Back From the Drink

Back From the Drink

I’ve been travelling for a couple of months with only limited access to the Internet, which is why my posts have been few and far between, but I’m back from careering down the River Rhone, so wide they say you can see the curvature of the earth, and hot...

Franz Kafka: a Dead Man Writing

I’m sitting in my shed at the bottom of our garden with the doors and windows open, revelling in what passes for peace and quiet in an inner-city. Next door’s runner beans are dying, but the ash trees which thresh and rustle overhead have survived the...

An Exercise in Sensory Deprivation

The sun is shining, I can hear birds singing outside my window and it’s the longest day, so the last thing you probably want is a writing exercise for the weekend, but if you think that the longest day will, by definition, give you more time to write, and allow...
Wanted : Goethe’s Dog

Wanted : Goethe’s Dog

Wandering through the rain-soaked streets of Strasbourg recently, we passed a house where the playwright Goethe lived for a time… …and I was reminded of a remark that he once made: wanted, a dog that neither barks nor bites, eats glass and shits diamonds....

Telling the Difference Between Showing and Telling

This is a tough one, the mistake most writers, but new ones in particular, are most likely to make: telling the reader something, rather than bringing it to life by showing it happen. In a sense it’s the art of dramatisation; it’s certainly the raising...

The Three Rs of Creative Writing

A few weeks ago I mentioned that I’d passed the the first three chapters of my Work in Progress to my writing mentor to see if she thought I was working along the right lines. Like a good friend, she responded incredibly swiftly with some trenchant and radical...

Normal Service Will Resume…

…but at the moment I’m hidden away in a remote spot without access to the internet – yes, such places still exist and the breathtakingly lovely Helford Estuary in southernmost Cornwall is one of them. It’s an inspiring place in which to think...
Creative Writing: Working with Mosaics

Creative Writing: Working with Mosaics

I thought you might like some gilded Art Nouveau flowers to brighten up this interminably long shortest month. I am so through with February. I’m desperate for some mad March wind to blast the grey away and shake the gold from the daffodils. In the meantime,...

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...

A Long Day’s Journey into Writing

I’ve had a long day’s writing and I’m tired. You would think this might mean that it’s time for me to shut down my computer and go and have a cup of tea – even a biscuit! However, I’ve learned over the years that I often write best when...

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...
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 Observation about Using Observation in Creative Writing

I was on the bus the other day, whiling away the time by watching two people who were sitting side-by-side in separate pools of tiredness.  You could tell that they were both worn out, but they were worn out in different ways.  The woman was relatively upright, gazing...
Characterisation — How to Read a Face

Characterisation — How to Read a Face

While we were in the seductive book village of Cuisery (see my previous post) we wandered into the little church of Notre Dame, originally begun in the 11th century and completed in 1504. I was stopped dead in my tracks by some beautiful frescoes in a side chapel....
How to Make Fictional Oaks Grow From Little Acorns

How to Make Fictional Oaks Grow From Little Acorns

We’ve had sleet today and there’s snow forecast, so it’s definitely a good time to hunker down in the warm and do some writing. How’s this for an idea?  Describe a character; flesh out as much detail as you can — appearance, back story,...