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All the Posts I Mentioned at the York Festival of Writing 2017

I'm just back from the 2017 York Festival of Writing. If you don't know what I'm on about, this is a selection of posts from former years, and if you do, you'll know that the weekend was, as ever, packed with workshops, one-to-ones, lunches, dinners, breakfasts (yes, everyone talks writing even over the cornflakes and sausages, and through the hangover), agents, publishers, authors, writers and ducks.

And, as ever, I mentioned various blog posts at various times to various people, as a way of expanding on whatever we were talking about. This, to the best of my ability, is a list of the posts I mentioned, but if you remember another one, do say so in the comments, and I'll do my best to dig it up.

If you're interested in the 6-week online course Self-Editing Your Novel, which I co-teach with Debi Alper, there are more details in that link. And those who are in reach of London might be interested in the Words Away monthly salon for writers, which I co-host with writer Kellie Jackson, at the Tea House Theatre in Vauxhall. It's easy to get to, very informal, a lot of fun in a particularly quirky and delightful venue, and there are more details here: Words Away Salons. Writers who were in my session on Writing From Life might be particularly interested in our salon on Monday 16th October, when Jill Dawson, author of The Crime Writer, which is about Patricia Highsmith, and many others, will be joining us to talk about writing fiction based on real people. 

And before we start, do note that wherever you are on the blog, you can always get to the Itch of Writing Tool-Kit: just click up there in the right-hand corner. Most of the posts below can also be found there, along with lots of others.


PSYCHIC DISTANCE: what it is and how to use it : also called narrative distance; an extraordinarily useful way of thinking, which is responsible for more lightbulb moments in my students than everything else put together.

SHOWING AND TELLING: the basics : how to use both to make your story do everything you want it to do.

HOW SHOWING AND TELLING CO-OPERATE : why you need both, and how they work together

HOW TO TELL, AND STILL SHOW : how to get on with the story without sacrificing vividness

PAST AND PRESENT TENSE : the pros and cons of both : the different issues that arise with first and third person for each tense, and why the new creative writing orthodoxy is wrong.


PLOT vs. STORY : what's the difference and why does that mean for your writing?

THE BASIC UNIT OF STORYTELLING : making your characters act

NARRATIVE DRIVE : how to get your story moving, and your reader turning the pages

FORTUNATELY-UNFORTUNATELY : how stopping your characters from staying on the same track powers the story-engine and keeps your reader reading

GETTING FROM ONE SCENE TO THE NEXT : jump-cut or narrated slide? Doof-d00f-doof ending then crash landing, or taking the reader there in stages?

CREATE THE READER YOU NEED :  you can make the novel work however you want, as long as you get the reader to read it the way you need them too, and stay consistent.

"CAN I CHANGE ...?" : deciding what real life facts - geography, history, dates, news, whatever -  you can ignore or adapt, and what you must stick to


POINT OF VIEW & NARRATORS 1: the basics : what point of view is, what a narrator is, and why it matters

POINT OF VIEW & NARRATORS 2: internal narrators : character-narrators who narrate in first person

POINT OF VIEW & NARRATORS 3: external narrators : limited, switching and privileged point of view in narrators who narrate in third person

POINT OF VIEW & NARRATORS 4: moving point of view and other stories : how to work with a moving point of view, second-person narrators and other stuff

HOW TO MOVE POINT OF VIEW : not just between chapters, but in a single sentence. And why (as long as you do it well) no one can tell you it's not allowed.

CIRCLES OF CONSCIOUSNESS : a more useful and sophisticated way of thinking about point-of-view and psychic distance, and how to use it to best effect

FREE INDIRECT STYLE : what it is and how to use it : the huge advantage we have over the playwrights and scriptwriters, so why wouldn't you exploit all the things it can do?


WHAT YOU CAN LEARN FROM THE HWA DEBUT CROWN SHORTLIST I recently chaired the judging panel, and our shortlist is a fantastic demo of the possibilities for historical fiction

HISTORICAL NOVEL? BIOGRAPHY? When is your life writing actually historical fiction, or vice versa?

CREATIVE NON-FICTION : including memoir, life writing, travel writing. What is it, and are you writing it? 

HOW TO DEAL WITH FEEDBACK : Whether it's informal writing-chat, part of a course, or a written report or review.


REVISIONS: Taking down the scaffolding : many writers find it hard to spot the things which needed to be in the first draft, but must be fished out in revision. Here's how to spot them.

"FILTERING": HD for your writing : an unhelpful name for the single, simplest way to revise your writing into greater vividness.

FILTERING, SCAFFOLDING & HOW TO PERFORM AN EXPLAIN-ECTOMY : more about how to get rid of the extra clutter which is blurring and smudging your story's impact.

CUTTING, CONDENSING & FILLETING: what to do when your story is much too long.

THE SYNOPSIS: Relax! : the synopsis won't make or break your novel's fate, but it can help to give it the best chance. Here's how.