TWELVE TOOLS (NOT RULES) OF WRITING : just what it says on the tin
MY BEST TIP OF ALL : whatever you write
TWENTY THINGS WHICH NO ONE SAYS OFTEN ENOUGH : about writing
THE FUNDAMENTAL TOOLS & SKILLS
PSYCHIC DISTANCE: what it is and how to use it : also called narrative distance; an extraordinarily useful way of thinking, which is responsible for more lightbulb moments in my students than everything else put together.
SHOWING AND TELLING: the basics : how to use both to make your story do everything you want it to do.
HOW SHOWING AND TELLING CO-OPERATE : why you need both, and how they work together
HOW TO TELL, AND STILL SHOW : how to get on with the story without sacrificing vividness
THE REAL SIXTH SENSE : writing uses all SIX of your senses - here's how.
PAST AND PRESENT TENSE : the pros and cons of both : the different issues that arise with first and third person for each tense, and why the new creative writing orthodoxy is wrong
CHARACTERISATION-IN-ACTION : how to develop your characters-in-action and make sure their journey is really compelling.
STORYTELLING, PLOT AND STRUCTURE
PLOT vs. STORY : what's the difference and why does that mean for your writing?
NARRATIVE DRIVE : how to get your story moving, and your reader turning the pages
FORTUNATELY-UNFORTUNATELY : how stopping your characters from staying on the same track powers the story-engine and keeps your reader reading
MAKING A SCENE : what is a scene, should each chapter only have one, and other questions.
WRITING A SCENE : when to Show/Evoke/Dramatise, when to Tell/Inform/Summarise, and how to work with both to control how your reader experiences the scene.
WRITING SEX: ten top tips : writing sex is notoriously difficult, but this should help.
GETTING FROM ONE SCENE TO THE NEXT : jump-cut or narrated slide? Doof-d00f-doof ending then crash landing, or taking the reader there in stages?
THINKING AND INTROSPECTION : how to keep the reader reading when there's no physical action
FLASHBACKS AND BACKSTORY : how to handle the stuff from Before The Story Starts.
THE WAKING-UP OPENING : why some editors don't like it, and what's really going on
ENDING THE NOVEL : how to make the quietest finish as big as it should be; how to end on a bang, not a whimper.
SEVENTEEN QUESTIONS TO ASK YOUR NOVEL : before, during or after you write it.
POINT OF VIEW
POINT OF VIEW & NARRATORS 1: the basics : what point of view is, what a narrator is, and why it matters
POINT OF VIEW & NARRATORS 2: internal narrators : character-narrators who narrate in first person
POINT OF VIEW & NARRATORS 3: external narrators : limited, switching and privileged point of view in narrators who narrate in third person
POINT OF VIEW & NARRATORS 4: moving point of view and other stories : how to work with a moving point of view, second-person narrators and other stuff
HOW TO MOVE POINT OF VIEW : not just between chapters, but in a single sentence. And why (as long as you do it well) no one can tell you it's not allowed.
CIRCLES OF CONSCIOUSNESS : a more useful and sophisticated way of thinking about point-of-view and psychic distance, and how to use it to best effect
VOICE AND TONE
WRITING DIALOGUE : how do it well, how to make it better
PING-PONG DIALOGUE : a common habit and what to do about it.
HEARING VOICES : what is voice, and why does it matter so much?
19 QUESTIONS TO ASK (and ask again) ABOUT VOICE : whether you're having trouble finding the voice for a project, or had feedback that it's not distinctive enough.
STYLE AND VOICE : a post which explored the difference between the two, and why I think 'voice' is a much more useful thing to talk about.
VOICE AND TONE : the effect of a similar plot is entirely different depending on how it's written. Is your false-accusation-of-adultery story Othello, Figaro, Feydeau, or Much Ado About Nothing?
DESCRIPTION : how to stop your descriptions being slabs of scene setting, and turn them into storytelling
6 QUESTIONS TO ASK YOUR DESCRIPTION : more on the how and why of evoking places, people and everything else.
SENTENCE STRUCTURE : have you ever thought about the order in which you put the elements of a long sentence? An exploration of what's going on.
LONG SENTENCES and why you should use them : there's a prevailing orthodoxy that short sentences are punchier and more pacy. Here's why I think it's largely not true, and certainly not that simple.
STRUCTURING AND PUNCTUATING A SENTENCE : an example from my own work
FREE INDIRECT STYLE : what it is and how to use it : the huge advantage we have over the playwrights and scriptwriters, so why wouldn't you exploit all the things it can do?
DANGLING PARTICIPLES AND MODIFIERS : what they are, how they happen, and how to sort them out.
SPEECH TAGS: how to use them best : why "he said" is often the answer but not always, and how to handle the latter
WHAT IS PASSIVE VOICE: and why are you told to avoid it? : and why it's actually a vital tool in your toolkit.
REVISING, RE-VISITING, RE-ENVISIONING
THE FICTION-EDITOR'S PHARMACOPOEIA : diagnosing symptoms and treating the diseases in your own or someone else's manuscript
TACKLING REVISIONS AND EDITS : feeling as if you've got to eat an elephant, and your spoon is too small? Here's help.
