A Kiss in the Dark….

….from a stranger. What an intense, terrifying, exciting thought. It’s how Stephen King describes a short story: a kiss in the dark from a stranger. There are two things that strike me about this extraordinary image. One is its transience – think how...

The Seven Secrets of Writing Good Dialogue

I won’t beat about the bush here (although realistic conversation often does) – the best way to write good dialogue is to start by listening to how people speak. Eavesdrop at every opportunity and you will quickly capture the idioms and cadences of...

The Waiting Game

For someone who is a control freak (just ask my husband) I find it extraordinarily difficult to loosen my grip on what matters to me. Writing a novel is fine, the whole process is a heady exercise in autocracy: you want something to happen and – hey presto – it does!...

The Sessions – A Miniaturist Masterpiece

When you are writing do you work as a miniaturist, or do you prefer a sweeping canvas? Do you go large at every opportunity or hone in on the detail? There are pros and cons to both approaches, but I’m rather a fan of the small scale. I worry that if you...
Deep and Crisp and Even?

Deep and Crisp and Even?

I’m sitting in my little shed with a hot water bottle on my knee wrapped in a blanket and very toasty it is too. We are shrouded in snow where I live and when I inched my way down our hill to forage for supplies I was struck by the atmosphere – it’s...

Creative Contradictions

Jean Cocteau once observed that, “the spirit of creation is the spirit of contradiction,” an interesting avenue to explore on a Wednesday morning. You can think about this in a number of different ways. Writing fiction is often an exercise in polarity. You...
No Ladies Dancing!

No Ladies Dancing!

I’m feeling punch drunk having cut seventeen scenes from the screenplay that I’m working on – once you start, you just can’t stop – and on the subject of cutting, I’ve realised that I left out Nine Ladies Dancing from my Creative Writing...

On the Twelfth Day of Christmas My True Love Sent to Me…

…Twelve Drummers Drumming! I imagine the sound as urgent and climactic, rallying the listener (and in this case the reader) onwards. Drums, whether at a gig or on the field of battle, are there to energise and inspire, setting the pace for a song or a march, and...

On the Eleventh Day of Christmas My True Love Sent to Me…

…Eleven Pipers Piping, an apt reminder that when you are writing fiction your prose will have a music all of its own. We are born with an innate sense of rhythm and the more you write the more you will develop a feel for the words you use. You will become...
On the Tenth Day of Christmas My True Love Sent to Me…

On the Tenth Day of Christmas My True Love Sent to Me…

…Ten Lords a-Leaping. Lucky old me! Over Christmas I went to see the Bristol Old Vic’s anarchic and inventive production of Peter Pan. Rather than have conventional flying, Peter, Wendy and the Lost Boys used bungee ropes to convey the magic of their...

On the Eighth Day of Christmas My True Love Sent to Me…

…Eight Maids A-Milking… that’s to say, eight young women doing something typical of their daily lives. When you’re writing fiction and about to introduce your hero or heroine, it’s important to show them in action. There are two reasons...