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April 2008

Becoming a walker

I was just racking my brains for something interesting to post last night, when the rain stopped. So I went out for a walk instead. It had been one of those dull days in all senses - hence the lack of bloggy inspiration - much taken up with post offices, photocopiers, supermarkets and misbehaving computers. So even though it was dark by then, and still damp, and there was only time for a quick loop of one of my usual walks where the terrain and the timing are completely familiar, it was good to get out with no more paraphernalia... Read more →


That's it, almost certainly

So that's it, almost certainly: I've crawled through the proofs of A Secret Alchemy, finding every last misplaced comma, although it's also gone to a professional proofreader; I've picked up a couple of little anomalies that somehow between us we've all managed to miss; I've seen for the first time how the changes I made at the copy-editing stage integrate when I read it straight through; I've to-ed and fro-ed quadruple-checking the days of the week for one strand, and in another I've realised I've married the Duke of Buckingham to the wrong Woodville sister. The last real job is... Read more →


Another, different voice

You may remember a while ago that I posted a piece, Messes, Clones and Plots like a W, about why I think it's so important to understand technical things about how writing works, to work hard on how you understand them and how you put them into practice, but not to allow them to become rules to be 'kept' or 'broken'. In writing there are no rules, except possibly the one about starting at the top left-hand corner of the page, but only different ways to write different things, some of which work better than others. To refuse the concept... Read more →


William & Mary will have to wait

This morning I got up earlier than I consider altogether decent for a Saturday morning, in order to drive to Hampton Court to do some research. It was cold and grey, with dull light and a nasty east wind, and there was scarcely anyone about except for security people with their coats buttoned up to their chins and an air of bracing themselves for the day as much as the weather. I found my way through arches and past gates as instructed, collected my pass, and trudged past the backs of low buildings - storehouses, offices, goods yards and so... Read more →


Not exactly simple

The proofs of A Secret Alchemy have arrived but, come hell or high water, Thursday is PhD day so I haven't looked at them properly yet. It will be interesting to go through them, because it must be a couple of months since I've looked at the actual text, which is probably the longest gap since I started writing it. For the commentary on it that I'm writing for my PhD, I'm in the odd position of noticing things as a student of literature that I never noticed when I was writing it. But for proof checking I need a... Read more →


Feedback loops are fine, as long as I still have a corkscrew

Last night I had dinner with my American editor, who's over for the London Book Fair. In the last two years or more we've spoken on the phone and done lots of emailing, but I've never actually met her in person before. We had a really meaty conversation about A Secret Alchemy and all sorts of other writing things, as well as life and the world in general. I only hope I'm that compos mentis when I'm that jetlagged. And then today a friend said that their agent had suggested they meet up for a drink to discuss the new... Read more →


Worth doing badly

One of the stranger things about the photography course I did recently is that we were working in landscapes that our tutors know intimately, and have been photographing for years. That's a huge advantage to us: with only two days, they could take us to places that they knew would prove fruitful to us amateurs in the time available, and then when the weather changed and the light with it, they could turn round and take us somewhere else. But it did mean that I was always aware that whatever elements I was trying to make into a photograph, they'd... Read more →


Soho, or Skye?

Another fascinating point that Linda Grant made in her Guardian piece, which I mentioned in Rogues and Vagabonds, is that The writer sits alone in a room, writing. The reader sits alone in a room, reading. Neither is ever likely to meet the other. Literature is an act of solitude and privacy. Never mind if it's about me; is it about you? [my italics] And though I know in the abstract that a novel is as much something that a reader puts together, from black marks on a page, as it is something a writer has made by setting black... Read more →


Rogues and vagabonds

Over at The Guardian Linda Grant and Melissa Benn have both been... I nearly said 'ruminating', but that's too gentle and contemplative a word: both pieces have a distinctly acerbic tone, and I'm not surprised. Anyway, they're both talking about the obsession readers and journalists have with the autobiographical origins of a writer's fiction. At my most charitable, I can understand - even regard it as flattering - that people are interested in where our fiction comes from, and of course that may include (must include, at one level) our own lives. Indeed, I would rather people turned up to... Read more →


It could be worse

Nobody ever said that writing novels was easy. It takes too long, for a start, and it's bad for your health. It's lonely, and badly paid, and while a slight kink in the psyche is probably what made you a writer in the first place, you also have to be slightly nuts to persevere to the point where you can earn your living by writing-related work. But having spent the beginning of the week in the company of professional landscape photographers, courtesy of the Peak District Photography Centre, I'm beginning to think I'll have to stop moaning. It's all in... Read more →