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December 2012

November 2012

Flying blind, just for a moment

A friend of mine had her novel picked up by an agent at a writing festival, and the agent sold it to a major publisher as the first of a two-book deal. The book was published a few months ago, it's doing well, and everything's wonderful ... except that now she has to write that second novel. She has to write it for someone who's already bought it, while coping with the first novel being out there, to sell to people who'll be expecting something in the same mould only different... and to a deadline. And my friend - let's... Read more →

An answer worth the journey: plot and story

One of the perennial questions is "What's the difference between plot, and story?", and I've just come across the best definition I've ever heard. It's by Paul Ashton, who's the Development Producer at the BBC's Writers Room: Plot is the route you take; story is the journey you make. What that means to me is that if the reader starts the book asking, "What will this all be about?", then story is the reader's experience of reaching the real answer. And that's just as true when the story is about whether Private Ryan will be saved, as when the story... Read more →

Who wants to be a writer? Not your agent.

A survey a couple of years ago found that the job most people wanted to have was being a writer, presumably because we all know it only takes a bit of sitting down and a good idea or two, don't we? And yet at the York Festival of Writing this year, a panel of agents was asked whether they'd like to be a writer, and with a horrified intake of breath every agent said, "No, not at all." I laughed because I knew exactly what they meant - in fact, I was surprised to see a forum comment later that... Read more →

When do you stop revising?

Debi Alper and I have just finished teaching our online course in Self-Editing Your Novel (a new one starts in January), and one of the questions that came up as everyone collapsed in a heap after six weeks of learning how to re-vision, re-visit, re-vise, re-write and sometimes re-build their novel was, "When do you stop?" When do you say, "That's it," and send it out, or put it away for some months, or give up and start the next thing? I blogged ages ago about the rather but not totally erroneous idea that it's possible to "edit out the... Read more →