The common scaffold

So my agent was sitting on a delayed bus into work, and I was walking along a long and snowy road in lieu of spending half an hour digging my car out, and we were on the phone discussing the latest version of my new novel. Basically she loves it, and thinks it's very nearly ready to fly: she awarded the ending three hankies and we've settled on a great title. She even spontaneously suggested something for the ending which I'd wanted to do all along but hadn't dared. Her only reservations were about some of the new material. I've... Read more →

Waste not, write not

In Jerusha Cowless's most recent missive from the South Seas, she came close to telling a writer what to do. (Clearly Jerusha is not me: I try never to tell anyone what to do, only to unpick the possiblities as clearly as I can. Honest.) Jerusha hinted that a poetry course might be the best way to go beyond the edges of that writer's own commercial-mum-lit-writing nature. And, having read Jerusha's answer, I'm working on a theory that the thing to do when you need/want a break or have got stuck with your writing, is the absolute opposite of what... Read more →

Writing for radio 7: how I wrote 'Calling'

Now that 'Calling' has been broadcast, and the flurry of flattering Facebook comments and tweets and emails had died down, I meant to do one last post in this Writing for Radio series: how it feels to have your story read on the radio. But then a friend who writes magazine fiction for a living started a discussion of where stories come from, and I realised that actually I haven't been able to talk properly about where 'Calling' came from, because it would have given away the story. So this post is one big plot spoiler, and if you'd like... Read more →

Writing for radio part 5: editing

The first pass revisions of my story for Radio 4 were the usual ones. First, once I had the story down on the page, it was about adjustments to the structure and spacing of the piers of the bridge: this is where being able to spread the pages of a short story out is wonderful. In such a short story, and one to be read aloud, there isn't space for anything structurally complex, but it's an oldish man remembering his youth: was the frame the right width (length?); did the sense of the speaker's 'now' fade in and out at... Read more →

Heisenberg's taste in tapestries

Talking to the Richard III Society today, I was reminded of the moment when I got the answer to the problem of how to write A Secret Alchemy. In a TLS review of two books on the Dark Ages, the reviewer R I Moore said this:Historians have to live with Heisenbergian uncertainty: they cannot simultaneously plot position and trajectory, without distortion. The forces that make for change are always more important for the future, and therefore in retrospect, than they seem at the time… At the time, the blinding light that it shone showed me why I didn't want to... Read more →