Are You Looking For Help With Your Writing?

Are you looking for help with your writing? Whether you write fiction, creative non-fiction or short stories in any genre, I currently have a few spaces in my diary. I offer one-off tutoring, advice, appraisals  and editorial help, as well as longer-term mentoring, and workshops for all kinds of groups & courses, in-person or online. Read more →


Itchy Bitesized 13: Artist's Dates Don't Have to be About Art

It was Julia Cameron who started the idea of the "Artist Date",* in her book The Artist's Way. The idea is that any creative work draws on a well - or a larder is a more useful image, I think - and if you don't want to run out of creative food and therefore fuel, you have to fill the larder and keep refilling it. But how do you fill it? Read more →


Itchy Bitesized 12: Don't Pull Your Writing's Teeth

Another thing I frequently find myself writing on students' work is "Don't pull its teeth!". Here, "it" is a scene, a sentence, a character's thought, or a character's action, which has all the ingredients to be compelling, but somehow falls flat. Read more →


Itchy Bitesized 11: "Who Says This?" Make sure the reader knows who's talking.

One of the most frequent things I find myself writing on students' manuscripts is "Who says this?" I did a big post on writing dialogue a couple of years ago, so this is a round-up of solutions to this specific problem of making sure the reader knows which character says what. Read more →


Itchy Bitesized 10: Ten Reasons to Read Your Work Aloud

You know there are no rules for which words get on the page, nor for how you should set about putting them there. But there are tools - and one of the sharpest and most universal is reading your work aloud. What's more, it applies to any kind of writing, from poetry and fiction to your doctoral thesis. I'm not talking here about preparing reading for events or reading at events, but about reading aloud, to yourself, as part of the editing process. Here are some reasons why it's such a good tool, and some things to help you wield it. Read more →


Itchy Bitesized 9: Three Things About Filtering (a.k.a. HD for your writing)

Writers very often use phrases which get between the reader and a straightforward representation and evocation of what's happening, without adding anything else to the experience. Getting rid of filtering is one of the simplest ways to make your writing more vivid and engaging, and I've blogged more fully about it, so this is just a quick look at the issues that most often arise when I'm teaching how to wrangle it. Read more →


Itchy Bitesized 8: Six Things About Second Novel Syndrome

Not only is Being Published distinctly weird, now you've got to write another book. Maybe it's under contract, or maybe it's just that everyone's expecting you to write another. So why is it being so difficult? Read more →


Itchy Bitesized 7: What You Need To Know About Comma Splices

Comma splices are probably the punctuation mistake I see most often, and it's frequently in writing by people who otherwise know why punctuation matters, and use it very well. But what is a comma splice, why do they matter, and what do you do about them? Read more →


Itchy Bitesized 6: Which Viewpoint Character Should You Be Using?

Even when you've got your head round how point-of-view and narrators work, you're left with the question of which of the available characters should be the viewpoint character for this page, this scene, this chapter or this novel. This post explores the possibilities. Read more →


Itchy Bitesized 5: Sixteen Things You Need to Become a Writer (and twelve things you don't)

When I meet someone who says they'd love to be a writer but they've never studied Creative Writing, or they can't spell, or they always got bad marks in English at school, I say, with truth, that you don't need any of those things. So, first, let's be clear: Read more →


Itchy Bitesized 4: Three Things About Writing Synopses

The problem with synopses is simple: if you could have written your story in 300-500 words, you would have, but you couldn't, so boiling your 70-130,000 words down feels as impossible (with apologies for mixing my metaphors) as catching a waterfall in a cup. But it can be done – and it can, actually, become a really useful tool in your tool-kit. Read more →


Itchy Bitesized 3: Ten Unapologetic Ways to Ask to be Paid

From festival appearances to funeral poems, writers get asked to work unpaid all the time. Taking ourselves more seriously as paid professionals means learning to ask for money without apology or embarrassment from events organisers, broadcasters, schools, magazines, alumni organisations and anyone else. Read more →


