An Alphabet of Better Writing # Y

Y is for…Yarn A story, a traveller’s tale, an anecdote.  Yarn.  The word has associations of length, of being something rambling and relaxed, of something oral perhaps, of something made up as it goes along. There may even be hints of exaggeration —...
An Alphabet of Better Writing # X

An Alphabet of Better Writing # X

X is for…X-Rated With Fifty Shades of Grey still hogging the Amazon Best Sellers list and Mummy Porn the must have for every publisher as a result, my Alphabet of Better Writing would be incomplete if I didn’t mention sex in it at some point. A recent bio...

An Alphabet of Better Writing # W

W is for…Warp and Weft …and weavers, who when they are working (so much alliteration), stretch one set of threads across their looms (the warp) so that a second set (the weft) can be woven through it.  When you are weaving this creates fabric, when you are...
An Alphabet of Better Writing # V

An Alphabet of Better Writing # V

V is for…Voltaire Well, I could have done verisimilitude, or villain, or any number of other words beginning with V, but I’ve chosen Voltaire. A few weeks ago when I was on holiday in France, I went to visit the chateau at Cirey en Blaise. Voltaire took...

An Alphabet of Better Writing # U

U is for…Unreliable Narrator Mostly, when we read a story, we take the narrative at face value.  We believe what the author is telling us, either directly in a first person narrative or through the hero or heroine in a third person one, because — well, why...

An Alphabet of Better Writing # T

T is for…Tension Tension is the sense of drama and suspense which makes your story interesting.  It has elements of excitement and compression and its function is to sustain your reader’s curiosity. Your story must have some innate drama to make it...
An Alphabet of Better Writing # S

An Alphabet of Better Writing # S

S is for…Setting The setting of a story can be crucial.  It’s certainly never incidental and you shouldn’t underestimate the importance of it.  Apparently writer Catherine Czerkawska discovered to her dismay that publishers wouldn’t take a...
An Alphabet of Better Writing # R

An Alphabet of Better Writing # R

R is for…Research Write about what you know, they tell you, write about what you know.  Even if you follow this sage advice (which, incidentally, I think means write within your emotional, rather than your actual experience) let’s face it, you’re not...

An Alphabet of Better Writing # Q

Q is for…Questions There are loads of questions which, as a writer, you might ask yourself — not least, what on earth am I doing this for? However, questions can be an extremely useful tool in helping you to tease out an idea and then fashion some kind of...

An Alphabet Of Better Writing # P

P is for…Past William Faulkner offers this brilliant thought about the past: “The past is never dead.  It is not even past.” Wow! When my brother sent me this (thanks Tom) it set all kinds of trip wires firing in my brain: how it is impossible to...
An Alphabet of Better Writing # O

An Alphabet of Better Writing # O

O is for…Originality Some people claim that there are only seven basic plots, or four, or that all the great stories have been written and that the novel is dead in any case.  If you listen to all of that, you may as well put your pencil back in its case/shut...
An Alphabet of Better Writing # N

An Alphabet of Better Writing # N

N is for…Nemesis In ancient Greece the goddess Nemesis got the brief for dishing out justifiable punishment.  If lesser mortals started showing signs of arrogance (hubris), she’d be on their case delivering retribution before you could say lightning bolt (...

An Alphabet of Better Writing # M

M is for…Message As a writer, your first obligation to your reader is to tell them a cracking story, of course it is, and for many writers — and readers — that is sufficient in itself. Focusing on the events of the narrative: this happened and then...

An Alphabet of Better Writing # L

L is for….Length Length for length’s sake is a dreadful indulgence in a fiction writer– if you are wodging out your work to arrive at a notional number of words, be it  eight hundred or eighty thousand, then you may be putting on unnecessary fat,...