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February 2010
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April 2010

March 2010

To the point

Among aspiring writers, one of the hardy perennial arguments (or rows, or flame wars, depending on the forum) is about when and how much the members should be critical and challenging... or is that vicious? And when and how much they should be supportive and empathic... or that sycophantic? Which is more likely to improve your writing, and which is more likely to be enjoyable? And no, the answer to that last question isn't necessarily what you might think. It's genuinely a complicated question, I think, and yet a very important one, if you're going to find the right places... Read more →


The engineering of elephants and mice

Writer Olivia Ryan has been asking which her blog readers started writing first, short stories or novels, and the answers are interesting. I'm probably in what I'd guess is a largish minority, in that I started with novels, and until the second year of my Masters, ten years later, when I'd basically finished the novel that wasn't yet The Mathematics of Love, I didn't think of writing a story. But there was a workshop full of terrific writer-readers, and it was joy to discover that there was something I could write which took maybe a week or two, which I... Read more →


The very final and very good word on my PhD

Oh dear, oh dear, time does slip by, and now I'm going to have to be brief, because I've got a novel to revise (yes, my agent has got back to me about A Twist of Gold...). Luckily, I have a nice thing to be brief about, which is that the final report from the examiners of my PhD has arrived, and it's probably as good a review of any piece of my writing as I can ever hope to get. Since I can't post a link or anything else, I hope I'll be forgiven a showy-offy moment, in assembling... Read more →


A few strings

I've just agreed to write a story for an anthology which is being published by Glasshouse Books in July. It's called 33 because that's how many London boroughs there are, and it's one story for each borough. I'm doing Bexley, and since Londoners are no less parochial (arguably more parochial) than anyone else, even my London-based friends might need explaining that Bexley is fairly south and very east London: specifically, it's lined up along both sides of the bit of the A2 which you hope to whizz through on the way to Rochester and ultimately Dover and then France, and... Read more →


Revising and Editing: building the Orient Express

Until recently I'd never heard of a writer editing, unless their day job happened to be with a publisher. As I've always used the words, editing is done by editors, and what I do, after I've got the first draft down on paper, is revising. But now I keep hearing aspiring writers say, "I'm editing at the moment." (Just to clarify, I tend to think of re-writing as what I'm doing when I leave behind a story which hasn't worked, and start again with some of the same ideas and characters, and approximately the same purpose, and polishing as the... Read more →


How are you going to get there?

The other day, at the end of a class, we were talking about what writing each of us had on the go at the moment, and one member said that he had a couple of really compelling ideas - the sort of idea which is a cluster of an images, resonances and sounds - but they didn't seem to lead anywhere. He couldn't see what they were the beginning of, or how to develop them: he'd tried all sorts of techniques and ideas, and they led nowhere. And in a rare moment of inspiration, I suggested that maybe they weren't... Read more →