Itchy Bitesized 2: Three Things about Semi-colons

The second bite of the new Itchy Bite-sized series is nibbling at a much-despised, often confused and actually very useful and very simple punctuation mark: the semi-colon. Read more →


Itchy Bitesized 1: Three Things about First Drafts

Welcome to the first in what I hope is a new series for the Itch. Itchy Bitesized are short posts about all sorts of writing issues, from perspiration inspiration to craft and technique - and I thought a good topic for the first post would be first drafts! Read more →


This is Not a Book About Charles Darwin available in paperback from Darwin Day, 12th February

Part memoir, part biography, and part book about creative writing and what really makes a novel, This Is Not A Book About Charles Darwin is the story of how my creative disaster came from ten generations of creative thinkers in the Darwin-Wedgwood family tree. Read more →


Twelve Ideas To Help With Writer's Block

Even if you're of the "It's sheer self-indulgence" school of opinion, there's no denying that writer's block is a hot topic - except when it's a source of silent, dark and excruciating shame. The thing is, for every new writer declaring, "I'm blocked!" when what they mean is they're a bit stuck on what happens in the next scene - or (un)consciously spinning their lack of determination into a Terrible Problem for a Serious Writer - there's a professional author, with a mortgage hanging on their delivering, who can't bear to tell their friends they've had to hand an advance... Read more →


Sorry it's been a while...

Many, many apologies for it being so long since I last posted; the only reason is that I spent the autumn and winter moving house, after twenty-two years and most of my children's lifetimes. It all went as smoothly as anything does when you're wearing a face-covering, but it was a sizeable job. Secondly, I do hope all the Itch's dear readers (who are mostly dear writers too, of course), are well, and not too worried about anyone, and not finding life in Pandemia too unbearable. Fingers crossed (the vaccination-arm-side, obv), things will start getting more recognisable soon - but... Read more →


WRITE YOUR FIRST NOVEL Part Ten: Building at Novel-Scale

Welcome back! In this post we're going to start thinking about the move which to many beginners seems horribly daunting: going from thinking at scene-size, chapter-size, story-scale, to a full-scale novel. But don't be scared: each post in my Write Your First Novel is a series of short prompts and exercises which are designed to lead, step by small step, towards the first draft of a novel. It doesn't assume you already know the technical vocabulary that writers use, and the full series to date is collected together here. One more thing before we start. Everything on This Itch of... Read more →


What Your Inner Critic Doesn't Want You To Know

I know so many aspiring writers who would say that their problem is not getting going: good ideas come along often, and for a while they find it easy and exciting to devote lots of their available time to the project. But "for a while" is the problem: their past is littered with brave beginnings that petered out, half-filled notebooks, unfinished drafts, and finished first drafts that they never revised "for their reader". So I thought I'd pause the Write Your First Novel course, for a moment - I promise I'll get back to it - and have a quick... Read more →


WRITE YOUR FIRST NOVEL Part Nine: Revising 2

In Part Nine we're going to look at how you turn a second draft ("for your reader") into something closer to a third draft ("for the person you need to persuade"). Each post in my Write Your First Novel is a series of short prompts and exercises which are designed to lead, step by small step, towards the first draft of a novel. It doesn't assume you already know the technical vocabulary that writers use, and the full series to date is collected together here. One more thing before we start. Everything on This Itch of Writing is free; I... Read more →


This is Not a Book About Charles Darwin is 99p on Kindle

"The best conversation I've ever had about writing with someone I've never actually met." - Joanne Limburg "Here is the humility, naked courage and fiercely intelligent understanding of what writing a novel takes, and costs." - Jenn Ashworth FRSL "This author of historical novels would seem to have a rich ancestral seam to mine. But, as she reveals in this refreshingly frank, witty, eloquent memoir-cum-biography-cum-rumination, it isn’t that easy." - Saga Magazine Just a quick post to say that if you have a bit of time on your hands and like the sound of all that, This is Not a... Read more →