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January 2009
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March 2009

February 2009

Learning to fly

'But,' said the Medical Man, staring hard at a coal in the fire, 'if Time is really only a fourth dimension of Space, why is it and why has it always been, regarded as something different?' This is from H G Wells's The Time Machine, and a writing acquaintance on WriteWords questioned whether 'staring hard at the coal in the fire' was really necessary, or just padding. I was intrigued, because this sentence is a shape into which much of my dialogue falls (too much, unless I'm concentrating), so it really appealed to me, and I couldn't see what his... Read more →


You can't have one without the other

One of the things I've noticed, among the more thoughtful and less ooe-er-vicar-ish of the reviews of In Bed With, is that they often say, 'Some of these are real erotica/only erotica, whereas others are short stories with sex in them.' The 'real/only' division is the giveaway: do they approve more of the former, or the latter? The more I think about this difference, the more I begin to feel that it actually reflects a much wider question about what fiction's for, and how it works. This anecdote is relevant, so stay with me. I think it's Don McCullin who... Read more →


Only connect... if you can

Two opposite things are rubbing up against each other in my mind, and I can't work out how they fit together, so I've come over here to try to do so. First, my friend, the thriller writer Debi Alper, who's also a photographer, has been blogging about a part of her life which I, for one, didn't really know about. Twenty-five years ago she was living in Grenada, taking part in the Revolution which seemed to have created a free and democratic state in the Caribbean. She was there when the military took power and then assassinated Maurice Bishop and... Read more →


The asymmetric hill

We were taking apart the opening of a novel in manuscript, and I was describing the classic way to shape narrative, as described by John Gardener. Gardener's diagram is an asymmetric hill: a right-angled triangle resting on its hypoteneuse, so that the scene works its way upwards to the point of climax, and then runs rather more quickly and steeply down to the close. I find this shape a much more useful way of thinking about such things than the arc which is often recommended, since it pin-points the moment of climax, and suggests that there's plenty of space for... Read more →


Living, breathing oddity

One of my favourite ice-breakers for a new workshop or group is to get everyone, in turn, to say the best thing and the worst thing that's happened to them this week. It's personal enough to get people feeling some connection with each other, since personal information is the coin of so much human interaction. And it's un-threatening enough (after all, you can choose what you say, and what it says about you) that it's not too intimate for a roomfull of strangers. Apparently, the latest thing going round Facebook is '25 Random Things about Me'; now it's cropped up... Read more →


One frosty-misty evening

There have been times in the last few days I've thought that my head - my writing head, that is - would explode. Somehow, in just over a month, I've written longhand two first-draft chapters of Kindred & Affinity and after sixteen hours' sorting-out-and-typing of Chapter Two at the weekend, discovered that I've got 31,500 words. By the plan (which, of course, is never set in stone) that's a fifth of the whole thing, which would make it 10,000 words longer than The Mathematics of Love. Yes, there are already 150 separate notes that will take anything from a minute... Read more →