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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.

Are you a Greta Garbo, or would you rather collaborate?


One of the joys of my creative career has been brainstorming with other creative people. So why do so many emerging writers shun this practice? Yes, they'll attend writers' groups and retreats where they'll have their work dissected, poked and downright burnt (figuratively speaking, that is. I have yet to hear of any chapter burnings) but, heaven forbid, that they openly engage these other minds to explore all the angles on an aspect of their story with which they only have a tentative hold. And no wonder. We rely on fellow writers' critical faculties so heavily but call upon joint creative abilities so poorly. Why is that?

The obvious answer is the concern that someone might steal your idea. This is a misconception that in the publishing industry that Concept alone decides success. Do you really believe that those bright individuals working in publishing crave mediocrity? Did you ever consider that, to stay a float, such businesses (for …
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Six Pet Hates of An Editor


Ok, I’m putting my neck on the line here and naming the most common pitfalls I have seen emerging talents fall into. In today’s blog, I baldly name and shame what I would happily never encounter again:

  1. An entire chapter revolving around a character walking or driving from A-B alone, interspersed by long passages of back story.

  2. An entire chapter set around a character in bed/in nature/alone reminiscing.

  3. Melodramatic chapter cliff hangers. Your story is either engrossing or not. A pining character is not the answer.

  4. Making the same point in ten different ways –all on the same page.

  5. Belabouring the point. [See above]

  6. Describing objects/landscapes/surroundings in miniscule detail over countless pages. Poetry is a gift not a licence.

And I can say all this because, early on as a writer, I have been guilty of most of the above. Ok, who am I kidding? I have been guilty of all of the above at one time or another. And so, today, I invite you to kill off your darlings …
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Ways to regain your writerly focus

nicolaSpeaking to Jill Coleman, Managing Director of A&C Black, the other day she used a line in regards to a project we are working on that really stuck:"I see this as a refinement of where we think we are going." And this got me to thinking about the writing process.

Starting out as writers, we each have our own quirks and predilections (be that for lists, mind maps, plotting everything out first or diving in headfirst) We each have our own ways in. That said, is there a point when you need to make a commitment? when you must draw lines? And when is that point?

My manuscript originally evolved out of a short story written back in 2005. Prior to that (since 2002) I’d merely been dabbling in several different genres, encountering one particular character over and over, perfecting the craft of the scene, and beginning stories only to leave them dangling on a metaphorical half-finished stairwell somewhere. However in the Spring of '05, I came to share the short story with a writer …

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New opportunities: new genres

Mohana RajakumarContinuing on the theme of life change: I’ve found that having a major schedule shift can work in your favour if you make time to establish the new order of priorities, accepting the idea that these may be a moving target on a day-to-day basis.

Once I was back at work, juggling the baby, friends and writing was a challenge that I couldn’t have been up to without a daily nap in the first four weeks of our son’s life. Though it seemed I was wasting time during the two hours a day I climbed back into bed while the newborn also slept, I was actually fertilising the garden of my mind which often felt frayed and arid.

If you don’t have two hours (which is completely understandable given the pace I used to push myself toward pre-baby) take 20 minutes - or even ten of good breathing will do - to bring back your hurried mind to what is really important.

When my maternity leave ended, I gave up those two-hour naps as time to squeeze in exercise (and out the extra baby pounds) …
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What is a synopsis and why are they so hard to write?

Cressida DowningIt's the first thing an editor or agent sees, it's a vital part of your submission process (along with your covering letter), and it's fiendishly difficult to get done!

In some ways, it's easier to talk about what a synopsis isn't. It's not a book blurb, designed to entice you in and leave you hanging. It's not a blank canvas for you to use your most exciting words on.  It's not a chapter plan, going on for pages and pages.

A synopsis should be:

  1. One side - or at most two - of A4, single spaced

  2. A complete plot summary (including twists, turns and the ending)

  3. Easy to follow

  4. Include all your main characters

And why are they so hard to write?

Well there are two main reasons I see authors struggling. One is that they are just too close to their novel to be able to describe it - and they find it hard to work out what the editor needs to know. The other is that in writing the synopsis, they realise their plot isn't going how they want it to.

If the first of …
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