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How can experts enrich your writing? Part 2

In part one of this blog I described how, when researching a novel about cover-ups, I attended New Writing North’s Crime Story classes and got to play the role of a juror! In this blog I am going to look in more detail at how experts can inform a novel. The most obvious way they can be useful is as interviewees, and to make the most of them specific questions regarding details of the novel need to be prepared in advance.

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How can experts enrich your writing? Part 1

Writing novels can take you into strange territory. I see the beginning of a novel not only as the start of a journey into my own imagination, but as the start of an adventure into the outside world as well. I’ve learnt that in order to give a novel enough credibility to see it published you can’t guess at the contributions a policeman, coroner, school teacher, or governor would make as characters in a story. You have to go out there and find out exactly what their input to a story would be.

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Images and explanations

“Show don’t tell” is an old piece of advice which a lot of tutors use to get their students writing with power and effectiveness. It’s perhaps most important in writing poetry but it’s a useful idea to have in mind when you are writing prose fiction or script. Of course, many famous published writers break the rule, if it can be called a rule, but then the first rule of any art or craft is to be able to follow the rules before you start breaking them. The most commonly quoted example of the “Show don’t tell” advice is what Chekhov wrote to his brother in 1888: “Don’t tell me the moon is shining, show me the glint of light on broken glass.”

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The Short Story: Part 2

I think the short story is quite a brutal form for the writer to operate in. As human beings we deplore cognitive dissonance and we want to see all loose ends tied up, especially if we have invested time in reading a piece of work. But writers I know take a different view of the short story…

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The Short Story: Part 1

I was recently asked to judge a short story competition for a group of writers in York. Before handing out the prizes I was asked to say a little about ‘what made a short story.’ It was a question that got me thinking, and I thought I would set down my thoughts on the subject for this blog.

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‘A cloud that just lands’

A short story is a slice of life, so it needs a narrow geographical location and a small number of characters.  It takes work to produce the 500 to 6,000 words that ‘explore a mood, a pregnant silence, a seemingly mundane scenario that’s somehow charged with significance’ – novelist and broadcaster Marcel Theroux’s description of […]

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21st century essayist new creative writing lead

OCA has broken with convention by appointing a religious studies scholar as its new curriculum lead for creative writing. Northern Irish essayist and poet Chris Arthur has a background in religious studies, first as an undergraduate and postgraduate at Edinburgh University and subsequently at Lampeter University, where he taught for more than 20 years. Fellow Irish writer Patrick O’Sullivan has credited him with ‘rescuing the meditative essay for the twenty-first century’.

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Copycats

Last week’s Wikipedia blackout and journalist Johann Hari’s decision not to return to ‘The Independent’ put plagiarism in the news. But plagiarism, imitation, forgery, flattery, call it what you will, the discipline of writing in the voice of another writer is a good way to find your own voice.

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Good beginnings: the best of Saki

I have just re-read ‘The Lumber Room’, a short story by the former Burma police officer H H Munro, who wrote under the name of Saki. More than 30 years after having the story read aloud to me when I was 15 years old, its language and tone are still vividly familiar, even though until […]

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Writing a five fingered exercise

When I was a small child, just starting school, my favorite moment in each day was the one, after we’d finished our tea, when my father went into the front room. He’d say to me, ‘don’t pull the curtains and don’t switch on the light.’ Then he’d sit at his piano in the last of the […]

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