Blog and blogging

Overcoming the Social Media Fear

I know that many aspiring writers who happily read blogs or belong to writing forums are nonetheless very wary of the more dynamic forms of social media: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr, Pinterest and all the others. Which wouldn't matter, except that it is genuinely harder and harder to make any kind of way as a writer without doing some of this stuff - not least because publishers will be wary of a writer who is invisible in social media terms. But the good news is that it's perfectly possible to have a useful presence out there. So to that end... Read more →


Bid for a Bespoke Itch of Writing Blogpost at Authors for Grenfell Tower

As part of an initiative to raise money for the Red Cross London Fire Relief Fund, on behalf of victims of the dreadful fire in North London, Authors for Grenfell Tower have got together to auction signed books, characters, events, critiques and many more writerly treats, in aid of the fund. I am offering you the chance to have your own, bespoke Itch of Writing blogpost, addressing a personal writing problem of your own. I'm happy to include your name and internet links, or for it to be anonymous, as you prefer. If you'd like to bid, the page is... Read more →


Ten New Year ideas for everyone who writes, or wants to write

First of all, Happy New Year and grateful thanks to everyone - writers and readers - who reads the blog, and a special lift of the Champagne glass (all right, Prosecco glass - we're on a writer's budget, here) to anyone who comments, spreads the word or links to the blog from elsewhere. Without you all, there wouldn't be a blog, because why would I talk, if I didn't have someone to talk to? I don't really do New Year's Resolutions, because they bring out my Inner Stroppy Toddler. But this is, let's (two-)face it, the Janus time of the... Read more →


Procrastinating Again? And Again? And Again?

[ETA 1st May 2020:] When I was asked to record a short film for the Royal Literary Fund, about a writing talisman, there was really only one thing I could honestly talk about: the Instant Gratification Monkey. His role and character has changed hugely since I wrote this post six years ago, so do click through to the RLF Showcase to watch it. *** When things are quiet on here, I know a post about procrastination will liven it up, but things are pretty lively at the moment. However, I've come across a post about it on the splendid Wait... Read more →


19 Questions to Ask (and ask again) about Voice

First of all a big HAPPY NEW YEAR to all the readers of This Itch of Writing. May your resolutions be resolved, your writerly shadow never grow less, and your infinitives split precisely how you want them to be. And since New Year has a way of prompting thoughts about the work-in-progress, or the work-not-yet-in-progress, here are some of mine, for that happy little window when the last family person has gone but the first work colleague hasn't yet arrived, and you can actually get some writing done. *** One of the challenges of a big writing project is finding... Read more →


Why Do I Write?

I normally try to talk about myself on this blog only when it might help to illuminate something for others, but I was asked to write a piece about why I write for the forum of the Royal Literary Fund Fellows. It occurred to me that it might amuse or, better still, get you thinking about your own reasons for writing. I write, I used to say, because it's the only respectable reason I've found for not doing the washing up. Then my first novel was published, and writing became another kind of washing up: not an escape from the... Read more →


Postiversary Competition Highly Commended: Hairnet Aardvaark, by Lev Parikian

This is the last of of three Highly Commended entries to the This Itch of Writing 500th Postiversary Competition. I liked this post because it made me laugh and it's probably more true - though arguably less detailedly helpful - than all the other competition posts put together with the rest of the whole darned more-than-six-years' worth of This Itch of Writing. Having said that, if you want to bag yourself a Highly Commended, then grossly flattering the competition organiser in the second paragraph is no bad strategy either. "A blog post, 500 words at most, which is helpful, interesting... Read more →


Postiversary Competition Highly Commended: Dark Matter, Dark Glass and Anne Tyler by Sophie Beal

This is the second of three Highly Commended entries to the This Itch of Writing 500th Postiversary Competition. I like this piece because it made me laugh, in a rueful, recognising sort of way, but also because it its own blog-sized way it's doesn't shirk the big questions. Sometimes I’m overwhelmed by literary ambition. I aim for the prose quality of Anne Tyler, the themes of Tolstoy and hope I’ll produce it at the speed of Dickens. Today is a good day. I’m happy to be someone trying her best with an English GCSE, a recordable IQ and no one... Read more →


Postiversary Competition Third Prize Winner: Where Do You Get Your Ideas From, by Sophie Jonas-Hill

Congratulations to Sophie Jonas-Hill for this delightful post, which won third prize in the This Itch of Writing 500th Postiversary Competition. Sophie wins a two-night writers' retreat at Retreats for You in Sheepwash, North Devon, where full board and friendly writerly company come as standard, and total silence and lunch-on-a-tray are offered with equal generosity. What I loved about this post is that it takes a classic question which we're all very familiar with, and finds a way to express it freshly, and practically. And I always love connections between different kinds of creativity: so often they illuminate each other.... Read more →


