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November 2009
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December 2009

Snowstorms and straws in the wind

Like the rest of the self-employed, I spent too much of last week doing my tax return for 2008-2009. It's obvious that it's a boring, fiddly job, and almost always in the cause of discovering that you owe them rather more money than you've managed to put by. (Though tax law for writers has some very odd corners, and it's worth poking your nose into them, because it can save you a lot of money, in the future if not now. The Society of Authors has leaflets for all to buy, and a free tax helpline for members). It's very... Read more →

The real sixth sense

Have you ever learnt a dance step, or a musical instrument, or a tennis stroke? Felt how it gradually makes sense, how getting your weight in the right place makes the other arm move sweetly to where it needs to be, over and over again, whether it's a bow or a golf club? How suddenly your dancing body finds its place in the music, so that you're free by virtue of being part of the pattern? Can you imagine now, this minute, riding a bicycle down the road, pedal by pedal, push and turn and swoop? No, not the road... Read more →

Jerusha Cowless, Agony Aunt: "Are my passionate convictions why I can't get published?"

I'm a sucker for an agony column, and since it's years since I've had a proper job, Jeremy Bullmore's in Saturday's Guardian has the same pleasure for me as gardening programmes do: intellectually and humanly fascinating, without the least necessity to take it (at the moment) to heart. And today's column included a problem which I found myself reading as a perfect analogy for a particular writerly situation. I hope Jeremy won't mind if I don my costume of Jerusha Cowless, agony aunt to the passionate, aspiring author, and paraphrase: Dear Jerusha; I'm in my late 20s and currently working... Read more →

Clothes and food and dropping presents

One of the Chapter Titles - one of the Big Issues - in the how-to-write books and courses and seminars is Characterisation, and I'm putting capitals all over the place because that's how it feels that aspiring writers talk about it. Whereas when agents and editors and experienced writers talk about it, they just say, 'I love the characters.' And having written that first sentence as a run-in to what I really want to say, I'm realising that it's the abstraction of the idea of characterisation which is daunting for beginner writers, not the process. After all, thinking about how... Read more →