How to spring-clean your ideas (or why data storage is your Horcrux)

So, it’s nearly March. I assume everyone in the country has MarieKondoed their entire house and now only owns two pairs of pants and a poncho? Yes, good. There is something rather intoxicating about throwing things away. I’m impatient, so I did the process in three weeks instead of the six months she advises (I have…

Turning down the volume

To get to the island of Iona, it’s a long way. First you have to drive to Oban (about two hours from Glasgow). You have to wait for a ferry. They go every two hours – if you need to kill time you can eat some oysters while you wait. Then you get the ferry to…

How to be a failure

I’ll be honest, I feel like a failure about 85% of the time. Whether it’s about exercise, eating sugar, or more generally and nebulously as a writer….it is a problem. I don’t think I’m alone in this. I firmly believe that, if you have a particular thing you want to achieve, and that thing is…

A letter to young creative types

Hey there! Whatcha up to? Maybe you’re still at university, dreaming of being an artist/writer/musician/actor, but becoming aware that those are not considered ‘proper’ jobs, and that the university career department will try to steer you towards the kind of companies where everyone dresses in grey and they hold dispiriting receptions around bowls of crisps to…

A new leaf

Apologies for that terrible pun. My de-cluttering has gone well – so well I’m actually finished now except for papers and notebooks, which will take forever because there are literally 25 years of ideas in there. Marie Kondo says to take six months but I decided to take three weeks because: impatience. And also I…

Are you ready to be published?

Back to another writing post this week. Updates on the rest of my projects – my skin looks pretty good, though I wouldn’t say my life had changed just yet. And my flat is slowly but surely getting decluttered. I think I’ve gone a bit mad with it as I just took my curtains down…

What to get the writer in your life

What to get the writer who has everything? Books are risky, as we’ve already read everything and more beside. Hobbies? Don’t be silly, we don’t have any, we are too busy staring out the window and frowning. So, if you’re stuck, here’s my last-minute gift ideas for the scribbler in your life. -Stationery. You can…

The Silent Dead

Today I have a book out. When my first book came out, in 2012, it was one of the most exciting days of my life. Today will be a largely normal day, except for that I hope people will be able to start reading The Silent Dead. I think there’s some essential part of being…

Bucket lists, and how to set any goal

What’s on your bucket list? Running a marathon, visiting Macchu Piccu, buying a house? Some goals take ages to achieve. There’s no way I could run a marathon unless I trained for a year, and probably not even then. And I couldn’t get really good at Spanish without some serious study or immersion. Could I…

Why you shouldn’t talk about your writing (sometimes)

There are two types of writers. Some do it in secret, as furtively as shoots pushing through the earth in spring. They don’t like to talk about it, and if pressed will give some vague answer about ‘getting there, making progress, pleasedon’taskmeanymorethanks’. They nurture the idea inside them until it germinates. Think watercress in the…

Why we really need a montage- working with pace

This week my MA novel-writing students at City University are covering pace. Often, people assume that this simply means going as fast as you can. A lightning- quick story with lots of running around and many things happening. But actually, pacing is about controlling the passage of time in the story- and for your reader….

Get started in writing – a six-point plan

At the weekend, I took part in a writing Q&A at Henley Literary Festival. There were many interesting questions – should I have a website? (yes, crucial for interested agents and other parties to find you and is easy and free); do I have to use social media (publishers might ask you to but it’s…