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Writers' & Artists' Blog

Dialogue masterclass

Books

How can you advise writers on dialogue? Firstly, I ask them to use their ear; read their dialogue aloud. Those who get it right have what amounts to a musical gift but, frankly, most of us don’t have a knack for it. It takes hard graft to get to a basic level, where the speech doesn’t sound weird. Successfully varying your style for each of your characters is a whole other ballgame. The most common howler I see is the educated-sounding blue collar worker, and I don’t think I’ve worked with a single writer who’s a whizz at teen speech.

Sometimes writers craft a series of staccato sentences in a stylised thriller style (that can get unbearably annoying if overused) while pairing this with grammatically perfect dialogue. Wrong way round surely? Who on earth speaks in perfectly constructed sentences complete with subclauses and connectives?

Other dialogue traps:

Dumping information and backstory into dialogue for convenience with no calculation as to whether this would take …

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Calling all aspiring authors! Win a contract with Carina Publishing

Carina Publishing

Calling all aspiring authors! If you’ve ever dreamt of throwing in your monotonous 9 to 5 in favour of days spent writing a heady romance novel, now could be your chance.

Carina, the new digital imprint of  Harlequin UK, leading  publisher of women’s fiction and home of Mills & Boon, is working with the Festival of Romance 2013 (8th – 10th November), to offer one talented and original writer the prize of a publishing contract. The writing competition, which is now open for submissions, will see the winner’s romantic read published in time for Valentine’s Day 2014.   

Since its launch in May 2013, Carina has been making waves by acquiring some impressive authors across a wide range of genres. From contemporary love stories to political thrillers and everything in between, Carina has established itself as one of the most exciting imprints around.

Having seen huge success with two of its debut authors entering the top 10 bestseller list in the …

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Writer, Tell Your Story

Van Gogh new painting discovered

Life can be a funny old thing, really. Sometimes stories, like busses, seem like they're hiding round the corner, only to come along in pairs. Last week, for me, it was Van Gogh.

In case you missed it, a new Van Gogh painting was discovered this month, leading to worldwide media coverage. Among the facts and figures thrown about in the endless stream of reports, I learned a lot. There was the number of visitors each year to the Van Gogh Museum (more than 1,600,000); the last time an original was discovered (1928 for a full-size canvas); the time it's taken to verify this new piece (over two years); and, perhaps most interesting, the number of paintings Van Gogh sold in his lifetime: one.

The second of this week’s Van Gogh stories involves an old acquaintance of mine who made contact recently, out of the blue, and reminded me of a specific night we spent, years ago now, in Tokyo. Did I remember, he asked, how we wandered around the mega-city, finding our way into …

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How to make your book stand out

Books

I know all of you will be writing for pleasure, but I guess many of you will be wanting to sell – you may even be hoping that you can make a decent salary out of your writing. A question you will need to ask yourself, if that is the case: ‘What makes you and your book stand out from the crowd?’

I have been working with a thriller writer who’s done very well selling his self-published e-books, so much so that an agent has sought him out and signed him up. His first book was a medical thriller – and swiftly became a bestseller of that sub-category on Amazon. His second book is still perfectly competent, but it contains much less of the medical techy stuff that made his work stand out. He was looking to up his game, but I felt it was important that he didn’t change it. His ‘pharma dramas’, as I call them, are his USP. Were he to join the general melee that is the thriller-writer rat race, he’d be just another set of scrabbling claws.

So what quality marks you out, …

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Catching, keeping and controlling the writing bug

Anthony Dunn

I’m lucky enough to be working for the Beverley Literature Festival, as project manager of the inaugural Writers & Artists Creative Writing School. I like this kind of work, because I genuinely feel I’m helping a group of people to have what could easily be a life-changing experience.

I’m also a writer. I know what it’s like to feel the loneliness of the garret. I know how frightening a blank sheet of paper can be when the ideas won’t come.

I’m very familiar with that nagging doubt – you know, the one that whispers, “Nah, that’s just no good,” as you wrestle with yet another draft of your manuscript.

I have a very supportive family who’ll read what I’m writing, but they’re always nice about it, even when they’re wrong to be.

I know all too well what it’s like to want – desperately want – to write, but to be endlessly distracted by the demands of my two-year-old son, my nine-to-five job and all the stuff

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