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November 2010
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January 2011

December 2010

The opposite is also true

A notably relaxed Christmas must be making my mind even flakier and easily knocked off-course than usual: when I turned on the radio and heard about crisis talks in Northern Ireland that awful, sick fear came over me as it does over anyone over a certain age: "Oh God! What now?" So when it turned out that the crisis was an acute water shortage, I started to laugh. Yes, it's clearly no joke at all for those suffering from it, but hey! not so long ago a headline like that would have heralded some new horror in what we once... Read more →


Ice crystals forming

I went away to not-write. One of the things they don't tell you at Hogwriter's College is that once a large part of your mental and financial self is involved with writing, no writing you do can quite escape a price tag of its likely cost or profit in terms of time, career, craft-training or hard cash. And so the pressure to keeping going with your writerly work can be as relentless as the pressure once was to put it away, and go to office parties or wipe toddlers' noses. But for the first time in a very long time,... Read more →


Guest Post: Where Writing Meets Baseball

One of the pleasures of blogging is meeting people who I might not have met otherwise, and such a person is Barbara Baig, a hugely experienced writer and teacher of writing in the US. Her new book How to be a Writer is a fascinating how-to book which can guide anyone to become a better and more interesting writer than they are, and therefore also an exploration of the practice of writing, in all senses of the word: the kind of thing which I think of as yoga for writers. So when Barbara told me about the research which suggests... Read more →


Emma Darwin's Twelve Tools [not rules] of Writing

As you'll know by now, as soon as anyone tells me a "rule" of writing, I start thinking of times when any good writer would "break" it. Whether it's Elmore Leonard's Ten or George Orwell's Six Rules that are being quoted, the fact that I admire their writing and agree with much that they say doesn't make me more inclined to keep their rules as rules. Indeed, Elmore Leonard never meant his to be taken all that seriously, and Orwell acknowledges that they're not really rules in his own Rule Six: "Break any of these rules sooner than say anything... Read more →


By any other name

I would say, with all the smugness of someone making a hard-to-top bid in Pop-Psychology Whist, that I have a particularly complicated relationship with my name, except that... I don't know anyone who doesn't. At a workshop run by Diane Samuels, she started by asking each of us to say one of our names, and something about it. And I promise you, no-one had nothing to say, from the ones who hated and feared the grandmother whose name they bear, to the ones who changed their name when they emigrated from Australia because... And yet a surprising number of aspiring... Read more →


The common scaffold

So my agent was sitting on a delayed bus into work, and I was walking along a long and snowy road in lieu of spending half an hour digging my car out, and we were on the phone discussing the latest version of my new novel. Basically she loves it, and thinks it's very nearly ready to fly: she awarded the ending three hankies and we've settled on a great title. She even spontaneously suggested something for the ending which I'd wanted to do all along but hadn't dared. Her only reservations were about some of the new material. I've... Read more →