TWELVE TOOLS (NOT RULES) OF WRITING : just what it says on the tin
MY BEST TIP OF ALL : whatever you write
TWENTY THINGS WHICH NO ONE SAYS OFTEN ENOUGH : about writing
THE ITCHY BITESIZED SERIES : short posts about key skills and issues
THE FUNDAMENTAL TOOLS & SKILLS
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
THE REAL SIXTH SENSE : writing uses all SIX of your senses - here's how.
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
CHARACTERISATION-IN-ACTION : how to develop your characters-in-action and make sure their journey is really compelling.
GIVING YOUR CHARACTERS DEPTH: help if you've had feedback that your characters are a bit cardboard.
THE TEN THINGS WHICH MOST OFTEN GO WRONG with beginners' fiction.
WRITE YOUR FIRST NOVEL : the full series began in March 2020 and it's intended for writers who would love to write a novel but find the prospect daunting, or just don't know where to start.
STORYTELLING, PLOT AND STRUCTURE
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
MAKING A SCENE : what is a scene, should each chapter only have one, and other questions.
WRITING A SCENE : when to Show/Evoke/Dramatise, when to Tell/Inform/Summarise, and how to work with both to control how your reader experiences the scene.
WRITING SEX: ten top tips : writing sex is notoriously difficult, but this should help.
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?
THINKING AND INTROSPECTION : how to keep the reader reading when there's no physical action
WHEN ONE CHARACTER NEEDS TO TELL ANOTHER LOTS OF STUFF : how to avoid it being clunky or tedious
NON-LINEAR NARRATIVES : what they are, whether to use one, and how to make it work
FLASHBACKS AND BACKSTORY : how to handle the stuff from Before The Story Starts.
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
YOUR BOOK, YOUR RULES, BUT MAKE SOME : more on how to make sure your book works in a consistent way - and save yourself some effort too
HANDLING YOUR MATERIAL : how to work with what you know or research so it becomes true fiction. The post also known as "Yours to Remember and Mine to Forget"
WRITING ETHICALLY WITHOUT CLIPPING YOUR CREATIVE WINGS : how to build stories on other ethnicities, genders, cultures, sexualities, classes, religions, (dis)ablements, ages, histories, countries, nationalities, than your own, without censoring yourself or treading on toes
"CAN I CHANGE ...?" : deciding what real life facts - geography, history, dates, news, whatever - you can ignore or adapt, and what you must stick to
WHERE DO YOU START YOUR STORY? : thinking about the how/when/where/why of openings
THE WAKING-UP OPENING : why some editors don't like it, and what's really going on
CONFESSORS & THERAPIST AS LISTENERS : this post explores the pitfalls and opportunities of having a main character Tell All to their psychoanalyst - or their teddy bear.
ENDING THE NOVEL : how to make the quietest finish as big as it should be; how to end on a bang, not a whimper.
SEVENTEEN QUESTIONS TO ASK YOUR NOVEL : before, during or after you write it.
POINT OF VIEW & NARRATORS
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
TRAIN YOUR NARRATOR TO DO EVERYTHING YOU NEED : learn to get up close and personal in third person, and use your first-person narrator for perspective, over-views and covering the ground.
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
NARRATIVE VOICE AND DIALOGUE
HEARING VOICES : what is voice, and why does it matter so much?
19 QUESTIONS TO ASK (and ask again) ABOUT VOICE : whether you're having trouble finding the voice for a project, or had feedback that it's not distinctive enough.
STYLE AND VOICE : a post which explored the difference between the two, and why I think 'voice' is a much more useful thing to talk about.
VOICE AND TONE : the effect of a similar plot is entirely different depending on how it's written. Is your false-accusation-of-adultery story Othello, Figaro, Feydeau, or Much Ado About Nothing?
WRITING DIALOGUE : how do it well, how to make it better
PING-PONG DIALOGUE : a common habit and what to do about it.
