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November 2008
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December 2008

Belated Happy Christmas

So there I was, Christmas Eve in deepest, darkest Suffolk, with an editorial report to send which I had absolutely, cast-iron-promised would get there before Christmas. I had two laptops and three ways of going online and could I get any combination of them to work? Could I hell! The local market town was showing signs of closing down, but mercifully the nicest café-wine bar, which combines 15th century half-timbering with posh cream teas and French brasserie cooking, also combines those with wi-fi internet and a sensible decision that someone was going to need reviving after the last minute shopping... Read more →


A cloud condensed

So, I have ten spiral-bound notebooks from W H Smith (they have to have the right, tolerant paper, and be identical so I can keep a rough track of the word count on the stripy-sweater principle) and a new packet of my favourite kind of biro. I've even been tidying the study because, even though I'm not naturally terribly tidy, it helps a lot to have a bit of elbow room: clear desk space to fan out the plan and current notes, neat ranks of books and files of learned paper and postcards ready to hand, and all without knocking... Read more →


Words on the move

At Goldsmiths last week, Ian McEwan was reading from his work in progress, which is so much in progress that it has yet to acquire a title. (Mind you, in my case that can be any time before the proofs go out...) We all felt a little thrilled, and settled back to listen, and it didn't disappoint. During the questions he was asked if reading unpublished work was different from the more usual business of reading from newly-published novels, and he said it was. Reading aloud when working on something is about 'breathing the sentences, which is mostly about punctuation'... Read more →


Three pleasures and a frustration

A handful of little things: 1) Something's gone wrong with the Comment form at the bottom of each post - at least in my browser - so the 'post' and 'preview' buttons are greyed out. Sorry if you'd like to leave a comment (I have one all drafted in response to everyone's insteresting ideas on Conditional Validation, but can't post it either, grrrr....), but I hope TypePad are sorting it out even as I write. 2) Like all of us, when I read a book which really changes how I think, I'm always dying to tell others about it, but... Read more →


Conditional validation

A friend asked this, this morning: Just read elsewhere someone say: "Like all 'creative' people, we need other people to validate us." And I wondered about this, and whether publication is the only, or ultimate, validation of a piece of work? And do all creative people need other people's validation? And if so, why? and I've realised it's not as simple a question as you'd think. There's a lot of talk about believing in yourself, at the 'motivational' end of the Creative Writing word (I usually enjoy language change, but isn't 'motivational' a beastly word? Almost as awful as 'inspirational'.... Read more →


Scenes from a life

Even if I don't write another word of the new novel for a week, to have got six longhand pages down - even in my big, sprawly writing, every other line - does feel very different from all the weeks and months when it's been in my head and not on the page. And suddenly the reading, all the accumulating ideas, the streets and gardens, the scents and sounds, the clear and immediate vision of people in a place, are alive. Until now they've been like ghosts: not ghosts of the past (though they're set in the past) but of... Read more →


How to make a newish author happy, part two

You might remember that as a postscript (or should it be a postpost?) to a post about covers and blurbs, I linked to Musings from a Muddy Island, which is a booky-writey blog I enjoy, about one thing which makes authors happy: seeing people reading their book. A few other things which have made this particular author happy this week are: 1) A few months ago one of my longest-standing writing friends - let's call her Marguerite - whose beautifully built, beautifully written short stories I admire enormously, asked my advice about arranging and submitting a collection to agents, and... Read more →


A Modest Proposal

When I'm doing editorial reports for aspiring writers, all I have is the manuscript, and perhaps a letter giving me some idea of what kind of help they're looking for, and perhaps what their writing background is. It can still be quite hard to know how to pitch the report: do I need to tell them what they're doing right in detail, because they're writing on instinct, or is it wasting words I could be using on what's wrong? Can I use standard creative writing vocabulary (show/tell, passive/active, point-of-view, first/third person, voice/dialogue and so on) without taking half a paragraph... Read more →