The Writing Process; when “good enough” is good enough

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I used to work as a Director in a London-based consultancy firm and my job – amongst other things – was to write a ton of reports for our clients. The process of running environmental projects isn’t too dissimilar from writing a book. Believe it or not they share similar phases: there’s a puzzle that needs solving (a real-life problem or a fictional story); you complete loads of research; map out the narrative; get the first draft down; discuss it with other people; edit like crazy; and complete the final document. The only difference with books is that you get to use your imagination considerably more. And dare I say it. It’s a little more fun…Continue Reading

How to write short stories/novellas

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short storiesShort stories seem to be making a comeback both from existing writers (see Hilary Mantel’s The Assassination of Margaret Thatcher) as well as the unexpected (like the actor Jesse Eisenberg). They are obviously very different to novels, as explained wonderfully by Jane Gardem here:

“A novel is a trek home from the desert, sometimes a journey you wish you had never started. Exhausting and humbling, just occasionally wonderful. But a short story can come from a deeper part of the cave. In a novel you make preparations. You lay in for a siege, carrying a flickering lantern. For a short story you need to carry a blow-lamp for a building site.”

If you want to write short stories and don’t know where to start, here’s a quick guide:Continue Reading

How to practice your writing

blog3I’m not a huge fan of blog posts that offer suggestions for writing exercises (“Imagine you have just one wish” or “Pretend you’ve found some treasure”). And I don’t like books that offer writing prompts (“You’ve just woken up in a place where you can’t speak the language, write for 5 minutes on what you would do next”). I just don’t see the point. 50% of the attraction of writing is because you think you have something to say that comes from your head. Why waste precious writing time on an unoriginal thought?Continue Reading

How to prep for creating realistic characters

home 9Nathan Bransford recently blogged about how to flesh out a character, listing three really important aspects of the preparation process: how it’s absolutely essential to understand what your characters want; how you really need to know their history; and how you should imagine your character at each part of their day (the choices they make, how they eat, where they go, what they think, etc.)

It got me thinking about how much work is actually involved in fleshing out characters and how much preparation you need to do in order for the characters to really come off the page. There is a great video on the BBC Writers Room here about the processes that very well-known authors use to do this. Some have to answer 50 questions about each character before they start and others find their characters come to them through a very physical process – talking out loud, walking around the room, etc. Above all, they talk about how essential it is to put themselves in their characters position.

The conclusion? Well, it’s nothing we didn’t know before but it’s worth reminding ourselves before we jump into the writing process too quickly that we really need to do a great deal of prep, probably before we start, on who each of our main characters are and secondly, we need to do a great deal of work.

Better get to it then…


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Writing tools; emotions

emotionsI stumbled upon a lovely Guardian article this week by Tiffany Watt Smith, which gave a wonderful take on everyday emotions such as anger and nostalgia, reminded me of less commonly felt emotions, such as shadenfreude (when we feel happy at someone else’s misfortune) and introduced me to emotions I didn’t realise had a name (like awumbuk, the emptiness you feel after visitors depart). A real joy for writers and a perfect complement to the Colour Thesaurus.


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Writing tools; The Colour Thesaurus

http://ingridsundberg.com/2014/02/04/the-color-thesaurus/ 3

I often get stuck on colours; trying to find the right words to describe how red something is, or to find a colour for yellow that isn’t, er, yellow. So it’s amazingly useful that Ingrid Sundberg has created a colour thesaurus for writers everywhere – not only is it eminently practical, but each colour sheet looks wonderful too. I’ve added the colour palettes below, but these are all taken from the original article on her blog here. Go check it out!

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How to write great science fiction/dystopian novels

dystopian 2Two things I’ve read recently got me thinking about how to write great science fiction/dystopian novels (as well as reading through the glut of YA novels in this genre). The first was a great guest post in Writer’s Digest by Roderick Vincent (author of The Cause) on how to write dystopian fiction (and you know how I feel about Writer’s Digest – lots of marketing emails and not much great content…).Continue Reading