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June 2010
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August 2010

July 2010

Not sick of self-love

In Lots of Them I was agreeing that loving the sound of your own voice is a bad thing in a writer; it's like the dinner-party talker who is so busy singing their song that they ignore who their audience is and how they're reacting. And of course the fact that with a novel the singer and the audience are at one remove from each other doesn't absolve you of the duty - not to mention the common commercial horse-sense - to consider them. Then, as I said in Fiddling, hangovers and the Paris Review, we all love the sound... Read more →

Lots of them: why being drunk on words is an honourable state

I happened to say on a forum just now that I'd much rather see a beginner's manuscript which is very over-written, than very under-written, since being drunk on words is a very honourable state for an apprentice writer. From the teacher's point of view it's not so hard to teach why wearing one diamond necklace is actually more effective than wearing three, and how to choose which one to leave on. Whereas a beginner's manuscript which is just bald, 'Then he did this, then I did that', over and over again, is usually a sign of someone who for whom... Read more →

Feeding the hunger

When someone asks me what I do, and I say I'm a writer, they're usually mildly interested. When we've established that I'm not a journalist but write novels, they're slightly taken aback and slightly impressed, and though of course that's slightly gratifying, I still find it more than slightly odd. The thing is, while I recognise that not everyone wants to or can sit down and write novels for as long as it takes to learn how to do it, telling stories is obviously as fundamental a part of human nature as bringing up children, or hunting and gathering, or... Read more →

Ghirlandaio's maidservants

Thursday is TLS day, and I'm always pleased to see it coming through the door. Not for the fiction reviews - I don't read fiction reviews, for reasons I explored in Making the Skeleton Dance - but for everything else. It is, if you like, my liberal education in all the areas of all the subjects which my actual education didn't have space to expand into. In a review of the British Museum's exhibition of Rennaissance Drawings, which I must see, James Hall quotes a famous essay, which I must read, Wimsatt and Beardsley's The Intentional Fallacy. The Renaissance was... Read more →

Repainting the (finger)post

Of everything I've posted here, I think my blog on procrastination has been one of the most linked-to, and nearly two years on it still pops up in the stats from time to time. But an article in The Author by psychotherapist and author Edward Marriott has confirmed my suspicion that 'procrastination' is the wrong word for what we all do, and some of us rather too often from time, to time, to time, to time... Of course in the basic sense what you're doing is putting off the writing work. And if what you were not doing were your... Read more →

Writing for radio part 6: recording

A few days before I was due in Brighton for the recording of my radio story, Cecilia the producer rang to say that the story did, after all, feel a bit short: could I make it a bit longer? When it comes to revisions I'm basically an adder, not a cutter, so it's not an inherently unnatural process, although you always worry that you're adding fat rather than muscle to the bones of the story. I didn't so much add, as develop latent moments in it, and I was pleased with the result. I read it for time - slowing... Read more →