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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 8: Levels

Just over a decade ago, I saw Alan Ayckbourn’s Improbable Fiction at the Theatre Royal, Bath. I was doing my creative writing MA and, of all the valuable things I gained in that year, the fundamental life lesson was that play. Act One is a writing group’s meeting. We hear about their genres, lives, personalities and how great their writing would have been – had any of them actually got around to doing any.

I’m not going to tell you what happens in Act Two of Improbable Fiction because I’d like you to come and see it at the Questors Theatre next month. It’s the last play I direct before I take a sabbatical, having just gone full-time on my creative writing PhD. The life decision is clear, but very hard. I love theatre, I love directing, I love the immediacy and the risk and the edge that film has the time to perfect yet we must conjure from the shadows every night. But it too starts with writing, and writing is what I love most. Love doesn’t mean much if it’s just …

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7 Habits of Highly Effective…Writers

In his bestselling book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen Covey presents what he sees as the key principles to achieving success in the workplace. I’m more of a Bridget Jones than a Stephen Covey when it comes to self-help manuals but I thought it might be fun to share the seven things I’ve learned along my writing journey and see if they resonate with anyone else.

1. Write Even When You Don’t Want To

There are days when the muse just doesn't sing- when she won’t even mutter under her breath. But you can’t give in to her silence. You still have to sit at your desk and fill the page. It isn't only about ‘being professional’ and meeting deadlines. It’s also about pushing through the mental block and making something happen. It’s about telling yourself you can do it and not giving up.

2. Make Friends with Other Writers

Writing is a lonely business and there are some things only other writers can understand. Your writer friends …

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Writing Touchstone 7: Place

A Sense of Place – Or why floating dialogue always sinks

Many good writing habits are about avoiding seasickness. Just as securing the reader in the reality of your point of view means not jumping from head to head whenever you feel like it, so creating a sense of place for the reader is about keeping their feet on the ground. A convincing physical reality to your story allows the reader to invest in its emotional reality. Not to provide one creates a nebulous feel that stops the reader believing in the characters and world. For those of us who love dialogue and build our fictional world around it, that’s not as much fun as it is for those whose comfort zone is description, putting the solid ground down before peopling it. It doesn't matter where you start, though: a sense of reality balances people and place.

In real life, our conversations are most deeply invested in when we are physically comfortable. If we’re hungry or in pain or being rained on, we aren't involved in the same …

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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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