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March 2011

February 2011

Never apologise?

I'm having singing lessons, purely for fun. And I've made a decision: I'm not, ever, going to apologise for not having practised. Never. These are my lessons, I'm paying for them, how much progress I make is up to me (until my teacher wants to give up on me) and I don't have a parent breathing down my neck*. But it's surprisingly hard to keep my resolution, and not just in my hobby, either. I'm writing a story at the moment to send in for a short fiction workshop with Ali Smith, and I'm already constructing the apologies in my... Read more →


Style and Voice

I got asked the other day about the difference between Voice and Style in fiction, and I got a bit stuck because I don't really know. I never use the word "style" in the context of writing because it's unhelpful, I said, whereas "voice" comes up often. Clearly I do think something, so in the time-honoured tradition of finding out what I think by seeing what I say, and aware that I'm giving two workshops at the York Festival of Writing, one on Find your Voice, and one on The Writer's Voices, so I'd better have worked it out by... Read more →


Jigsaws, pantsers and doing your prep

One of the perennial questions asked of writers - and among writers - is, "Are you a planner or a pantser?" Pantser as in "flying by the seat of your pants": the kind of writer who dives straight into the first draft, and sees what happens. And the opposite seems to be the planner: the ones who don't start until they know a good deal about where they're going. The planners are afraid of getting lost or stalling or going wrong if they don't have at least some kind of map in their hand; the pansters are afraid of being... Read more →


A rare insight

I'm in what's for me a rare state: I'm not writing a novel. But the other day I needed something to take to my writer's circle, the Clink Street Writers, for the likes of Sarah Salway, Pam Johnson, Ros Asquith and Michelle Lovric to sink their teeth into. So I did something else which is rare for me: dug out a short story which I wrote about five years ago, and which I never really got right but still think could be got right. It's a story that started as an exercise in a third thing which is rare for... Read more →


Handclasps, explosions, and ribbons and bows

On WriteWords, Caroline Green has been tackling the dreaded Second Novel, to follow her debut YA Dark Ride, (isn't that a great cover?) and she posted this: I've written the big dramatic finale of my WIP and am now facing the bit I always hate. How DO people tidy things up and end a story? I always seem to go for an epilogue set a few months or so down the line but feels a bit lazy. I genuinely don't know how other people do this (and suddenly am unable to remember what happens in a single book that I've... Read more →


Its own self

One of the faux-orthodoxies about creative writing most guaranteed to raise my blood pressure is the one parrotted by newbie writers with terrible writing teachers: "omnisicient narrators are Old Fashioned". Both John Gardener in The Art of Fiction and James Wood in How Fiction Works explore all the possibilities and conclude by preferring an omniscient, third-person narrator, able to enter any character's consciousness and to narrate independently of any character. Such a narrator is even able to tell us what a character doesn't understand about his/her own consicousness: it's arguably the most powerful, flexible, fluent and, you might say (as... Read more →