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September 2012
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October 2012

Hold the front page (till I've only got time to be Good Enough)

I've blogged before about procrastination, whether it's happening because your Inner Critic has found a dozen reasons for you Not Getting On With It, or he's declaring that it's all been done already, or he's dressed up as someone else to persuade you. Or sometimes you've simply run out of fuel, or you're just suffering from the simple reluctance to jump into the water and start swimming. But you know the one where you do just about anything except write until the last minute, and then scribble madly into the night? Students do it, as do journalists, and of course... Read more →


Running with Wolf Hall

When Wolf Hall was published, I was up to my neck (and frequently out of my depth) in writing a novel. I love Hilary Mantel's writing, but I didn't dare go near it. A novel about high politics and low violence set only fifty years after A Secret Alchemy, and built round real historical characters? Might it just make me throw in the towel forever? Well, yes: the book is astonishingly, magnificently good, in everything from the big ideas to the small words. When I put it down yesterday I was about half-way through, and it took two hours and... Read more →


Pantsing forward, planning backward.

One of the writers in the Taming Your Novel workshop I gave at York has - to my delight - picked up in her blog on something that I've recently come to believe: that the division that we often talk about, between Planners and Pantsers, is not necessarily a helpful distinction. And yet it comes up time and again, in everything from writers' forums to festival panel sessions: are you a planner or a pantser? As I described it here, which you are is driven by your fears as much as your understanding. "Pantser" describes ... "flying by the seat... Read more →


Keep, bend, break and nonsense

Right, let's start with this blog's theme song. All together now: They're tools, not rules! Okay. And having let off a bit of steam and told the world where we stand on this issue, I'd like to remind you about the rule that a sentence should have a full stop at the end. And the one that says you should have started that sentence with a capital letter. And please remember to keep the rule that you should start writing at the top, left-hand corner of the page and write horizontally. Shall we agree that those are as close as... Read more →


Less, more, and Apollo in his chariot

You don't need to have been reading the Itch for very long to know that when we're talking about prose, I'm usually going to talk about specificity - particularity of experience - precision. It's an aspect of Showing, as opposed to Telling, and a way of making even your Telling Showy. As I put it in that post, "Crudely, They met at the big tree isn't as Showy, because it isn't as particularised, as They kissed under the rotting willow, or They fought beneath the sapling oak". And so much of the power of the paragraph I was anatomising in... Read more →