The 500th Postiversary Competition: win a writer's retreat and other prizes

I can't quite believe that This Itch of Writing has being going for 500 posts - and five and a half years, come to that - but it's true. To celebrate, I thought it would be fun to have a competition, and some of my favourite writerly places have kindly offered prizes. TO ENTER: Please write a blog post, 500 words at most, which is helpful, interesting or illuminating for other writers. Of course yours will stem from your own experience of writing, but the focus of This Itch of Writing is outwards, towards other writers, not inwards towards yourself.... Read more →


Spring Roundup: Pinterest, the Postiversary, and other stories

It must be spring in the air: I'm fantastically busy on various fronts, but some of them might be relevant to all you lovely blog-readers, so here goes. Since October I've been absolutely loving my RLF Fellowship at Goldsmiths; it's been some of the most rewarding and enjoyable teaching I've ever done, so I'm delighted that playwright Annie Caulfield and I will again be there next year. Our job is to help with academic writing across the full spectrum of the College, from first years to PhDs and staff, from Fine Art to Social Work and Anthropology. I am planning... Read more →


Forgiveness, chocolate, and why enough is ... satisfactory

If you're a writer, then you're never really happy just to experience something in its moment: there's always a restlessness, a frustration-in-waiting, until you can get it out of your self and onto paper. And you know the phenomenon I was talking about in Opening the Doors, where you've been reading or listening to something and it seems to skin you - or tenderise you, as Alan Bennet's Queen has it? For a while you're extra-alive to the world round you: all six senses, words, images, things strangers say, ideas for stories, and bits of your own memory, and it's... 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 →


All the blog posts I mentioned at York 2012, and a big Thank You

I'm just back from the Festival of Writing at York, and if you don't know what I'm talking about, my post from the same point last year is here, and from 2010 is here. Apart from the usual frustration at having been too busy running my own workshops and doing 1-to-1 book doctoring to sit in on any workshops for myself, it was as much frantic, rewarding, alcohol-and-caffeine-fuelled fun as ever. The ducks were a bit quieter - maybe because it's September, not March - but other than that I'm going to need just as long to recover this time.... Read more →


Writing...

...and - well - what shall we call the good kind of not-writing? (as opposed to the bad kind). Because that's what I've been doing the last few days. Not least thanks to - of all places - the National Trust Carriage Museum at Arlington Court, in North Devon, which is heaven for a historical novelist. And heavenly for just about anyone is the kind of evening we spent walking a tiny bit of the North Devon Coast. I'm staying for the third time at Deborah Dooley's Retreats for You, (I blogged about the first time here, and the second,... Read more →


Getting through the door in the wall

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 dealt with all of those and still can't write, because you've simply run out of fuel. But, assuming your Inner Critic has been gagged and bound, you're brimming over with ideas and energy for the next piece of writing work, you've cleared the house and the diary of humans... so many of us still... Read more →


Not Me Me Me at all

It's been a bit quiet here lately, for which I apologise. I tried to get Jerusha Cowless to stand in for me, first while I was going full-steam-ahead with re-building the first 100,000 words of the novel, and teaching an OU tutorial and a six-week Writers Workshop online course in Self-Editing Your Novel. And I tried to get in touch with Jerusha again just before I headed off to France to research the novel (6 days, 2 planes, 1 dead & 1 live (hire) cars, 10 novel-settings, 270 photos, 1100km, ∞ bad French/good food/great ideas...). Eventually I got a message... Read more →


In other news: courses, competitions and fireside chats

I've been busy in various places lately, so just in case anyone's interested, here's some of it: On 25th February Debi Alper and I are running another six week online course in Self-Editing Your Novel. Debi and I have taught together for years, and it works brilliantly. Feedback from these courses has been terrific, so if you're at that stage, do drop by and see if you think it's what you need. For a taster, I did a "Prose Microscope" dissection on the Word Cloud, where the course is hosted, which will give you an idea of how it works,... Read more →


A novel is not the singular of data

Recently, I came upon a neat phrase to use on those people who refuse to hear the fact that there has been net emigration of central Europeans from Britain, because all the waiters in their local Pizza Express come from Warsaw: "Data is not the plural of anecdote." But it reminded me of how a writer friend wanted her ancient-Persian heroine to start up a cottage industry making dyestuffs in her kitchen. "But it wasn't done like that," said the friendly expert at the British Museum. "The evidence is that dye production was on an industrial scale, and they wouldn't... Read more →