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Writers' & Artists' Blog

Building Castles In The Air

The Shropshire Stalker by Nick Jones

Where the building you need for your plot doesn’t exist, build it yourself, says author Nick Jones.


For nearly 20 years I lived in central London, working as an architectural journalist. Buildings, you might say, are in my DNA (though I have to confess I feel no great affinity for the capital’s showy 21st century monoliths, such as The Shard or the Walkie-Talkie).

My latest novel is a psychological thriller set in rural Shropshire. It features some fine old buildings, many of them architectural gems, such as the 17th century black-and-white coaching inn in Ludlow, The Feathers Hotel. This small market town has been described by no less an authority than Sir John Betjeman as ‘probably the loveliest town in England.’ Last summer, I haunted its quaint narrow back streets to get the right atmosphere for the novel. Basic ground work like this – rather than internet research –  invariably pays off. I am always armed with a camera and a notebook.

The latter stages of my …

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Top Self-Editing Tools: Spring Clean Your Manuscript

Spring Clean Your Manuscript w/ I_AM Self-Publishing


Spring is traditionally a time for refreshing, clearing out and cleaning up. What better time to give your manuscript a quick spruce by using some of these top self-editing tools...


Why Self-Edit?

All authors who want to improve their work should self-edit before starting work with a professional editor. This way, the manuscript will get into good shape very quickly, and the editor can be brought in after the basic errors are addressed - the type that you'd be the first to spot in someone else's work, but missed yourself because you've become so close to your work.


Top 3 Self-Editing Tools

These tools will help you to see your work afresh and clean up your manuscript in no time.

1. Word Frequency Counter & Phrase Frequency Counter (Free)

Most authors have a preference/dependence on certain words or phrases without realising it. In my work as an editor at I_AM Self-Publishing, I often find that particular words or phrases are repeated over and over throughout a …

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On The Road: A Writer's Journey

Bloomsbury asked me to blog about the journey from writing my manuscript to winning the inaugural Bath Children's Novel Award, with my YA novel, Hurts So Good. What’s it like to win? Thrilling. And terrifying. Now, more than ever, I need to be clear in my head, about what I want to write. And why.

My manuscript evolved from an exercise on the Bath Spa MA Writing For Young People. We had to show character through action and dialogue, I thought about the worse thing my protagonist could do, and for me, that was abducting a baby.

The story of teenagers, stealing a baby caused controversy, from the get go. Violence is not my bag, so Hurts So Good is a psychological thriller, with the Nordic Noir emphasis on family and setting. I wanted readers to empathise with 16-year-old Ellie, not judge her actions, but to feel compassion and dread for her. The Norwegian Fjords and ancient forests, with wolves, gives my YA story its vibe of jeopardy and beauty.

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Short Story Competition 2016: Winner Revealed!

Natasha Pulley

The time has come. Natasha Pulley, author The Watchmaker of Filigree Street and this year's guest judge of our annual Short Story Competition, has chosen two runners up and her overall winner. So without further ado, here we go....

The first runner up, who will receive a copy of the Writers' & Artists' Yearbook 2016 is... 'What They Did With The Hairspray' by Chris Edwards-Pritchard

Feedback from Nastasha Pulley: This is an immensely detailed and understated piece. The way the characters speak is quirky and peppery, and never expositional; they talk about what people really talk about (music and traffic) and they’re always doing something else or thinking of other things while they speak. The use of language is marvellous, especially verbs —‘caterpillaring’ is lovely.  The sense of much bigger things swimming below the surface is effective too; Jack, family problems, the nature of the mother’s work. With a topic like ageing, it’s very easy to become …

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‘A Few Words a Day’ and Other Writing Myths

Sam Audley

How many articles have you read saying that you have to write a few words every day to be an author? I know I’ve read many along those lines and I’ve heard many authors wheel out the same comment when talking about their craft. Numbers of words are often cited as though they were a tenet of faith to which an author must adhere or be damned, and invariably five hundred to a thousand words a day is quoted. 

Certainly, we all need to apply ourselves to our writing or our novel does not progress, but I think that setting an unnatural benchmark misses the point that creativity is just that and it cannot be rushed or forced in any way. For me the thought of writing some rubbish every day just to comply with a myth about the best way to write is complete nonsense.

Given that we are all different, why should our writing styles all be squeezed into the same sausage-making machine to emerge in exactly the same shape? Surely the content is more critical and to create nuanced and readable …

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