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April 2013

March 2013

Ping-pong dialogue

ETA: since I wrote this post I've developed a lot more thoughts on dialogue, though the problem I've unpicked here is still very common, and very easily solved! *** A writer friend had feedback which said that her novel suffered from "ping-pong dialogue". Had any of us heard of this particular ailment, she asked here. None of us had, but the example she posted did suffer a bit from something I've seen a lot over the years, and no doubt I've been guilty of too; in fact, I'm rather grateful to have a name for it. It's not that the... Read more →

Feedback, humility and the sword of truth

Whether you have one would-be writing buddy, or a large writers' circle which meets twice a week, or a bunch of eager or reluctant students, giving and getting feedback is central to most writers' lives, but it's a while since I've blogged about it. This discussion usually comes up when someone on a forum has found feedback distressingly painful, and battle lines are quickly drawn: "fluff is useless" vs. "no one has the right to destroy confidence", "some people just want to be told they're wonderful" vs. "some people can't admit there are other ways of writing". I've blogged before... Read more →

Is it worth it?

In Conditional Validation I was talking about how Malcolm Bradbury saying "They're good. Keep going" was enough for Ian McEwan to - well - keep going. We tend to think that the "they're good" is the important bit of that, but I more and more think that in some ways "Keep going" - said by someone whose knowledge and judgement you trust - is just as important. The thing is, they're two sides of the real question, which is "Is this worth doing?". Mind you, Hilary Mantel said on Front Row that having won the Booker twice is no help... Read more →

All the posts I mentioned at Getting Published 2013

These are links to all the posts I can remember mentioning last Saturday at the Writers' Workshop Getting Published event. If I mentioned a post that I haven't listed here, then do say so in the comments and I'll try and dig it up. SHOWING AND TELLING: the basics : how to use both to make your story do everything you want it to do. HOW TO TELL, AND STILL SHOW : how to get on with the story without sacrificing vividness PSYCHIC DISTANCE: what it is and how to use it : a key technique, not much discussed and... Read more →


When I let myself in for giving a workshop on Characterisation at Writers' Workshop's Getting Published event yesterday, I realised I haven't blogged directly about Characterisation as much as some things. It is a big subject, but for me, it's all founded in Aristotle: a character without action isn't a story, it's a portrait. In "Clothes and Food and Dropping Presents" I explored how the process of creating (discovering? uncovering?) your characters can, essentially, go from the outside in, or the inside out, but here are some other ways to help you develop your characters-in-action. And please don't forget that,... Read more →