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September 2009
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October 2009

The pause that isn't a pause

Trust a drummer to know about silence. Over on Radio 3's Private Passions last Sunday, Stewart Copeland, late of The Police and more recently not unknown to opera houses, was talking to his fellow composer Michael Berkeley. I'm saving his comment, about how the beauty went out of modern music when it became an algorithm rather than a sentiment, for my official rant about what might happen to academic creative writing as it finally follows music into universities. But he said so much else which made sense to me as a writer. The thing about drummers (I've a feeling he'd... Read more →


The Inner Critic's dressing-up box

Your Inner Critic's real nature is the anti-writing demon: personify him/her as you will (mine is short and plump, with blue and green scales and a tail: he's well-intentioned, and his intention is to protect me from failure, shame, embarrassment and danger, by stopping me writing). In a coda to Making the Skeleton Dance I was suggesting that anything which stops you writing can also be a costume hung in your Inner Critic's wardrobe, because most of the time the demon's in disguise. For the avoidance of doubt, I should define my terms: there's all the difference in the world... Read more →


The second simplicity of a bowl of cherries

One of the classically irritating things non-writers say to us is "I've always wanted to write a novel, I just need the the time to sit down." Once we're out on bail, most writers still burn to explain that just sitting down isn't all it takes to write a novel. It takes hard work, craft, imagination, a lot of thinking, a lot of reading, learning, practising, and more sitting down than most people would believe possible. It's also frequently frustrating: some days/weeks/years the words come about as readily as wisdom teeth pull out, and I'm sure I'm not the only... Read more →


How to get the best out of an editorial service

More and more writers are using editorial services - hardly surprising when in any one year there are apparently one million manuscripts trying to find a publisher in the UK and two million in the US - but a full editorial report is very expensive, and I'm always anxious that writers should know what they're getting, and get what they need. So here are some thoughts, garnered from my own and other editors' experience, and from the many friends and students who've told me about the reports they've had. First, it's never, ever essential to get one of these reports.... Read more →


Making the skeleton dance

A friend is suffering from something which I think we all are at risk of: a passionate desire to write something, and a poisonous sense that everything they might write - every kind of character, situation, theme or plot - has been done before. And better. And worse. And in corsets and in spaceships and in Brixton. So why bother? What's the point? How can any of us, ever, say anything new? Anything worth writing, let alone worth reading? Let alone get it published? And I found myself replying like this: There's a bird's-eye map you have in your head,... Read more →