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June 2008
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August 2008

July 2008

Harnessing the Trojan horse

One of the tricks (techniques? tools?) that few aspiring writers of fiction would probably think of on their own is to read their work aloud. Poets, yes, these days, lyric-writers perhaps, playwrights and scriptwriters obviously. (Well, not actually obviously. Many a script that lands on many a literary director or manager's desk has obviously never been vocalised at all, just as many a novel in the slushpile has clearly come from someone who's never read a novel. But anyway.) It certainly doesn't occur to many university students that they should try reading their essays aloud, and they're very surprised when... Read more →

A plea from the heart

I know the blog's hungry by now - what with the diet it was on last week, and all - and normally I'd have fed it this morning. Unfortunately, the editorial report I thought would be finished by now, is not. Picture last Thursday, bearing in mind that editorial reports are almost the only writing-related work I can do away from the computer: sunny garden, fluffy white clouds, new chairs with comfy cushions, cup of tea, feet up, chapter of manuscript on lap, rest of manuscript on table, busy pencil... Cool breeze gets up, manuscript on table, pages riffle, too... Read more →

Shitty first pancake

The question was, 'I've got an idea for a novel, but where do I start? I'm drawn to certain scenes from all over the middle and end of the story, but is that going to cause me terrible problems later? Should I make myself start on Page One?' Well, everyone has to work out what suits them: has to get to know their writerly self. I'm a Page One girl myself, but when it comes to writing novels I know of as many processes as I know writers. It's an important part of learning to be a writer, learning how... Read more →

Something for the weekend?

I may not be able to post much, or okay comments promptly, for the next week or so, so if you're in need of a bit of reading matter (or procrastination), you might like this piece, which I wrote for Vulpes Libris, about a favourite children's author of mine, Antonia Forest. Writing the piece was such fun, and made me realise how important she was to my reading for many years. And I know that her two wonderful historical novels, The Players' Boy and The Players and the Rebels, have been a huge influence on my work. See you soon! Read more →

Just for the sake of it

Anyone who's dropped by here before will know that I'm always fascinated by analogies and similarities and differences between the practice of different arts, and last Saturday the London Literature Festival obliged with something close to my dream team, for a panel discussion. I'm halfway through social philosopher Richard Sennett's book The Craftsman: how could I resist hearing what he would talk about with tenor and academic Ian Bostridge, novelist and cultural historian Marina Warner and ceramicist Grayson Perry? There was so much said that I longed for it to be three times as long as it was, and even... Read more →

Fiddling, hangovers and The Paris Review

Anyone who's dipped more than a toe in the waters of creative writing knows that much of the craft (and art) of any writing is in re-writing. But even once you've discovered that writing 'The End' is only the beginning, it can be hard to know how to go about that rewriting which we all know is the making of the piece. I know of writers who re-write each page until it's perfect, then never change a comma. I know writers who write scenes from wherever they fancy in book in their head, then stitch it all together at the... Read more →

In search of odd, crunchy details

I realised sadly a few weeks ago that I was going to have to go to France to research the new novel. This is, of course, the worst possible aspect of the writing life: that we can travel to beautiful or at least interesting places, and set off the whole lot, from the first cup of coffee at the airport, by way of hotel bills, entry tickets and photo printing costs, to the last steak-frites, against tax. I remember saying to my father that it seemed odd that Ian Fleming had suddenly upped and set a whole James Bond novel,... Read more →