the Beginning…

In the Beginning…

Dawn, up early and no one else about, so time to look and think, both critical occupations for a writer, though to the outside observer it might seem as if you’re simply idling. But stood idling long enough to see the day  lose its first intensity as the sun...
Taking Wing…

Taking Wing…

We found this tiny fledgeling in the middle of a lake at the Cotswold Water Park.  The poor little thing was drowning and we managed to rescue it and put it among  some dry leaves to recover.  There it shivered for half an hour or more and occasionally we crept back, ...
The Bon Mot, or Choosing the Right Word

The Bon Mot, or Choosing the Right Word

As a writer, you need to be as sensitive as possible to the nuances of language — natch.  You need to be alert to the various meanings a word can have, and how context can alter them.  In the editing process you need to make sure you have anticipated every...
Time Passes

Time Passes

Time passes, slipping by rather too quickly when you are away “researching” in the backwaters of southern Burgundy with its crumbling ochre villages, where Gothic architecture looks  positively cutting age and modern, compared to the rounded, earth-bound...