‘Tis Pity She’s a Whore

I went to see Cheek by Jowl’s sensational production of ‘Tis Pity She’s a Whore at the Bristol Old Vic on Monday. Declan Donellan re-imagines John Ford’s Jacobean tragedy for the 21st Century and the macabre and incestuous behaviour of the...
Writing Fiction – Keeping a Sense of Proportion

Writing Fiction – Keeping a Sense of Proportion

When you’re writing and the white heat of creativity is upon you, it is easy to get so caught up in what you are doing that you start to lose a sense of overall proportion in your work. Just as visual artists step back from their canvases to take in the bigger...

Free Critique of Your Creative Writing

All of us tell tales. We share our triumphs and tribulations with each other, we pass on gossip, we search for meaning and significance in our own experience and in each other’s. Sometimes this involves reading fiction, which at its best universalizes the...

Making a Commitment to Your Writing

When you’re sitting in front of your computer, staring at the blank screen *what shall I blog about today* and you can see a big, fat, writers block out of the corner of your eye, making some kind of external commitment about your work may help you to get off...

Fiction Writing – The Unwritten Rules

 Somerset Maugham sums it up pretty neatly,  There are three rules for writing. Unfortunately, no one can agree what they are. I think my three guiding principles would be something like this: Don’t write for effect – always serve the story. Edit with...
Writing Fiction – How to Structure a Story

Writing Fiction – How to Structure a Story

I rather like this ramshackle old window, snapped in some mediaeval village in France. I like all the different textures: the painted tongue and groove planking, the peeling frame, the cracked, occluded glass and the partial sight of a brick wall beyond that. Think of...

The Wo – Man Booker Prize

I’m giving three resounding cheers for Hilary Mantel, throwing my  cap in the air and cheering to the rafters.The first cheer is because Bring up the Bodies is skeined like silk and woven into a literary tapestry as fine and detailed as any 16th century...
Just Suppose You Juxtapose…

Just Suppose You Juxtapose…

Juxtapose means to put two things side-by-side. If this was all you did with them, it wouldn’t be much of a literary trick to pull off. However, it can be useful if you want to make one thing that comment on another, to highlight their similarities or...

Getting Down to the Nitty-Gritty: Why Detail Matters

British short story supremo VS Pritchett once observed, “Details make stories human, and the more human a story can be, the better,” advice we lesser mortals should ignore at our peril. The use of detail is one of the major tools we have for bringing...
How to Do Dialogue When Writing Fiction

How to Do Dialogue When Writing Fiction

Good dialogue is plausible, life-like conversation which reflects the character of the speaker and helps to provide necessary information to advance the plot. Ah-ha! But how do you write good dialogue? Spend some time – lots of it, if you have it – listening to how...

Writing Fiction – Three Common Pitfalls and How to Avoid Them

When you’re appraising manuscripts, it’s easy to spot the work of an inexperienced writer. The most common pitfalls I come across are these: Overwriting Lack of editing Lack of planning I suspect that all of these stem from the same overwhelming urge to...

National Poetry Day

In a recent question and answer session promoting the Cheltenham Literary Festival, Carol Ann Duffy said, “For me, poetry is the music of being human. And also a time machine by which we can travel to who we were and to who we will become”...

How to Get Published? Think Big!

What with the recession and the de-stabilising effects of digital publishing, writers are finding it harder than ever before to get their books conventionally published by one of the traditional houses. Editors’ hands are tied by the marketing departments, who...

Architecture for Writers

Prose is architecture, not interior decoration, according to Ernest Hemingway, an interesting insight with which to start the week. If you think of your novel as a work of architecture, you may find yourself looking at the way the story arcs and intersects with more...