Liz Newman, Author at The Open College of the Arts
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Liz Newman


Lockdown reading

Writers need to be readers. How else do we increase our vocabularies, our knowledge of what’s been tried, our understanding of how something as banal as layout affects the way we read? And now is the time when splendid isolation means that some of us can really immerse ourselves in a book, without the interruptions of normal life.

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Writing in a child’s voice

When you’re an adult, writing as a child is a sleight-of-hand exercise. Children stumble over their words, repeat things, stray from the point, come up with complete irrelevancies. You have to give this impression without losing your reader through boredom, or the effort of untangling a web of mispronunciations and deviations to get to the action. People’s behaviour may seem incomprehensible, because the child doesn’t have the background knowledge to interpret it correctly. 

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Writing dystopias

Dystopias have become a major part of fiction over the last few decades, and with our current awareness of the state of the planet are unlikely to go out of fashion. It is, of course, much easier to write a dystopia than it is to write a utopia, because we all have such different ideas about what, exactly, constitutes a perfect world. Imperfect worlds are all around us, and scientific predictions about what the next century will bring are terrifying.

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Different Incarnations – how writers can have several identities

I started out as a radio writer, doing plays for Afternoon Theatre and a short series called Just Before Midnight, one of which I re-wrote for the stage. I also penned short stories for both radio and magazines under my maiden name, Elizabeth Kay. Writers sometimes feel that things have got a bit stale, so after a while I did an MA, learnt about my least favourite form and became a poet for a bit. Due to the need to make some money (and persuaded by my agent) I started writing rather more racy stuff under a pseudonym.

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Travel writing for competitions

I was recently a winner of a Travel Writing Blog Competition, which had a limit of 500 words, and I have their consent to use it here. Hopefully, it gives a few pointers as to how to go about it.

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The problems of updating

These days, online books get updated, and customers will get the newest version free of charge. Publishers want their contemporary fiction to be up-to-the-minute. But is there anything you can do to make updates unnecessary? Of course, it depends which genre you choose.

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Changing your writing space – if you’re lucky enough to have one.

When I started out, I wrote on the kitchen table. The amount of time spent clearing a space, and then tidying everything away, ate into my writing time. Not to mention wiping off the marmalade that transferred itself to every available piece of paper. I graduated from the kitchen to a shared office with my husband, which wasn’t ideal as he was a lot untidier than me. Eventually, after moving house (and husbands) I finally had an office of my own, and I began to think about what makes the ideal writing space.

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Letting a book settle

It’s only since I’ve been regularly reviewing books every month for a magazine that I’ve started to think about how I read, as well as how I write

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Basing characters on real people

f a character stays too close to someone you know, you’re always thinking, so-and-so wouldn’t do/say/ think that. The character must always serve the story, rather than the other way round.

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Howlers

As well as being a large New World monkey, a werewolf in full cry, or an unpleasant letter in a red envelope sent to someone at Hogwarts, the other definition of howler is a stupid mistake or ludicrous blunder.

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