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March 2011

Fragments of York: the Festival of Writing 2011

This is going to be a rather fragmentary post because, frankly, I'm feeling rather fragmented. Part of me is still back in York, part is enjoying being home, part is eyeing my desk and a very long list of What Needs Doing, and part of me - okay, most of me - is wondering if the only way to glue them all back together is to go and buy cake. Certainly cake, not drink, not after that Gala Dinner. So here are some fragments that I can hold on to, of what the 2011 York Festival of Writing made me... Read more →

Looking for the ram in the thicket

In Alarm Bells and Coughing Fits I was exploring how, and why, it might be better to think in terms of sacrificing darlings than murdering them, when you're revising your work. You resist cutting something which you know you should cut because it's good ideas beautifully written; or it says something you want to say or includes facts you'd love to include; it cost you a lot in time or feeling or effort; it's funny or touching or evocative. These are all good things to be doing with writing, but here... it just doesn't fit. It slackens the tension or... Read more →

Too much meringue

The other day I heard a cri de coeur going up in a forum, and it was from Jenn Ashworth. She's one of The Guardian's 12 Best New Novelists, her first novel A Kind of Intimacy was much admired, and her second, Cold Light is due out soon. If you didn't catch her in The Guardian, then maybe you did on BBC2, and she's knee-deep in reviews and interviews and, most important of all, promotion within the book trade. Of course I'd like to forward Jenn's post to Jerusha Cowless, but the last I heard Jerusha was several hundred miles... Read more →

Eighteen questions to ask your story

If you try answering these for a favourite book you'll find that you can, from Hamlet and Pride and Prejudice to Heart of Darkness and To The Lighthouse, so why not try it on your own? They're deliberately bald, because there aren't only many different answers, there are different kinds of answer, depending on what your project is with the novel. But answers there should be: Who is telling this story? Why are they telling it? Where do they stand in time and space, relative to the events and settings they're narrating? Which characters' heads can they get inside? Which... Read more →

Jerusha Cowless, Agony Aunt: "I'm not a romantic soul, but my readers will want romance"

Dear Jerusha; I have interest in my novel from an agent who has sent me very comprehensive editing notes. One of her broader comments was that the novel would appeal to female readers, who would expect a more romantic approach to my main protagonists' relationship. She wants me to show the sexual tension and electricity, flirting etc. that accompanies a new love. I agree that it will improve the novel and make the way everything goes wrong towards the end more heartbreaking, but I'm not a romantic soul and am long past my sell-by date. I had carefully avoided the... Read more →