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April 2009
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June 2009

May 2009

How about flying to the moon?

One of the nice things about doing festivals, as opposed to other readings and events, is that you actually bump into not just other authors (I have lots of authorly friends, but mostly writing for the same kind of readers as I do myself) but other kinds of authors. This time, it was the Hay Festival, and I found myself sharing a car back to Hereford Station with Paul Stewart and Chris Ridell. They write The Edge Chronicles and other children's fantasy together, and we started talking about what it's like writing as a team. Scriptwriters often do it, in... Read more →


Doing your exercises

One thing I very often find, when I'm working on an aspiring writer's novel, is that the narrator, or the main character, disappears from the event. I'm not talking about an omniscient narrator simply moving their focus to a different part of the story. Nor am I talking about true incompetence in a writer who doesn't actually know what the story should be focussing on. What I mean is something like the following: He rattled the doorhandle, and when there was no answer, let himself quietly in. Time was ticking past: there wasn't long left. Bags and boxes were strewn... Read more →


Town, gown and its own best self

One of the questions that’s asked a lot in creative writing workshops and similar contexts is ‘Why did you do such-and-such?’ And since you’re a thoughtful writer, you have a reason – you did it on purpose, after all – so you explain, and although the fact that someone stumbled over it may mean you do a bit of fine-tuning, that will be that. You have, in a sense, rebutted the challenge and proved your point: it is the right thing to have there. So it was a shock when my editor first asked, ‘Why did you do that?’ about... Read more →


How writing works

The majority of literary criticism doesn't seem to me to be any use to a writer at all, and in my grumpier moments I even think that writers shouldn't read it, for fear of their fiction becoming an exploration of literary theory, which really is putting the cart before the horse. I certainly know several people who, being determined to become writers, read English at University, and were then too daunted to put creative pen to paper for a decade. Equally, at the other end of the spectrum, I find many how-to-write books too prescriptive of a single way to... Read more →


Note number 24

Whether the how-to-write books are warning you about how agonising but necessary these days it is to be a performing author, or whether they're (more rarely) warning you of the risks of becoming a performaholic, what they don't say is how much time, beyond the edges of the event, each one takes. I had the most delicious time at the Daphne du Maurier festival, down in Fowey in Cornwall: a lovely audience, great questions, a wonderful walk, but the domestic fallout is considerable, and the writerly fallout is not negligible either, not least because there are one or two things... Read more →


The Jung of Pooh and Piglet

So I've spend a fair few days celebrating the fact that, in the week of 20th April, A Secret Alchemy was the fourteenth bestselling paperback fiction in the UK. Serious celebration, it's been, to top off the pleasure of seeing stacks of it next to The Times it in every W H Smith in the country. Even my agent, who has seen just about every variety of success and disaster the book trade can create, is very, very pleased. And all for that 'difficult' second novel, which has also just had its first advance review for the American incarnation, in... Read more →