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Writers' & Artists' Blog

10 Writing Touchstones: Inspiration (and butterfly nets)

Rachel Knightley

I was writing in a cafe this morning (anyone who knows me will have just have gone ‘Ha’ quite loudly: it would be news if I weren’t writing in a café this morning. Particularly if the writing’s finished). They were playing a cover of Let’s Dance, my beloved Bowie’s most lucrative hit. Say what you will about disco-era Bowie, this wasn’t a song you forgot: tune and lyrics that stick; crisp, eloquent refrains as individual as any published sentence should aim to be. Not my favourite, but the usual best-practice example: a distinctive, intelligent specimen of his chosen genre at the time. This cover kept all the words and the musical structure of the hit, yet still managed to be boring. If I hadn’t known the song well enough to identify the vulture-pecked remains of the original, I wouldn’t have noticed what the music was at all.

‘Brilliant!’ thought the theatre director in me. ‘If a successful song can be made immediately forgettable, interpretation really is …

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Let Writing Be Your Rescue

Lia Louis

Regular Writers & Artists blogger Lia Louis on the sheer joy of writing for no one else but yourself.

I can't remember the exact time that I started to write. I know I was young, I know it was before we had a computer in the house, and I know that as often as I wrote stories about magic trees and wizardy caretakers, I wrote long, thoughtful rambles about life, space, and sometimes, the cute boy in the house opposite who I thought may have smiled – or perhaps, Dear Diary, it was wind – at me. I wrote when I had everything and nothing to say, and needed to make sense of things. I wrote because it helped me think and stopped me thinking all at the same time. I wrote because I couldn’t find the right words to say out loud, and I wrote because I had thoughts, fears and secrets but no person I trusted enough to keep them. I wrote because it grounded me, and also sent me up, up and far, far away. I wrote because it was an antidote to an awful day, and also, sometimes, the …

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10 Writing Touchstones: Clarity

Rachel Knightley

No matter how many novels, plays, instruction manuals or poems you have on your writing CV, there are lessons about writing – some technical, others psychological – that benefit from regular rediscovery.

I teach creative writing from pre-school to post-retirement. No matter the age, background or experience of the writer, certain shared attitudes to our writing and ourselves regularly come to the surface. Most common is the wish to ‘get it right’ even though rationally we know that with any creative work, there is unlikely to be a single, definitive ‘right answer’. 

My catchphrase with writing and acting students is ‘there’s no such thing as a wrong answer’. However, there certainly are such things as good habits: concepts and qualities to which we can hold and test our writing, to challenge and reassure ourselves when needed.

This series offers ten ‘Touchstones’ for writing. Some are more technical than others (clarity, structure, rhythm); some more …

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Four Tips for Screenwriting Success by Julian Fellowes at the London Screenwriters' Festival

Julian Fellowes

The London Screenwriters’ Festival launched its 2016 edition in fine style last month as Oscar-winner Julian Fellowes (Gosford Park) shared his experiences and insights with a packed house at Regent’s University in London. Bob Schultz took a look at some of the quotes from his talk, and the lessons to be derived from each:

“I Was That Fool”

Opportunity often comes in the disguise of a “Terrible Decision”. Early in his career, Fellowes was on a production that suddenly needed a lot of writing done on literally no budget. “What fool would do that?” came the question. The answer? Julian.

When you are trying to break in, your strategy must include a balance of short-term self-interest and long-term reputation. Are you a team-player, willing to put the production’s goals above your own (within reason)? What other forms of compensation can you devise if money is not an option?

The path from where you are to where you want to be is never a straight one. Taking a job that pays …

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The Process of Publishing and Editing the Writers' & Artists' Yearbook

Writers' & Artists' Yearbook 2017

Between the months of January and April every year, I live and breathe all things Writers & Artists (and in reality at other times too), but for the first half of every year I’m deeply immersed in ‘creating’ the new editions of both Yearbooks. It’s an intense and fast-paced process and involves a collective of editorial, design, technical and production know-how and co-operation. We’ve got it down to function as a (fairly!) well-oiled machine, and (unless the wheels fall off at any stage), it pans out something like this.


In fact before the start of the year, I gather the three listings editors and the articles editor of both Yearbooks together over a publisher’s lunch (an essential kick-off to each new edition), to talk through the trends and the ups and downs of the publishing world since the previous edition was published (they appear every July) and how these will affect the layout, content and editorial judgments we make for the next one. We discuss …

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