In defence of prologues

These days when I’m teaching (as I was this weekend at the Get Writing conference, hi! Just look how tired I am in this picture. 9am starts are not my friend.) I usually ask people if they’ve heard some rumours about prologues. Yes, they say. We’ve heard they are bad, awful, unnecessary. We’ve heard that…

Why NOT give up the day job?

When I was starting out in writing, and devouring every tip I could get my ink-stained mitts on, there was one phrase that used to make my hopeful little heart sink: ‘don’t give up the day job’. Author Joanne Harris even included it in her very interesting and wise list of 10 things she wished…

The Genre Box

I’m just back from attending the Festival of Writing in York (should be essential for every aspiring writer!), where I was teaching, panelling, and book-doctoring. I really wish I had a stethoscope I could apply to people’s manuscripts. ‘Hmmm….sounds like a bad case of Excessive Exposition.’ One thing I heard come up a lot was…

The Number 1 Writing Mistake

It’s the 1 September tomorrow. I love this time of year – there’s something seductive about new beginnings, a new school or university year coming up, ditching summer clothes for cosy jumpers and writing inside a warm flat. If you’ve been wanting to start a writing project, now is a good time. It’s pouring, it’s…

The Joy of Jump Cuts

In the first term of the writing MA I teach, we set the students an exercise in writing time. Both moment by moment time, and long periods of time passing. Invariably people find the second one harder – and I admit I do myself. Think about it – showing the passage of time usually involves…

Some more about story

I’ve previously talked about the elements a story needs to have. I could say a lot about this  – in fact I do a three-hour lecture on it at City Uni, where I teach in London. It’s the first lecture the students have, and I think this is good, because when most people start writing,…

Writing when you have no time

Summer can be a fractured time for work. There are always festivals, holidays, weekends away, residencies. All good things, but which take me from my desk and my routine. Not that I have much of a routine. Which is sort of what this post is about. One of the questions I get asked a lot…

Openings – the one thing you need before you start

This week I’ve been reading the submissions for our bursary competition on the Crime Thriller MA I run at City University. We asked for the first 1,000 words only, because in theory a great crime novel should have grabbed the reader by then. Easy, right? Or is it? It got me thinking about what really…

Starting out- events

One piece of advice I often give to aspiring writers is: go to events. When you’re on the outside, publishing can seem like an ivory-towered citadel that’s doing its best to keep out the unpublished rabble. In truth, it’s a business that’s looking for new product – it’s just that the product is your very…

More about starting

I have a few more things to say about getting started (what?? it’s almost like I’m procrastinating). I talked last time about taking yourself seriously. But how do you actually do this? Here are five easy ways to start becoming a writer. -Create space in your life for writing. For some people this may be…

Starting

I love starting new things. Notebooks, all shiny and fresh, with no teastains or scribbled shopping lists.  Pens, before the lids get lost and the ink runs dry. And ideas, before they get ruined by, you know, actually writing the damn thing. Iris Murdoch said that every book is the wreck of a great idea,…

The Thirty List

You may have noticed I have a book out today. But what’s this? The cover is pastel, and has a cartoon dog on? Surely there are no dark crimes in this?? Busted – this is my attempt at a romcom/chick lit/contemporary women’s fiction book. There are issues about what to call it, but essentially it’s…