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August 2007
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October 2007

September 2007

The market for ropes

There's a kerfuffle in the book trade over the likely defection - or earlier defection, or certain defection, depending on what you read - of a variable number of high-powered agents from the agency PFD. I do feel sorry for writers whose agents are directly involved, but for the rest of us it's all good soap opera. For a moment I even allowed my decision not to talk book trade on this blog to wobble. But only for a moment. Because I really do believe that allowing too much (any?) book-trade stuff into your writer's consciousness is absolutely inimical to... Read more →

About to Take Off

I go strangely brain-dead when I'm travelling. In the normal way of things I'm fairly observant, quick on the uptake, sharp-eyed. But once I'm through passport control some of my brain turns to mush (does mush come under the 100ml rule?). I can't see the signs to the loos, I read gate numbers wrong, I ask stupid questions of ground staff whose faces are already tight with weariness and the idiocy of the Travelling Public. They're usually quite nice about it. As you may have guessed, I'm posting this from airside, Gatwick North Terminal, on my way to Madrid. It's... Read more →

Being a snow-leopard

If you've clicked through to About, you'll know that I'm writing my current novel as part of a PhD in Creative Writing. When I did my first degree in Drama and Theatre Arts kind enquirers assumed that I sat in a library and read plays, whereas actually I spent my university years in a rehearsal room. That was very unusual, then: when my singer sister wanted to do a PhD musicologists across the land couldn't understand why part of her doctoral submission would be a recital. But now - at last, some might say - this idea that you should... Read more →

Practical parenting

Creative freelancing - singing, writing, photographing - is a jigsaw of both time and energy. I remember a mezzo-soprano friend saying that she had seven jobs, and that was only the regular ones. Unlike her, most of my jobs happen at home. But still, there's the teaching, the editorial reporting, the blogging, the tax return, the friendly conversations with aspiring writers, the occasional treat like next week in Madrid, the accounts, the library-runs... At least I'm between novels in the promotional sense, so there's not much to do on that front. But those are the dishwashing and bed-making of the... Read more →

A horse's view

Where I sit at the computer is between the two windows of the upstairs front room, with a horse's view of the street: I can see everything slightly to each side, but nothing in front of my nose. It's almost embarrassingly symmetrical, with Victorian semis very like my own stretching away to left and right. This Sunday morning (yes, I know I should be Getting On With It) two neighbours are washing their cars, one visible from each window. To the right is a man I know slightly, a substantial husband and father in khaki shorts and a grey tee-shirt,... Read more →

Believable Dragons

In the perennial argument about whether you do research before, during or after you write a novel, one answer is that you do it when the children are away, the hangover's wearing off, and the bailiffs are out of the house: in other words, whenever you can. But given the choice, I found myself saying the other day on a forum thread, there are some kinds of research you have to do first, so that you've got something 'to start thinking against'. Something to start thinking against. It was one of those ideas I didn't know I had till I... Read more →

Not all mouth, just new trousers

Yesterday evening I was at the launch of the latest issue of Seam, the poetry magazine. It was an excellent evening, with many contributors reading and reading very well. The poetry world was not always thus but, like it or not, in the last twenty years poetry has become an oral and aural art again, a performance art. How you do it - how you look, sound, speak, take the platform and leave it - makes a huge difference to how your work is heard both literally and figuratively. Poets know this, and novelists are learning it. Unlike them we... Read more →

Cake houses and paper games

Children instinctively know what makes a satisfactory story: if that knowledge isn't coded into our genes, it's certainly wired into our brains. But I've been wondering what else in my childhood has fed into my writing self, and I realise that one thing I'm grateful for is childhood paper games. Adverbs: The first person draws say ten lines across the page, then on the left-hand side writes a vertical column of ten quantities - a hatful of, a fathom of, a milligram of - and folds it to hide them, so only the lines show, not the words. The next... Read more →

From the Lascaux caves to the Booker dinner...

I've been joining in a very interesting online debate which was started by an aspiring writer who also helps run a small but relatively high profile publishing company. She asked the assembled members - beginner, seriously aspiring, published and bestselling - how the publishing industry ought to be run, as opposed to how it is. (Not much use to post a link, because it's in a private members-only forum on WriteWords) Needless to say, the answers ranged over ground which any writer who's spent time in the pub with other writers will recognise: the time it takes for rejections/acceptances/publication/royalties to... Read more →

Up close, and impersonal

Close writing and close reading seems to be what we've been talking about in the comments trails of the last couple of posts, and this from Writer Girl resonated particularly: I think I first discovered the power of individual words in a story when I began to translate parts of novels from French into English... The translater has to find the right combination of words that will provide the correct meaning, rhythm and flow to the sentence. The writer does this without having an original script to work from. My question to you is this: do agents and publishers, with... Read more →

Knitting up the nuts and bolts

Today I've been working through a long list of notes and revisions for my new novel. I've tidied up some loose ends, knitted various thematic threads in a bit tighter, and made various other fiddly improvements - loosened, plaited, darned - best expressed by metaphors to do with needlework. It's fiddly because after many minor operations and one bout of major surgery (note change of imagery), even with my big longhand plan taking up half the desk, and the search function on the computer, I can't always track things down. How should I 'check whether out-of-chronology flashbacks work in Anthony's... Read more →

Read any good Valium lately?

I've just spent a long and delightful weekend in the country. In among a family wedding, and ferrying people to trains and finishing my tax return and catching up with my sisters, I found all I wanted to read was a very ancient copy of Dorothy L. Sayers' Clouds of Witness. Sayers is my favourite of the great Golden Age detective story writers, but it's not one of her best, I've read it half a dozen times before, and to be honest, it barely tickled the surface of my mind, let alone my emotions. I suspect I was reading more... Read more →