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February 2013

When a flashback is an alarm bell

A student has just quoted a how-to book, 30 Steps to Becoming a Writer by Scott Edelstein. As with most how-to books, she says, lots isn't specially useful - at least not to her - but one or two things are. And the one she quoted which struck me was from a list of things you see in your writing which should ring an alarm bell: Beginning with an almost immediate flashback. This is probably caused, suggests Edelstein, by the desire To avoid the work of showing full-fledged events. And the thing is, I know exactly what he means. I... Read more →


So what did Richard III seem like to the man he murdered?

In my novel A Secret Alchemy, Antony Wydvil, Earl Rivers, uncle and guardian to the new, young King Edward V, has been arrested by Edward's other uncle, the Regent Richard Duke of Gloucester. In one, long midsummer's day Antony rides, under guard, from the castle of Sheriff Hutton to Pontefract, where he knows he is to be put to death. It is some time after midday. Anderson spies a spinney a couple of furlongs off the road and orders a halt to rest the horses. The corn in the fields is well grown, and we ride along the rising ground... Read more →


Is your sex and violence boundary-breaking, brave, or just plain lazy?

One of the things you learn to take in your stride, when you're teaching creative writing, is sex and violence, on the page, at least. And then there's other "strong material": racism or misogyny in action or language which would be distasteful to some or many readers. I'm sure anyone reading this blog would agree that for writing as a creative discipline the default should be No Limits - and yet we do all have limits. And very, very occasionally the piece is genuinely ethically dubious, and hopefully the institution you're working for will have a policy that you're not... Read more →


Voice and tone: Figaro, Feydeau or the Moor of Venice?

In the Self-Editing Your Novel course that I co-teach with Debi Alper, Week Three is about Voice, and an old friend of a question came up: "How do I find my voice?". I've blogged about Voice before, and explored how it's the combination of "What you want to say", and "How you want to say it". So at the micro or midi-level, finding the voice for a piece of fiction is about two things: 1) Fully imagining your characters-in-action and their predicament: their actions, their emotions, their experience of the world that they act within, and their take on that... Read more →