DON'T FIDDLE : how to stop yourself endlessly tweaking, poking and mini-editing and getting in a muddle, and keep moving steadily forward whether you're drafting or revising.
OVERWRITING: has someone told you your work is over-written? : here is what they might mean, and what you can do about it.
HAVE YOU HEARD THE ONE ABOUT "WAS"OPHOBIA? : why cutting "was" from your writing isn't just a stupid idea, it's also a dangerous mis-taking.
REVISIONS: Taking down the scaffolding : many writers find it hard to spot the things which needed to be in the first draft, but must be fished out in revision. Here's how to spot them.
"FILTERING": HD for your writing : an unhelpful name for the single, simplest way to revise your writing into greater vividness.
FILTERING, SCAFFOLDING & HOW TO PERFORM AN EXPLAIN-ECTOMY : more about how to get rid of the extra clutter which is blurring and smudging your story's impact.
CUTTING, CONDENSING & FILLETING: what to do when your story is much too long.
WHEN DO YOU STOP REVISING? : how do you know you're not sending it off half-baked, without getting stuck in an endless loop of fixing things?
PROCESS, PLANNING AND HOW TO GET OUT OF THE DOLDRUMS
FREEWRITING : What it is, how to do it, and all the many ways it's useful for a writer
PROCRASTINATING AGAIN? AND AGAIN? AND AGAIN? : My most recent discoveries, and links to all the earlier posts on the different reasons that you might be procrastinating.
THE THIRTY-THOUSAND DOLDRUMS : somewhere between 20k and 40k, and decided that the whole thing's a disaster? You are not alone.
THE NOVEL-PLANNING GRID: one way (my way) of planning out your novel : a recent post, with a downloadable grid which you can then bend to your own purposes.
TRACK CHANGES : how using the Track Changes facility in your word processor can really help
SCRIVENER SOFTWARE : why I'm a complete convert to the only writing software real writers use, whether they're pantsers, planners, or imaginers-on-paper.
THE SYNOPSIS: Relax! : the synopsis won't make or break your novel's fate, but it can help to give it the best chance. Here's how.
WHAT IS LITERARY FICTION? : for writers, for readers, for the industry.
SO WHAT COUNTS AS HISTORICAL FICTION? : for writers, for readers, for the industry.
CREATIVE NON-FICTION : including memoir, life writing, travel writing. What is it, and are you writing it?
CROSSING GENRES: The Perils and Pleasures : being rejected because your book is "neither one thing nor the other"? A exploration of the issues.
GROUPS, COURSES & ACADEMIC CREATIVE WRITING
BUT CAN YOU TEACH CREATIVE WRITING? : What does a CW teacher do, and is that better than a trainee writer going it alone?
WRITING COURSES: the pros and cons : Should you do one? Which one? When?
SHOULD I DO A CREATIVE WRITING MA : What might it do for my writing? How do I choose?
HOW TO GIVE FEEDBACK : Whether it's informal writing-chat on a forum, or a written report.
CREATIVE WRITING COMMENTARIES: don't know where to start? : how to write a reflective, analytical or critical commentary on your creative writing.
CREATIVE WRITING PhDs : the paradoxical beast : Wondering whether to do a PhD? Wondering how anyone ever could? Some answers, lots of thoughts.
AGONISING OVER YOUR PhD PROPOSAL? : Some tips to help you, which may also help with MAs, funding applications and the like.
SURVIVING A PhD or MPhil VIVA : how to prepare, how to cope on the day
ACADEMIC WRITING : my twenty-or-so top tips for writing well at all levels of academic study - which should also help you to get a better grade.
GOING OUTSIDE AND GOING PUBLIC
BOOKS FOR WRITERS: a partial view and a partial list : whether you're looking for help with writing sex, or for a present to give the peculiar creature called a writer who you seem to have spawned or made friends with, here are some of my favourites.
HOW TO GET THE BEST OUT OF AN EDITORIAL SERVICE : Does just what it says on the tin.
HOW TO GET THE BEST OUT OF A ONE-TO-ONE SLOT : Make the most of your ten minutes with an agent, an editor or a book doctor.
HOW TO PRESENT A MANUSCRIPT : these are the industry standards. They're not difficult, they exist for very good reasons, and you'd be mad not to follow them.
ENTERING COMPETITIONS : The first person your writing has to delight is the First Filter Reader. Two posts by writer and veteran judge Susannah Rickards, from the coal-face of competitions.
GIVING A READING : Part One - Getting Ready : Does just what it says on the tin, from why it's worth learning to enjoy events, to leaving the house.
GIVING A READING: Part Two - On The Night : Everything from arriving at the venue to catching the last train home.
HOW TO COPE WITH PUBLICITY : An exploration of what's going on when you find that the publicity you long for - interviews, reviews, trade dinners - is much more stressful than you'd expect, and tips for how to cope.
HOPING TO MAKE A LIVING WRITING BOOKS? : A realistic picture of the models that (sometimes) work, and the ones that really don't.