SPEECH TAGS: how to use them best : why "he said" is often the answer but not always, and how to handle the latter
WRITING EMOTION : is less really more? And how do you make it real?
DESCRIPTION : how to stop your descriptions being slabs of scene setting, and turn them into storytelling
6 QUESTIONS TO ASK YOUR DESCRIPTION : more on the how and why of evoking places, people and everything else.
KILL THAT "OFFICE-SPEAK" : how to get the zombie nouns, aggressive passives, abstract nouns and hedgy vagueness out of your creative writing
SENTENCE STRUCTURE : have you ever thought about the order in which you put the elements of a long sentence? An exploration of what's going on.
LONG SENTENCES and why you should use them : there's a prevailing orthodoxy that short sentences are punchier and more pacy. Here's why I think it's largely not true, and certainly not that simple.
STRUCTURING AND PUNCTUATING A SENTENCE : an example from my own work
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?
DANGLING PARTICIPLES AND MODIFIERS : what they are, how they happen, and how to sort them out.
WHAT IS PASSIVE VOICE: and why are you told to avoid it? : and why it's actually a vital tool in your toolkit.
REVISING, RE-VISITING, RE-ENVISIONING
THE FICTION-EDITOR'S PHARMACOPOEIA : diagnosing symptoms and treating the diseases in your own or someone else's manuscript
WRITING SYNOPSES FOR YOURSELF : perhaps the single best way to work out a plot, take an overview of a story, or un-scramble a novel that's got in a muddle.
HOW TO TAME YOUR NOVEL : are you drowning in scenes, files, feedback, hopes, dreads? This will help.
TACKLING REVISIONS AND EDITS : feeling as if you've got to eat an elephant, and your spoon is too small? Here's help.
DON'T FIDDLE : how to stop yourself endlessly tweaking, poking and mini-editing and getting in a muddle, and keep moving steadily forward whether you're drafting or revising.
OVERWRITING: has someone told you your work is over-written? : here is what they might mean, and what you can do about it.
ADJECTIVES AND ADVERBS : why you're so often told to cut them, and why you shouldn't (always) cut them
HAVE YOU HEARD THE ONE ABOUT "WAS"OPHOBIA? : why cutting "was" from your writing isn't just a stupid idea, it's also a dangerous mis-taking.
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.
WHEN DO YOU STOP REVISING? : how do you know you're not sending it off half-baked, without getting stuck in an endless loop of fixing things?
THE TEN LINE-EDITS I MOST OFTEN SUGGEST : what it says on the tin.
PROCESS, PLANNING AND HOW TO GET OUT OF THE DOLDRUMS
FREEWRITING : What it is, how to do it, and all the many ways it's useful for a writer
"RE-IMAGINING IS PARTLY A PROCESS OF FORGETTING": Why factual accuracy in fiction is not enough, and may even be a bad thing. The post otherwise known as Yours to Remember, and Mine to Forget.
PROCRASTINATING AGAIN? AND AGAIN? AND AGAIN? : My most recent discoveries, and links to all the earlier posts on the different reasons that you might be procrastinating.
TWELVE IDEAS TO HELP WITH WRITER'S BLOCK : "Just because you don't believe in it doesn't mean you won't get it" This post does what it says on the tin.
THE THIRTY-THOUSAND DOLDRUMS : somewhere between 20k and 40k, and decided that the whole thing's a disaster? You are not alone.
THE INNER CRITIC'S DRESSING-UP BOX : all the different ways the anti-writing demon tries to get you to stop writing.
"EVERYTHING ABOUT MY WRITING IS AWFUL AND NO, I AM NOT O.K." : self-care for when the going gets really tough.
THE NOVEL-PLANNING GRID: one way (my way) of planning out your novel : a recent post, with a downloadable grid which you can then bend to your own purposes.
TRACK CHANGES : how using the Track Changes facility in your word processor can really help
SCRIVENER SOFTWARE : why I'm a complete convert to the only writing software real writers use, whether they're pantsers, planners, or imaginers-on-paper.
