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Writing Advice

In this section, you will find a collection of blogs dedicated to writing advice. So, if your manuscript is starting to drive you crazy, or you’re not sure how to get started, read on for the push you need to create your masterpiece.

Writing Touchstone 6: Perspective

This blog is late because of next Tuesday as 18th October is Green Ink Theatre’s literary salon at Waterstones Piccadilly. The material is all from our recent Sponsored Write for Macmillan Cancer Support. I produce one of these every year in memory of my friend Sophie Porter (1982-2007). A few things slipped this week for the sake of this very important one. So, sorry for the delay but not all that sorry: I used to berate myself rather too much for any slips like this. To be honest, I still do. But I try to catch myself doing it, and remind myself it’s better to be late with something that can take it, focus on what’s most important and get enough relaxation to enjoy the journey. That sense of perspective can be difficult to hold on to, when everything seems important to include. That’s as big a worry on the page as in everyday life. 

In art as in life:

1) You Can’t Do Everything. Keeping perspective doesn't end with not having a go at yourself for a late blog post. Just …

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Bringing Up Baby

Likening the writing process to a journey is probably one of those yawn inducing clichés Stephen King would urge us not to use. Although there are certainly lots of steps along the path to publication that any author has to navigate, I wonder if there’s a better metaphor for the agonies we newbies go through on a near daily basis as we struggle to bring our creations into being.

When I think back to how my novel would keep me awake at night in the early days and tug at my sleeve as it grew, I wonder if rather than being travellers up a mountain we are in fact more like parents to demanding children.

Like new parents we read all the self-help books we can lay our hands on (I defy any newbie to say they haven’t read On Writing and scribbled notes in half the margins). Like new parents we are woken throughout the night by nagging thoughts about our novel’s development (is there a twist we could add here or a character tell we could add there?) And like new …

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Writing Touchstone 5: Space

Dropping Pebbles

When doing text work with writers or actors, an image I come back to again and again is dropping pebbles into water. Whatever the size of the pebble and whether that water is a puddle or a river, if you drop a pebble in it you will get ripples. The rings move outward from the point of impact and dissipate until the water settles. If an actor talks too fast – or the writer responsible stuffs in too many ideas or just doesn't spread them out enough – the text will be too dense to sink into the audience’s mind. You need to give enough space for the ripples to dissipate before the next idea/pebble is dropped. Writing works the same way.

At the pre-agent stage, a writer doesn't have an external voice directing them towards an uncluttered, sleek pace. It can be difficult to find the right space and weight for characters and concepts, difficult to avoid overwhelming meaning with quantity. But, on page or on stage, if the meaning isn't coming across there’s no point …

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10 Writing Touchstones: Time

Rachel Knightley

If you, like all right-thinking people, are a Star Trek nerd, you will be familiar with the wormhole aliens living next to Deep Space Nine. When Commander Sisko dropped in (sorry) to their wormhole, they learned about humans and our “linear existence”, this fascinating way we have of moving from past, through present, to future. It was very difficult for Commander Sisko to tell the wormhole aliens what it was like to live a linear existence. A bit like when someone asks me what it’s like to be dyspraxic, or vegetarian, or left-handed: I have no basis for comparison, because I have no memory of anything else. The human experience of time is very difficult to discuss. We have no basis for comparison. We know what it’s like to be us, though, and our writing reflects it best with an awareness of the passing time and where we are in it.

Writing Touchstone 4: Time

Time, our unappreciated 1950s wife who knocks on the office door, provides lunch or dinner, then shuffles out again …

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10 Writing Touchstones: Structure

Rachel Knightley

‘Oxymoron’ has been one of my favourite words since I was about eight. Obviously at first that was because it has the word ‘moron’ in it; only later did I come to love oxymorons because they are a beautiful examples of the ultimate micro-fiction: character, voice and plot all implied in one pert, edgy little contradiction. If I could enjoy the stories conveyed by titles like Manfred Mann’s album The Roaring Silence – or my mum’s jokes like ‘Good Morning’ and ‘Tory Party’ – then why on earth would I worry later about how to structure an entire short story or novel? How hard could it be to get your meaning across with all the space and time you could ever want?

Writing Touchstone 3: Structure

The answer, of course, is ‘pretty damn hard, actually’. For many writers, infinite time and space are no less alarming than imminent deadlines. The pressure of merging your creative ideas with the technicalities of a clear delivery can be frustrating. Giving your …

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