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…

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…

A lighthouse in a storm

All about the research stage, and the weird stuff I’m obsessed with for my new book. Includes lead poisoning.

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…