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May 2009

April 2009

Ugly ducklings and wonky ducks

So I was flipping through a notebook, looking for something else, and I came across a scribble. Learning, as a writer, to get out of your own way/light was all it said. I can't remember what prompted me to say that, nor decide what exactly I must have meant. And then I was talking to an aspiring writer who's hit the ugly duckling stage, where their knowledge and skill in writing have gone up a step, but they have yet integrate that into their writing, so everything's awkward and self conscious, and in lots of ways the new writing seems... Read more →


Letting it work

Non-writers are endlessly fascinated by how we actually do the thing: how, as Margaret Atwood puts it, we get our slippery double to commit the writing. I think it's actually an unanswerable question, though Atwood's Negotiating with the Dead comes closer to pinning it down than most. But I suppose it's hardly surprising that one of the questions which comes up at readings and festivals is 'How do you write?' (It comes up among aspiring writers, too, but that's more about wanting to find and try out other possibilities for their process.) 'How' could be about pen or computer? Cheap... Read more →


Not hilly enough

I've been thinking about thinking, in between eating too many Easter eggs: specifically, about thinking - the consciousness of characters - in fiction. The editorial report on a friend's novel says it's 'too introspective', and it's something which is said by a lot of agents and editors about a lot of aspiring novels. It's true that there's all the difference in the world, to the reader, between the novel reporting what someone has thought, and giving us thought as it gives us dialogue, and the two work differently. But the depiction of consciousness is the only unique thing about prose... Read more →


Catching on the points of light

Maybe it's an occupational hazard, or maybe it's because I'm becoming a monomaniac, but I've got to the point where I'm so sodden with what I do and think about, that almost anything that ordinary, boring life throws at me seems to connect with writing. This time it was sitting in the doctor's waiting room. Never mind the embarrassingly compelling agony column in a year-old copy of Women's Weekly (always good for sparking off some 'what if?' ideas for stories), or eavesdropping on the other patients (we do still have a National Health Service, and my parliamentary constituency is one... Read more →