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April 2010

The diaries you don't keep

Since no one can help me track back to the original source of the quotation, "Fiction is the memories we don't have", I'm going to claim it for my own, because it crops up so often that I'm getting bored with the virtual footnote I feel obliged to add. The original thought started with philosopher and novelist Richard Kearney's book On Stories. He talks about how narrative evolved as an integral part of evolving human consciousness: once you have an understanding of your self and then other selves, as individuals in time, you start trying to understand your relationship to... Read more →

Why should I bother?

One of the hardy perennial frets among aspiring writers is that they hear from various sources that something in their novel will get their submission rejected immediately. They mustn't put too much backstory in the early pages of their novel, or indeed anywhere; they mustn't start with (or use) a minor point-of-view; they mustn't keep the body back till page fifty or start with their main character waking up with a hangover. And then they pick up a favourite novelist's work, and discover any or all of those going on, and more lavishly than they'd ever dare. Some aspects of... Read more →

The value of forgetting

By way of soothing my guilt and irritation at forgetting a much-needed appointment with my wonderful osteopath (I blame the York Festival of Writing for the amnesia, as well as the malfunctioning vertebrae) I've been thinking about how memory works in writing. You could make a powerful argument that all narrative works by using memory's neural pathways, even when it's fiction - "Fiction is the memories we don't have" - but that's not what I'm talking about. I mean using your memory as part of your process, and not just remembering things, but forgetting them. Actually, it's York, in another... Read more →

Ducks, dreams and cross-channel ferries: the York Festival of Writing

I'm feeling like Piglet after he escaped from Kanga's house: not yet my own, nice, comfortable colour again, and not at all sure what's just happened. Since rolling all the way home in the dust wasn't an option on a train from York which was so full that moving my foot to relieve my backache required carefully planning, I'm going to do my thinking aloud here. What was last weekend's Festival of Writing all about? At the obvious level, in my case it was about giving eight hours of workshops, solo and with others, and eighteen one-to-one meetings with writers... Read more →