WHAT IS LITERARY FICTION? : for writers, for readers, for the industry.
SO WHAT COUNTS AS HISTORICAL FICTION? : for writers, for readers, for the industry.
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?
CROSSING GENRES: The Perils and Pleasures : being rejected because your book is "neither one thing nor the other"? A exploration of the issues.
GROUPS, COURSES & ACADEMIC CREATIVE WRITING
BUT CAN YOU TEACH CREATIVE WRITING? : What does a CW teacher do, and is that better than a trainee writer going it alone?
WRITING COURSES: the pros and cons : Should you do one? Which one? When?
SHOULD I DO A CREATIVE WRITING MA : What might it do for my writing? How do I choose?
MENTORING FOR WRITERS : How it works, how to decide what would suit you.
HOW TO DEAL WITH FEEDBACK : Whether it's informal writing-chat, part of a course, or a written report or review.
HOW TO GIVE FEEDBACK : Whether it's informal writing-chat on a forum, or a written report.
CREATIVE WRITING COMMENTARIES: don't know where to start? : how to write a reflective, analytical or critical commentary on your creative writing.
CREATIVE WRITING PhDs : the paradoxical beast : Wondering whether to do a PhD? Wondering how anyone ever could? Some answers, lots of thoughts.
AGONISING OVER YOUR PhD PROPOSAL? : Some tips to help you, which may also help with MAs, funding applications and the like.
SURVIVING A PhD or MPhil VIVA : how to prepare, how to cope on the day
ACADEMIC WRITING : my twenty-or-so top tips for writing well at all levels of academic study - which should also help you to get a better grade
GOOD & BAD ACADEMIC WRITING : some real-world examples to help you understand the difference
GOING OUTSIDE AND GOING PUBLIC
BOOKS FOR WRITERS: a partial view and a partial list : whether you're looking for help with writing sex, or for a present to give the peculiar creature called a writer who you seem to have spawned or made friends with, here are some of my favourites.
HOW TO GET THE BEST OUT OF AN EDITORIAL SERVICE : Does just what it says on the tin.
HOW TO GET THE BEST OUT OF A ONE-TO-ONE SLOT : Make the most of your ten minutes with an agent, an editor or a book doctor.
HOW TO PRESENT A MANUSCRIPT : these are the industry standards. They're not difficult, they exist for very good reasons, and you'd be mad not to follow them.
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.
ENTERING COMPETITIONS : The first person your writing has to delight is the First Filter Reader. Two posts by writer and veteran judge Susannah Rickards, from the coal-face of competitions.
SURVIVING THE SUBMISSION BLUES : A post about an inevitable, but not much discussed, part of any serious writer's life.
BEING PUBLISHED : the full series. Each post explains the practicalities of that part of the publishing process, but also explores the sometimes peculiar ways that they can affect you and your writing.
GIVING A READING : Part One - Getting Ready : Does just what it says on the tin, from why it's worth learning to enjoy events, to leaving the house.
GIVING A READING: Part Two - On The Night : Everything from arriving at the venue to catching the last train home.
PUBLICITY FOR WRITERS : W hat you can do in the way of finding a place in the book industry, networking and making yourself visible
HOW TO COPE WITH PUBLICITY : What's going on when you find that the publicity you long for - interviews, reviews, trade dinners - is much more stressful than you'd expect, and tips for how to cope.
PUTTING BOUNDARIES ROUND PUBLICITY : how to decide what you will, and won't, talk about when publicising your book
HOPING TO MAKE A LIVING WRITING BOOKS? : A realistic picture of the models that (sometimes) work, and the ones that really don't.
OVERCOMING THE SOCIAL MEDIA FEAR : why it's (almost) essential, if you want to get anywhere as a writer, to face up to social media at least a bit, and how to get started with Twitter, Facebook and others.